tv The Situation Room CNN January 9, 2014 2:00pm-3:31pm PST
they know not to murder someone because of our music. >> reporter: now the members of the gangs have partnered with the aclu to sue the fbi saying that designation has led to police harassment and denial of employment. they are aware of the lawsuit but decline to comment on the pending litigation. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. i know throw you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." chris christie drops the swagger saying he's humiliated and embarrassed, spending two hours for apologizing for a city put in gridlock. mayor mark sokolich will join us live for a situation room interview. plus, a rather bizarre end
to a bizarre trip to north korea. dennis rodman explains why he was so rude. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." you may dream about a 2016 white house run but right now chris christie is in the middle of a political nightmare. he woke up this morning to newspaper headlines like these, a day after e-mail surfaced indicating that aides plotted a massive traffic jam to retaliate against the mayor and his entire town. for two hours he stood taking the heat and the responsibility but insisting he knew nothing, had no involvement. right after ward, a fired christie appointee refused to testify before jersey lawmakers holding him now in contempt and federal prosecutors are looking into this entire mess.
christie has just left the city of ft. lee and we're waiting for mayor sokolich who will join us for his first meeting since that meeting with governor christie. john king is in trenton, new jersey. case john carroll is in ft. lee. we begin with jake tapper who has been watching all of this with riveting attention. >> it's an incredible story. for those of you watching christie for some time, we've seen candid christie, feisty christie, blunt christie. today we saw a chastened christie. he entered apologetic and heartbroken. >> i am embarrassed and hum mill ated by the conduct of some of
the people on my team. >> reporter: echoing the words of the written statement, e-mails and text messages that showed some of his top staffers conspireing to shut down the george washington bridge in an act of political payback. >> i had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or execution, and i am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here. >> he said that heads have already rolled, including bridget anne kelly. >> i've terminated the employment of bridget kelly immediately. she was not given the opportunity to explain why she lied because it was so obvious that she had lied. >> reporter: bill stepien was
also fired. >> if i cannot not trust someone's judgment, i cannot place him at the head of my operation. >> reporter: it remains unclear if christie's press conference, 108 minutes long, with remove the exclusive release of e-mails and text messages. just two months after he won his second term in a landslide victory. >> when they walked into the voti voting booth today, they didn't say, hey, i don't know who this man is or what he's willing to do when the chips are down. >> reporter: the scandal hits at the heart of a no nonsense government. the one-time u.s. attorney who specialized in cases of political corruption is now facing the possibility of an investigation into his administration by the u.s. attorney of new jersey. christie said he hoped to meet with the mayor of ft. lee and
was looking forward to meeting with those personally fakted by the traffic jam but the mayor said he wasn't so sure that was a good idea. >> it's just going to cause more chaos in ft. lee. we don't need it at this point. i've got to tell you, we should wait until this investigation concludes. >> reporter: when we spoke to christie last election day, we talked about apologies in the context of president obama's broken promise that if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. >> here's my suggestion to him. don't be so cute. and when you make a mistake, admit it. i said it. i was wrong. i'm sorry. and we're going to try to fix this and make it better. >> reporter: today it sounded as if he was taking his own advice. >> when mistakes are made, then i have to own up to them and take the action that i believe
is necessary in order to remediate. >> and just a few minutes ago, governor chris christie left the mayor's office in ft. lee, new sea jersey. >> we'll hear from mark sokolich momentarily following that meeting. his problems are not over yet. >> there are others that are going to hold investigations and hold hearings and we haven't heard from birridget anne kelly the former campaign manager who christie let go today. there are a lot of people who have not given their side of the story either. >> we'll see if they plead the fifth like david wildstein who worked on that bridge in new york and new jersey.
he pleaded the fifth. we'll see if the others plead the fifth. >> and even if they do, that doesn't mean we won't hear otherwise. >> thank you, jake. this was a city brought to its knees by the politically inspired traffic jams. chris christie has just been there. he's been there to personally apologize to the mayor, mark sokolich. >> reporter: wolf, the governor arrived a little over an hour ago. he met with the mayor for about 45 minutes. when he came down the steps, he described the meeting as being warm and cordial. he said that he apologized to
the mayor and the people of ft. lee, new jersey. he spoke very briefly. i want to listen to a little bit about what he had to say. >> a very good and productive meeting and i have great respect for the mayor. we had a good conversation. >> can you tell us what was said, governor, during that meeting? >> i just did. >> listen, we had a very good, productive meeting. i look forward to working with i am had. >> what did he say? >> now, wolf, as you know, there was a lot of back and forth as to whether or not this meeting was going to take place. the governor saying earlier during that marathon press conference that he wanted to come to ft. lee, that he wanted to personally apologize. the mayor, mark sokolich, saying he didn't know if that was a good idea. he thought it would be disruptive for the community.
once the governor heard word of that, he was coming anyway and if the mayor didn't want to meet with him, he would meet with other people. the mayor changed his mind and said he would welcome the governor here, which he did. the other question is, what, from the mayor's point of view, does he have to say and he'll be speaking to you later in the show. >> we're standing by to speak with the mayor and get his reaction. he'll tell us what it was like to meet with governor christie. jason, thank you. christie is used to calling the shots and used to dishing it out but today he was on the receiving end. our national correspondent john king was in the room when chris christie was getting questions. this is a man, who by all indications, would like to be the republican presidential nominee in 2007. he was considered one of the top candidates for that republican nominee. that's why there's been so much
in interest in this story. how did it go? >> reporter: it was a fascinating nearly two hours of political drama and some theater, as you know. packed with television cameras and also a large contingent senior staff who stood against the wall intently staring at the governor to see how he would perform at this defining political moment. he apologized repeatedly. he said he was embarrassed. he said he was humiliated and determined to get to the bottom of this and most importantly politically and legally going forward he said he had nothing to do with it. it will be held out in part of how you handle a crisis. wolf, it was a fascinating moment. he cuts reporters off if he doesn't like their questions. that is a trademark chance for
christie to snap. he did not. he stayed calm. he stayed calm. he answered all of the questions politely. he looked reporters in the eyes. it was pretty serious as he answered all of the questions and then left and said thank you and he promised and this is a key part of this, as the investigation goes forward, if he finds out that anyone on his staff has any involvement, he will bring that information to the public. this, as you were just noting, is not over. an important day for governor christie. >> there are a lot of investigations under way. local investigations, federal. now the federal government is in involved. i assume there will be a drag on christie's administration as governor right now. >> reporter: think of how much his stature, his standing is -- his potential standing, anyway, has changed in days and even weeks here.
he makes inroads among latinos, african-americans. he's the only republican who runs even. he runs hillary clinton by a point or two. he went wow in the national polls. now there's a giant question mark. after the election he thought had he a huge mandate. now a lot of republicans are saying this makes him vulnerable. they can do more political battle with it. he needs success at the state level as he travels country in 2014 and 2016. there's no question that he now has a bit of wind in his face as he deals with the investigation. the key thing is, he needs to be proven if anything he said turns out to be wrong, as even some republicans, that would make him toast but also needs to prove beyond the investigations he could quickly get his political feet back and advance his agenda
saying, look what i'm doing, look what i've done. >> in addition to being governor, he's just been elected chairman of the republican governor's association across the country. so he's got a lot going on right now. john, thank you. coming up, after getting a personal apology from governor christie for those traffic jams that snarled the city, ft. lee's mayor is standing by and is getting ready to join us for the first interview since that meeting. it may have had grim consequences for ft. lee residents. we're back on the scene when we come back. [ male announcer ] the new new york is open.
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agree, or at least i definitely agree -- i'm pretty sure the governor shares these thoughts -- to a certain extent we need to wait to see what transpires but the governor's office and his relationship with the borough of ft. lee, we believe we're content at the moment and an investigation will tell us the balance of what needs to be told. i accepted his apology. yes, i did. the governor came here. when i was speaking to you folks while the governor during his press conference, i indicated maybe it wouldn't be productive to come up now. it wasn't to be disrespectful. it was just, would it make more sense to do it when the investigation is completed. the governor insisted and we
would certainly welme governor with open arms as we did. >> are you glad he came? >> i'm glad he came. >> do you believe he had anything to do with it? >> i take him for his word, which is, he didn't have anything to do with it. i say this once and i say it 100 times. we at ft. lee are not ruling to that he was responsible for it. we take him at his word. i will tell you, at the end i did say, governor, am i on your radar? his answer was something to the effect that, we now have our own screen. which i thought was pretty funny. >> traffic shut down on a lane here, was there any irony that a lane was shut down to the governor could get here? >> that was a safety plan and we had conducted a couple of studies before he arrived. thank you, all.
>> so there is he, the mayor of ft. lee, new jersey, briefing reporters there at city hall in ft. lee following the meeting with governor chris christie saying it was a productive meeting. he initially had reservations about wanting to meet with the governor but the governor insisted he welcome him. we're going to have an opportunity to speak with the governor. hopefully he will take our questions. we'll take a quick break and be back in "the situation room" right after this. ♪ [ chicken caws ] [ male announcer ] when your favorite food starts a fight, fight back fast with tums.
new jersey's governor has a reputation as a tough guy and wanting things done his way or else. he also is portrayed as a bully. but after standing for two hours taking questions, we saw a different chris christie. seemingly humbled and embarrassed. which is the real chris christie? our brian todd has been looking at this part of the story for us. what will it be? >> the real chris christie is the opportunistic one. today, he needed to be the contrite, betrayed leader. but many believe christie's pattern of behavior gives the clearest picture. this isn't the chris christie many of us expected to see. humbled, apologetic. >> i am not a bully.
>> and yet it's the jersey tough-guy style which launched him to stardom. >> are you stupid? on topic. on topic. next question. good. thank you. thank you. thank you all very much and i'm sorry for the idiot over there. this is none of your business. >> i'll ask you where you send your kids to school. don't bother asking where i send mine. >> and let me tell you this. you know what, it's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. we're here to bring this country together, not to divide it. >> reporter: according to the book "double down" about the 2012 campaign, christie say ram knee wasn't pleased. it was like something out of the "sopranos." >> we're running a business here. >> but with his sight set on 2016, has christie gone soft? >> governor christie has spent a good part of the last year trying to run away from the idea that he's a bully.
this whole incident just blew that out of the water. >> reporter: between his elbows out style and this bridge scandal, is chris christie losing fans? we ask people in d.c. and new jersey. >> if i were to question him in six months, people would say we don't trust this guy, you know. >> i like his style. he's very blunt. he's out there. he's different. compared to those who just beat around the bush. >> matthew hail says christie did help himself with the news conference today but he's got to stay in front of this. he says if christie doesn't do that or if he knew about the bridge closing around the time it happened, the scandal is not over, christie's over. wo wolf? >> our team is in new jersey. they've taken a sampling as far as christie is concerned. were you surprised about what we
heard? >> i was very surprised. from what i saw in our team, surprised that the balance of opinion tilted in christie's favor. the majority of people we sampled today like the guy. they like his honesty, the temper that they think is refreshing, humanity that they are drawn to. >> brian, thank you. coming up, more on this story, including christie's political history as he toasts or could wind up in the white house. our special panel is standing by. thank you. there's a saying around here, you stand behind what you say. around here you don't make excuses. you make commitments.
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the massive traffic jams triggered by a political dirty trick may have had grim consequences for residents of ft. lee. what are you learning, alexander? >> reporter: the question on everybody's mind here in ft. lee, what can be blamed on the traffic jam itself. when the jam was ongoing, the coordinator here in ft. lee said it was tieing up emergency response time. he pointed to the case of a 91-year-old woman who died at the hospital because of a heart attack. we are now hearing from a new jersey woman who says the 91-year-old victim was her mother, florence geneva. a hole health aide called 911 after her mother went into cardiac arrest and here's what the health aide told her about what happened next. >> i just remember her saying to
get to the hospital. it seemed to take forever to her, that it should have been quicker. >> vilma is obviously expressing her frustration about the situation that has unfold d as she continues to learn about the traffic jams but she was asked if she thought the delays in getting her mother to the hospital could have contributed to her death and here's what she said to that. >> no, i really don't think so. i think she was 91 and i believe in my heart that she was already gone when the ambulance got there. >> those are the words from geneva's daughter vilma. meanwhile, the coordinator did come out in september and said in at least four cases emergency response times were delayed. calls that should have taken three minutes took three times that amount, wolf. >> thank you. let's continue our conversation. joining us now is gloria borger
along with jeffrey toobin and charles blow. gloria, let me play you another clip. chris christy ultimately explaining his deep regret, his apology. >> ultimately, i am responsible for what happens under my watch. the good and the bad. and when mistakes are made, then i have to own up to them and take the action that i believe is necessary in order to remediate them. >> so did he go along way in cleaning up this mess, from his personal perspective? >> he did most of what he had to do, wolf. i would say today that he apologized to the people of ft. lee. he said he never saw this as political retribution because he didn't actually know the mayor
of ft. lee, new jersey. he distanced himself from this. he fired a couple of people. what he did not do, as far as i was concerned, is really explain the why of this. which is, why would people in his office think that doing such a thing, a callous and stupid thing, as he called it, why would think think that would make him happy and what does that tell us about the way that he operates as a governor. >> was this just an isolated incident or will we learn more about incidents in the news to come. >> you said christie was done, over, absolutely. you now heard a nearly two-hour explanation on his point. do you still believe that? >> i think politically he's in a world of trouble. remember, this is a republican who isn't even really liked by the base of his party. this is not -- he is not where
the contemporary republican party is. he has an uphill battle to start with and, you know, this story -- this is not the beginning of the end. this is the end of the beginning. now we start to hear from the other characters in this play. we see one of them who took the fifth. what do the other records show? if this unfolded precisely the way christie said, then he's in better shape. stories send to get complicated when you look into them and there are going to be a lot of people looking into this story and i don't think this is the last word. >> you said, the larger than life straight from the hip quick emerge as a small, petty, and vindictive. after you heard him today, do you still believe that? >> i believe this pushes him further in that direction, absolutely. what he did today was the best he could do.
he apologized. if what he says is true at this point, i cannot believe what he says. i have no way of knowing whether it's true or not true. the last time when he was first asked about this, people were asked if it was true, he was trying to laugh it off and joke it off. he said that the reason he was doing that is because some of the aides have lied to them and now he's talked to more of them. there's no way to know if more of the aides didn't lie to him. when people get in trouble, they may lie to keep their job. so now it's up to investigators, possibly grand juries, for people to figure out what the facts are. i agree with jeffrey, when you start digging, you find things. there is always something else to be found. no one wants anything that they do to be dug through. because if you look through all of it, 99% of what i do maybe
four, you will find something that in general people who want to be on the national stage and possible presidential candidates. it's going to happen with christie much sooner than he would have liked and if he gets bogged down and people who get bogged down with jersey politics which gets messy and before he builds this brand and says, look back at new jersey and what you've done, it's clogged up traffic and shut down bridges and what you've done is allow people in your administration whether you knew it or not, to exact for political revenge for people not on your side, that is not going to look good for him. i think all of that makes him look small. >> what about you? >> i think he's in a marketedly
better position today than yesterday. i thought there is no way that this doesn't come back to him somehow. i saw those e-mails. i thought, there's no way. actually, in his press conference i thought he did a really good job con vinvincing people that he was blind-sided. there is going to be more investigating. now it's going to the justice department. that's going to be messy. at the very least it will paint a very ugly picture of politics in trenton and that's not anything that chris christie wants to carry around in a presidential campaign and at the worst, i think if one iota of something that christie said today proves to be false, he's done. cooked. because his whole ought then tis tie mantra and bold-faced lies if not true will completely ruin the credibility.
>> growloria, i want to play something at the news conference when he got a little emotional. >> a person close to me betrayed me. a person who i counted on and trusted for five years betrayed me. a person who i gave a high government office to betrayed me. i will probably get angry at some point. but i've got to tell you the truth, i'm sad. i'm a sad guy standing here today. and very disappointed. >> he's referring to bridget anne kelly. deputy chief of staff to the governor of chris christie. >> he wasn't the only one betrayed here. the people of the state of new jersey were betrayed here. it wasn't just personal to chris christie. he may be sad but he's angry, too. but the people of new jersey were the ones sitting on those bridge and tied up in traffic and, you know, not just chris
christie. i think the strategy was high risk and reward potentially, reward if it turns out to be true and high risk because there were a lot of high points that s.e. pointed out that were delivered. i didn't know. i looked on my ipad. i was exercising. that's how i found out. >> these people have no room. >> nothing. >> that is risky. >> hi risk, high reward. >> jeffrey, let me bring you into this. because i was surpriseds that was quickly as it happened that one of the associates david wildstein from the port authority in new york had resign d a couple of weeks ago as a result of this, maybe not, he was there testifying before the state legislature at a committee and took the advice of his attorney and pleaded the give this, refused to answer any questions. what do you make of that? >> well, i think nine out of ten criminal defense attorneys would
have given the exact advice. this is a highly volatile situation. you don't want your client testifying until he has seen all of the documents that are available, something he has gone over the substance of what he knows with his lawyer, 10r9 it out, prepare to testify under oath. people are aflame about this and this is a perfectly understandable initial response. you know, he may not have this choice forever. he may get immunity from the grand jury. he may get immunity from some other government body and in that case he'll have to testify and chances are that will become public. same thing, perhaps even more importantly, with miss kelly, she will probably be taking the fifth right away but their stories will come out and if they conflict with chris christie, then the story doesn't look good. >> when a witness asks to plead
the fifth and has a right to remain silent, that's a right under the united states constitution. jeffrey, charles, gloria, and s.e., thanks very much. can governor christie still make a go of it in 2016? a lot, lot more on this story coming up in an hour "crossfire" at 6:30 p.m. eastern. up next, we're going to ft. lee, new jersey. the farmer: hello, i'm an idaho potato farmer. and our giant idaho potato truck is still missing. so my dog and i we're going to go find it. it's out there somewhere spreading the good word about idaho potatoes and raising money for meals on wheels. but we'd really like our truck back, so if you see it, let us know, would you? thanks. what?
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. day after meeting with the nation's spy chief, president obama sat down with the lawmakers as he makes new rules on nsa surveillance programs. let's bring in our chief national security expert jim sciuto. what is going on? >> i'm told that an hour is focused on 9 bulk collection of phone metadata. the president has said that there are three other reforms that the president is seriously considering, including making public exactly how many times the nsa queried phone companies. with the decision on nsa reform looming, today the president pet with key members of congress. senator mark udall said that it was focused on the bulk collection of phone metadata which others largely oppose.
>> i urged him to pull back on the metadata. >> reporter: cnn has learned that the white house is giving serious consideration to several new reforms, including new rules addressing the insider threat in the wake of edward snowden. >> end mass surveillance. >> reporter: including improving the issue of security clearances to better audit who can access what records. setting standards for inscription to make clear the nsa will not break inscription for commercial spying. and issuing new trans paparency reports and how many individuals' records were actually exposed. peter is on the intelligence review panel. >> a particular company for law
enforcement and for the query how many people's records are being looked at. i think there's a belief out there that sometimes the searches are broader than they really are. >> reporter: today the chairman released details about classified department defense department report which found snowden disclosures may jeopardize soldiers' lives in the field and may have tipped often mes to u.s. defense methods. the sources of that classified report, mike rogers, say that while the focus so far has been focused on the intelligence collection, that much of the information stolen by stow den is related to current military operations and it's their assessment that this release could have lethal consequences, wolf, for those in the field. >> and the president will be making an announcement of his reform in the next week or this
week? >> in the neck week, but especially before the state of the union address. >> and we're just getting this coming into "the situation room." the fbi is assisting the u.s. attorney's office to see if any federal laws were broken circling around the scandal regarding chris christie. that's according to a source. they are working with the u.s. attorneys office of new jersey which has said it is reviewing the information clearly. the federal investigation into what is going on in new jersey, only just beginning. just ahead, it's the bizarre interview you've seen ahead and now dennis rodman has just one thing to say. sorry. and jeanne moos will bring us all of the buzz about what is now being called bridgegate. and a live interview with
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a surprising report reveals that 2013 was one of the safest years on record to fly despite a number of high profile airline crashes that occurred. let's bring in cnn's renee marsh. she's been working the story. tell us what you know. >> you've seen the catastrophic images. we're talking about airplane crashes, but the perception of safety doesn't match reality. last year happened to be one of the safest years in aviation.
a camera rolling when a russian airliner crashed and exploded. 50 people killed in 2013's deadliest crash. >> oh, my god. oh, it's an accident. >> reporter: asiana flight kill ed two of the 29 fatal plane crashes around the world last year. but as horrific as these were, 2013 was one of the safest years to fly on record. the safest in fatalities and the second safest in number of crashes. >> flying, there are a million that you're more likely to die from a fall in the bathtub or a bee sting. and those are actually true. >> reporter: steven wallace led the faa's accident investigations. flying is still the safest mode of transportation. there were 265 fatalities worldwide last year, a record low. wallace says better technology
is one reason. >> things like pressurize ed airplanes that were able to fly above bad weather. the jet engine which is way more powerful and way more reliable. we came up with electronic devices that catch human errors. >> reporter: 17 years ago a white house commission published a dire prediction. unless the global accident rate is reduced by the year 2015, an airliner will crash somewhere in the world almost weekly. the dire prediction never materialized. t way the aviation committee is looking now to take an excellence rating agency and make it better is to see trends in the data before those trends become catastrophic events. >> reporter: because the number of accidents has trended down so much, the challenge now is finding date to to analyze to further improve safety. the industry is encouraging pilots and others to self-report incident tass that could be dangerous.
they're looking for trends that could detect problems before they actually cause a crash. >> i'm really impressed. i did not know that. thank you, renee. this programming note, please be sure to join us toint 9:00 p.m. eastern for the cnn film sole survivor. when the only person to survive a 1987 plane crash that killed 156 people breaks her silence for first time. that's tonight 9:00 p.m. eastern only here on cnn. when we come back, a bizarre ending to a bizarre trip. dennis rodman's dramatic apology for that stunning rant you heard and saw right here on cnn. and just at the top of the hour, my live interview with the mayor of ft. lee, new jersey. we'll get his reaction to the meeting that just concluded with governor chris christie. [ doctor ] and in a clinical trial versus lipitor,
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the former nba player dennis rodman now apologizing for his unruly behavior in a cnn interview. jim sciutto reports. >> dennis, don't put it on them. >> reporter: dennis rodman is running away from his comments admitting in a statement to cnn that he was out of bounds. "awant to apologize. i take full responsibility fr my actions. it had been a very stressful day. some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. my dreams of basketball diplomacy were quickly falling apart." but he's not running away from north korea. his apologies coming in the wake of a wild week playing exhibition basketball and exploding in an interview with chris cuomo. >> i don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think. i'm saying at you, look at these guys here. look at them. >> reporter: in his apology rodman explains his outburst.
i'd been drinking. it's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened i was upset, ways overwhelmed. it's not an excuse, it's just the truth. his alarming north korea trip was filled with even more bizarre images. ♪ happy birthday to you >> reporter: singing happy birthday to leader kim jong un and giving him a bow. >> to you, sir, let me know -- >> reporter: rodman sparked a firestorm with the seeming justification for the imprisonment of american kenneth bae to chris cuomo leaving bae's family shocked and disappointed. >> if you understand what kenneth bae did. >> yes. >> do you understand what he did. >> you tell me what did he do? >> no no, no, you tell me, you tell me, why is he held captive. >> reporter: but now rodman is back pedaling saying i want to first apologize to kenneth bae's family. i want to apologize to my
teammates and management team. i also want to apologize to chris cuomo. i embarrassed a lot of people. i'm sorry. at this point i should know better than to make political statements. i'm truly sorry. >> reporter: kenneth bae's family released their own statement. we accept rodman's apology. being drunk and stressed is not an excuse for what he said, but we acknowledge he's human and we all make mistakes. the state department says they're working very hard for kenneth bae's release through china, sweden and their own envoy. >> let's hope he's released soon. the chris christie scandal taking on a life of its own. here's cnn's jeanne moos. >> reporter: will bridgegate take its toll on governor chris christie? he sure wasn't getting an easy pass at his press conference with the normally feisty governor was nothing but bum. >> i'm sad, but i'm a very sad person today.
its just makes me sad. it's a sad day for me. >> reporter: sad because he said he'd been betrayed by the trusted staff member he filed after incriminating e-mails surfaced suggesting christie allies closed toll lanes and created massive jams to retaliate against the democratic mayor of ft. lee, new jersey. >> clearly somebody is getting thrown under the bus here. fortunately for them, the bus isn't moving, it's stuck in terrible traffic. >> reporter: humorist andy borowitz filed this update. all lanes on the george washington bridge blocked by chris christie's ego, though he's never been more humble than at thursday's press conference. >> i'm humiliated. >> the president of the united states of new jersey, chris christie, is in hot water. okay, hold on. i just pictured him in a hot tub. shake it off. >> reporter: the fat jokes were back, weighing how the scandal might affect a run for the white house. and wearing a traffic cone.
a few weeks earlier, he had joked about the then -- >> i work the cones, unbeknownst to everybody i was actually the guy out there, ways in overalls. >> reporter: on thursday governor christie said he would never have joked like that if he had any inkling his people would do something so stupid. one person tweeted, this is more chris christie therapy session than a press conference. governor christie spoke about what he is and what he isn't. here's what he is -- >> i am embarrassed. i am heartbroken. i am responsible. i am stunned. i'm sick over this. >> reporter: and here's what he isn't. >> i am not a focus group tested, blow-dried candidate. i am who i am, but i am not a bully. >> reporter: while one of christie's former appointees was on the hot seat taking the fifth about the scandal. >> on the advice of counsel, i reserve my right to remain silent. >> reporter: the right to silence was one thing chris
christie wasn't asserting. >> right now i'm sad. >> reporter: jeanne moos. >> the emotion i'm displaying is sad. >> reporter: new york. happening now, breaking news. chris christie's traffic jam. new jersey governor and potential presidential candidate chris christie blasted by an exploding scandal. >> i am embarrassed and humiliated. >> were lanes on the country's busiest bridge closed as part of a political vendetta against the mayor of ft. lee? the mayor is standing by live to join us for his first interview since meeting with the governor just a little while ago. and one top christie aide has already been fired while a former appointee is refusing to testify. >> on the advice of counsel, i assert my right to remain silent. >> i'm wolf blitzer. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. you're in "the situation room."
they're the kind of headlines that chill the blood of any politician, but for new jersey governor chris christie, the stakes are even higher. he's facing a blockbuster scandal involving massive traffic jams that allegedly were deliberately created as part of a political vendetta against the mayor of ft. lee, new jersey. and cnn has just learned from a law enforcement source that the fbi is now assisting the u.s. attorney's office in new jersey to see if any federal laws were broken. christie confronted the crisis head-on in a lengthy news conference. >> i come out here today to apologize to the people of new jersey. i apologize to the people of ft. lee. and i apologize to the members of the state legislature. i am embarrassed and humiliated
by the conduct of some of the people on my team. >> the uproar certainly could have huge implications for christie. had been a rising republican star, even a possible 2016 presidential candidate. christie just met with the mayor of ft. lee, nushlg, aew jersey, mayor will join us live for first interview since speaking with the governor. there he is, standing by. first, i want to go to john king in trenton, new jersey. what's the latest you're picking up there, john? >> john the -- wolf, excuse me, the governor's office is happy with that meeting with the ft. lee governor. part of the apology day. governor christie traveling to ft. lee after a 1 hour, 48 minute press conference in which he apologized several time t said he was betrayed, he felt sad. and had nothing to do with this, did not authorize it, knew nothing about it. he tried to address the critics that say that his political minions carried out this
vendetta because of who chris christie is and how he governs. governor christie says that's not me. >> i am who i am, but i am not a bully. and what i will tell you is that the folks who have worked with me over a long period of time would, i believe, tell you that i'm tough, but i've shown over the last four years in the tone that we've set here that i'm willing to compromise, that i'm willing to work with others. >> john, does the governor mean that he doesn't really need to change the way he operates when he says he didn't do anything personally wrong? >> interesting. i asked him that there because one of two things happened. either a handful of his most trusted aides were -- think they did what the boss wanted them to do, thinks that's the culture of the office, or they just decided to go rogue and then try to cover something up, something that they knew, had to know could undermine the governor's re-election campaign, could
undermine his national ambition. the governor says he's doing soul searching to find out how he hires people and why he trusted these guys. >> in new jersey for us, thank you. joining us for his first interview since meeting with governor christie, the mayor of ft. lee, new jersey, mark sokolich. mayor, thank you for coming back. >> thank you, wolf. >> you had a meeting with the governor in your office, i assume, in city hall. >> yes. >> walk us through how it went. >> well, you know, we made it clear that we didn't want this to be a photo op. they wanted this to be a pure -- if he was going to come up and apologize, to just come on up and say what it is that he had to say. in fact, he did. he came up, he was gracious. he was apologetic. we believe sincere. but you know, it's an ongoing investigation. and we're just very -- we're concerned that there's more
stuff and more issues to deal with, but we are appreciative here in ft. lee that the governor came up here to apologize. >> you believe him? >> i take him for his word. listening intently to the press conference today, i mean, there was no in between, there was nothing but unequivocal statements that he had absolutely no knowledge. he repeated those statements during the course of our interview. i viewed it as productive. but no uncertain terms is it closure. by no uncertain terms is it the end of this issue, though it the beginning of what we're hopeful is a trusting relationship without fear of retribution in the future and in that regard that was number one on my list, which was, you know, how do you assure us here in ft. lee that we don't suffer the fate of retribution in the future. he assured us that wouldn't happen. >> you had a chance to observe him up close for four years now. was this kind of political
vendetta the venrevenge that wew in september an isolated incident or in your recollection, in your memory over the past three years, were there other incidents along these lines that come to mind? >> you know, in fairness, in the world of politics, if you're good at, i guess, doling out vendettas, sometimes you don't even realize you're experiencing them, if you know what i mean. but i have no knowledge of -- i have no knowledge of other retribution being aimed at the borough of ft. lee. you know, and if you know me, you'll know that i keep a pretty close tab on my community and what we do on a day-to-day basis, so i'm not aware of that. >> the fbi has now been brought into this investigation on a federal level by the u.s. attorney in new jersey. when you hear that and when you hear one of the port authority officials who had been appointed had david waldstein pleading the
fifth before the state legislature, this seems to be escalating this potential for criminal wrongdoing. >> well, it certainly does. you don't hear those initials, that being the fbi, unless it reaches a level of criminality. and sure, you know, look, you don't close the busiest bridge in the world without having any basis to do so and, quite frankly, your only basis is to dole out retribution, it's not something that's acceptable. i'm sure it breaks laws. what those specific laws are, i don't know. but not something you do. so we -- i think everybody now recognizes the severity of it. which brings me to the next point, if i may. you cannot believe how grateful we are in ft. lee to know that folks that are doing what they need to do to determine the fact, the assembly subcommittee for transportation and their
incredible work on determining precisely what transpired, who is responsible and to make sure that this doesn't happen again. we in ft. lee are eternally, eternally grateful. >> you believe, as he says, he's not a bully? >> i don't know the governor well enough to be able to make a determination as to whether or not he's a bully or he's not a bully. and again, i'm not waffling here. i see what i see. i see what you guys report. tough is definitely a word, no nonsense is definitely a word. i think bully's a category that you need to know him a little better to be able to, you know, cast that description on the guy. you know, look, if somehow, some way it was established that he was involved in this, yeah, bully would definitely fit. right now we find him to be conciliatory, apologetic and we take him for his word at this point. i'll be sure to let my community know that my view of it was that
there was a sincere apology. we accept him for his word. but like i said, those fact finders and those agencies will have to do their job, as they have been doing. and again, i can't say it enough. we're so very grateful. >> your name came up in the news conference, and the governor spoke about you, professing he wouldn't even be able to pick you out of a lineup. i want you to listen to what he said. >> i never heard the ft. lee mayor's name, mark sokolich, his name, until all this stuff happened. so he was not on my radar screen at all. plenty of other mayors were, a number of them wound up endorsing us, and a number i wound up having meetings with like you're referencing. mayor sokolich, he was never even mentioned to me. this question about making a joke about this, that's part of the reason i felt comfortable doing it. this can't have anything to do with politics. i don't even know this guy. >> we did go to his website, the
governor's website, look what we found. we saw a picture of you, there you are, right in the front there and the governor and not on your website, on his website. he says he never heard of you. certainly was not interested in getting your endorsement. what did you make of that comment? >> you know, i guess i don't have the impact on people that i thought i had, i guess. you know, i don't know. you'd have to ask him that question. i was also surprised when i heard that he didn't know me or he couldn't pick me out of a lineup. in light of what's going on, i'm not sure that's the best term to use. but i couldn't tell you. i don't know what his thought process was. i will tell you this, though, the concludes remarks that i made to the governor in my office a little while ago were, governor, am i now on your radar? and his response was something along the lines that ft. lee now has its own screen. so if there's a benefit that can
be derived in it for my community, i'm in it for ft. lee. i'm not going to grandstand here. i'm mayor of ft. lee, it's a place that i love. i need to proetect it, make sur our quality of lives are preserved. we're hopeful that we're now going in the right direction and that's it. but we're getting our own screen, i'm told. i guess that's a good thing, i hope. >> he obviously knows who you are. he said that when he saw you on tv yesterday presumably here on cnn, he finally saw who you were. but i was surprised by that, because ft. lee is an important city in new jersey. it's the gateway for a lot of people that come from new york over that george washington bridge. they go to ft. lee. and it was pretty surprising to me to hear he didn't even know who the mayor of ft. lee was. >> mm. yeah, we think, you know, we think we're pretty important, also. we're the gateway community to the state of new jersey. we're in the middle of a billion dollar redevelopment. i expressed that to the governor, too. we are in a very, very
vulnerable state here. we're in the middle of this billion dollar redevelopment, we're in the middle of special improvement redevelopment projects and we're on the -- we're in the middle of a renaissance that we've never seen before. ft. lee is regaining its status as the a place to be. right now we don't need this. and we certainly don't need it with threat of future retribution. we've opened more businesses here in the last three months than in any three-year period. folks are coming back, the culture has changed, the confidence level is at its highest. we need to make sure that it stays there. you know, what's happened is something that happened and transpird over many, many months. it's not going to be cured during the course of one day, but if you have to take a step, i believe that this was the step that -- the step to take. so we're hopeful we're going in the right direction. as i said, we take him for his word. >> obviously, you didn't know the governor that well, mayor, but what about these aides,
bridget anne kelly, his chief of staff fired yesterday, bill stepian, the former campaign manager, david wildstein. did you have any dealings with them? did you have any troen think they'd seek some sort of political vendetta against you because you as a democrat didn't endorse the republican candidate for re-election? >> well, i was apparently on their radar screen. we now know that. you know, as far as bill's concerned we definitely developed a personal relationship. i wouldn't say it was a good friendship but definitely somebody that i can call and spoke to on a pretty regular basis. he was our go-to guy. wildstein, i met once. that was it. and bridget kelly, i don't really ever recall recalling. the guy that called me an idiot, him i never met. i'd love to now, though. and and that's really it.
the only relationship i had out of these four was with barone. >> mayor, you've got your hands full over there. appreciate what you're doing. appreciate you joining us. i'm sure we'll continue this conversation. i assume like me you believe this story is not going away, right? >> i don't. i don't. >> thanks very much. >> i don't. not to suggest -- thank you. >> go ahead. make your final point. >> not to suggest that anybody knew or didn't know. i just think there's many chapters not yet told. >> thanks so much, mayor mark sokolich of ft. lee, new jersey. we're going to have much more ahead on the breaking news we're following. when did the governor first learn about the major scandal? we'll talk about that a whole lot more. stay with us. hey guys! sorry we're late. did you run into traffic? no, just had to stop by the house to grab a few things. you stopped by the house? uh-huh. yea. alright, whenever you get your stuff, run upstairs, get cleaned up for dinner. you leave the house in good shape? yea. yea, of course. ♪ [ sportscaster talking on tv ] last-second field go--
let's continue our coverage of the breaking news from new jersey. joining us now john wrightmyer, the statehouse reporter for the bergen record who has been doing excellent reporting on this. one of the key questions i have, since your paper really broke the story of all of these e-mails. did your paper call the governor's office for comment before you went to press, before you posted all this information on your website? >> we did. my colleague shawn boovert broke that story. and up with of the first calls he made was to michael druniak to try to get a comment to some of the e-mails which clearly caught the governor's office off guard. we did not get a comment for first draft of that story from
druniak or anyone from the office. and i still don't know whether anyone has spoken to the press secretary. obviously we heard from the governor today. >> i want to play the clip from governor christie at his news conference today about when he found out about your story in the bergen record. listen to this. >> we didn't even know about the existence of the e-mail. i found that out for the first time at 8:50 yesterday morning. and you can only imagine as i was standing there in my bedroom with my ipad looking at that how incredibly sad and betrayed i felt. >> so what jumped out at me is how much earlier before it was posted and he could watch it on his ipad, read the story on his ipad, did you actually call the governor's office to give them an opportunity to comment? >> i didn't make that -- that wasn't my part of the story. i didn't make that call
personally. so i can't tell you the exact time. i know we gave him a decent amount of time. you probably know some of these breaking stories happen fast and i'm not going to say we waited all day for a comment before we went live, but i think it was fair, and i think we did give them a chance to respond. >> so basically, it was that morning, though. it wasn't the night before. you didn't give him 24 hours or something like that to take a look at the story, to come up with some form of reaction, is that right? >> i don't believe so. >> all right. i just wanted to clarify that one point because it raised some questions in my mind earlier, and i'm glad you were able to do so. thanks to you, thanks to your colleagues for all the terrific reporting you've been doing. john reitmeyer with the bergen record in new jersey. anyone have occasional constipation,
i have absolutely nothing hide. and i've not given any instruction to anyone yet, but my instruction to everybody will be to cooperate and answer questions. >> we're following the breaking news. the fbi now assisting federal prosecutors in reviewing the scandal swirling around the new jersey governor chris christie. let's discuss with our senior political analyst ron brownstein and our chief political analyst gloria borger. he's got a long way to go, but did he help himself today, clean up his image? >> yeah, i think this was a really tough situation for him. i believe that one of the main questions that i have that wasn't answered is why would somebody who is a deputy chief of staff feel that it was okay to freelance like this, if that's what she was doing. and that's clearly what the governor said. and do something which he called
was, you know, callous and stupid, right? so we don't have the answer to that question, but he was very direct and he left no question, as he says he had nothing to hide. and this was full of absolutes. and so -- if he has nothing to hide, then we got to -- >> he probably did as well as he could today. and i don't think that on current facts, which is always the key words in this, that these are by definition disqualifying events in terms of running for president, but the implication is that the story will go on, for two big reasons. one you've got other investigations. and second he's kind of wandered into the most dangerous deadend for a presidential candidate which is validate a pre-existing negative. that he can be a bully, that's out there. now future events will be judged with this as the backdrop. >> can you see a future presidential debate where one candidate says to him, stop
bullying me, or we've seen this kind of behavior before from governor christie. i mean, it was a part of the narrative, as ron points out, but it won't go away. >> imagine the sensitivity of future activities. >> having covered a lot of these scandals like all of us have over the years, i would worry if i were the governor a lot of investigators, journalists and others, government, local, state, federal, they're looking to see is this an isolated incident? is there anything else over the past four years a sitting governor or his staff might have done similar to this. >> lots of facts, both retrospective and prospective will look different against this backdrop. that's the long-term risk. one thing that we both experienced in the '90s with bill clinton is that the public trusts and likes a politician, they have a lot of tolerance for imperfection. i don't think that what we know now this disqualifies him. but this is something that's going to go on and change the way we view a lot of things, both retrospectively and prospectively.
>> we haven't really heard from the aides who were fired or dismissed or involved, their side of the story. one of them is pleading the fifth. >> you have a lot of democrats in the statehouse investigating this. so who knows if there are going to be more documents? the public, by the way, has a lot of patience for somebody who is a tough guy when the tough guy is getting something done on their behalf. but when the tough guy's people are causing traffic jams that cause them problems, they're not -- they don't have any patience for it. that's the problem. >> gloria, as you correctly noted, if he didn't do this for punishing them for not endorsing him, then why? >> we'll find out in the upcoming days. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. "crossfire" with special guests starts now. >> tonight on "crossfire" -- >> aapologize. >> did governor chris christie's
extraordinary nearly two-hour press conkeep alive his chances to be president. >> i'm embarrassed and humiliated, heartbroken, blindsided, but i am not a bully. >> on the left, stephanie cutter. on the right, s.e. cupp. in the crossfire. bill richardson, a former democratic governor and presidential candidate. and john braveender, a republican political strategist. >> i'm a sad guy standing here today. >> has governor christie saved his political future or lost it? tonight on "crossfire." welcome to "crossfire." i'm stephanie cutter on the left. >> i'm s.e. cupp on the right. in the crossfire tonight one guest who has been a governor and another who helps run political campaigns. governor chris christie totally denied having any knowledge of or involvement in the lane closure payback scandal known as bridgegate. while many of us, including me, were incredulous yesterday that
that could be true, his performance at today's almost two-hour-long news conference, made me a christie believer. take a look. >> i am responsible for what happened. i am sad to report to the people of new jersey that we fell sh t short. we fell short of the expectations we've created over the last four years for the type of excellence in government that they should expect from this office. but i have repeatedly said to them that, while i promise them the best governor's office i can give them, i can never promise them a perfect governor's office. and so when i find those imperfections, those mistakes, those lies, my obligation as the chief executive of this state is to act. i had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its plans or its