tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC January 12, 2014 4:00am-4:31am PST
sleeping bear. let's play "hardball". good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start with this. the big story of governor christie's two-hour defense yesterday was what he didn't say. why did the governor of a state, a man clearly with his eyes and heart on the white house, fail to ask anyone, anywhere, any time, what the hell was going on at the george washington bridge. when traffic stopped for hours, day after day after day after day, when the democrats in trenton were raising hell, when the media was jumping all over
the story, when his two top guys over at the port authority were forced to resign, when all of this was popping on the front page and raging in the nightly news, this big bear of a politician, this guy who dominates the scene not once asked what the hell was happening. not only that, he openly and sarcastically refused to ask any questions. here he is on december 19th, three months in to this donnybrook, still refusing to ask, or act, or think, to do anything that might alert him, publicly alert him, to what his people had been up to. >> if you want to chase him around, chase him around. that's your business. but i'm not going to run around doing an independent investigation. i'm not a prosecutor. i'm a governor. >> i'm not going to conduct an investigation. well this is my question and this is my theory, the whole matter. i think governor chris christie may have been careful yesterday in laying out his story that will stand up for him as narrowly as defines it. he didn't think anything wrong had been done from september on.
when the traffic jam started up through december and he gave his staff a one-hour window to come clean and went out and said they were clean, you have to wonder why this big, boisterous, take-charge guy had so little interest in knowing what he had to take charge of. the only other explanation is he didn't care about the biggest mess of his political career, didn't care about the smell of trouble that had surrounded him, even as he minced his way toward a run for the country's highest office. and that's an explanation i can't buy. as i said, i can buy the explanation that this very political governor, very ambitious governor made his business not to know, not to let people see him knowing what business his people had gotten themselves into on his behalf. msnbc's steve karnac ki will be with us in a moment. let's start first with mike his cough, the national investigative correspondent for nbc news news, he joins us from trenton. big picture question. knowing all you know now, what you've heard what you can report
tonight. what is chris christie, the governor of that state, got to worry about? what is he worrying about? is somebody going to go public? are they going to get immunity? >> excellent questions. we have hundreds of pages of new documents. >> i want to know what he has to worry about. >> right, yeah. what he has to worry about are some really strong clues that emerged yesterday that david wildstein, his appointee to the port authority, who took the fifth amendment, rather than testify, has got some bombshells to unload. at the very end of that testimony, this got overlooked yesterday. the democratic chairman was outlining all the unanswered questions that the committee still has about what christie and his people knew and when they knew it. wildstein's lawyer said, well, if my client gets immunity from the u.s. attorney, from the new york authorities and new jersey authorities, you'll get the answers to your questions.
that's a very subtle hint we have a story to tell here but we need immunity to tell it first. in short, is david wildstein the john dean of this affair? one other clue that got overlooked yesterday. those documents that have been turned over by wildstein, those e-mails, those incredibly damaging e-mails, they have all those deletions because the subpoena only called for documents responsive to the traffic closures, to the issue in question. while there are all those deletions, one of the things wildsteen did include was references to a meeting that was proposed between christie and david sampson, christie's appointee as chairman of the port authority. in mid-august just a few days before bridget kelly writes that e-mail saying time for some traffic problems in ft. lee. why did he include the references to a meeting between
christie and sampson in this response to a subpoena? that's the question i've been talking to a lot of people in the state house today. that's the question they're asking that nobody is really focused on. >> thank you, michael isikoff. great reporting from trenton. steve, you've been so smart on this stuff. answer my open question at the beginning, steve. my theory here is this guy the governor of new jersey is very lawyered, lawyered up in his own head, it's in his dna how to protect himself. all these months since september when the traffic patterns were ordered from his staff he made a point of not talking to them. the other day in his press conference he said i only have two reports. my counsel and head lawyer counsel relationship like client relationship and his chief of staff. in other words, i never talked to bridgett kelly. i never talked to anybody. i only have to -- he's cauterized himself and separated himself completely from any possible criminality by the nature of the way he described the situation.
my question is the dog that doesn't bark. why for four months didn't he ever inquire about what his people were up to. the only answer i can come to is he damn well knew they were involved and didn't want to hear it. your thoughts? >> that's a logical theory that this was willful ignorance on his part. >> i'm borrowing it from your analysis the other day because you used that very term. i thought it was so on the mark. >> i think there is a specific reason why if you accept that theory and you play it out, there is a specific reason why he might have been confident in that strategy, and that has to do with sort of the internal mechanics of new jersey politics. the current state legislative session is expiring next tuesday. with the expiration of that legislative session, expires the legislature's subpoena authority. it has been subpoenas from the legislature, subpoenas from the state assembly that have kept this story alive these past few months. the incoming assembly speaker next tuesday is the product of an alliance between chris christie and a group of pro chris christie democrats in the legislature.
the expectation before this week, before all the bombshells this week was that that speaker was not going to renew the subpoena authority for the state legislature. >> but now? >> well, now there is no choice. that's going to happen. >> the national democratic party were to assassinate those people if they didn't do it. >> more than that, it's not the state assembly anymore. now you from the u.s. attorney sniffing around, the commerce committee. this has gotten bigger in the last few days. >> let's go to what michael isikoff pointed out, the john dean. i grew up during watergate. i got to tell i, it follows a certain pattern. the president of the united states, in that case, nixon, would try to set it up the first thing i knew about this i heard from john dean and then i operated in this certain way, setting it up just like christie did yesterday, picking a date like december something when i quizzed my staff and then moved forward and said i'm clean until then and then after then because once i asked them once if they had anything to do with this i'm clean when they said no. he sets that up. my question is why would any of these people, starting with wildstein, going to baroni,
going to his campaign manager stepien, and certainly going to bridget kelly, who has now been made the villain in this piece, why wouldn't they want to come out at some point and say, you know what? i'm an office holder. i work for a guy. my mission here is to carry out his purposes. and one of them is are political, and i did what i did. i wasn't out robbing gas stations for money. i was doing this for him. >> well, the question here, you take these people individually, but let's start with bridget kelly, because bridget kelly is the one he really singled out yesterday. he called her a liar five or ten times during that press conference. i think the logical conclusion you draw from watching chris christie doing that yesterday, this is a guy who is confident there is nothing that is going to come out that is going to contradict him. there is no further documentation that is going to come out. >> meaning he never talked to her in the office all these months about this trouble, he never -- >> well, there is -- >> my point, he probably didn't. he made a point of never winking in her direction, take care, you'll get through this. any sign of collaboration.
>> that is one theory, and that is entirely plausible. however, there is a history with this governor. just three years ago in this state when he was the governor, he fired his education commissioner, and he held a press conference which is very similar to the one he held yesterday. the education commissioner's name was bret schundler. he screwed up the state's race to the top 57ly indication. chris christie said the number one rule of this administration is you don't lie to the governor. now bret schundler admitted that he and his teamed a screwed up the race to the top application, admitted he deserved to go, but did not like being called a liar. what happened a week later? bret schundler had documents, he had e-mails, he had records. he could prove that when chris christie called him a liar, he had not been a liar. chris christie and his administration had known bret schundler had talked to them. and i cannot help but think of that right now. because chris christie confidently got up there three years ago with all the cameras rolling and called him a liar, even though there was evidence out there that came back to haunt them. that was a much smaller scale matter. but there is a precedent.
>> now, you know wildstein a bit, and i heard your story you know him indirectly because he ran your website. i'm watching this guy. i'm really try to empathize with people in trouble politically. i'm looking at this guy. he obviously has a lot going on in his head. he is a smart guy. he knows what is going on. he knows all the forces at work right now, and he is playing his time right now. he is waiting, waiting out the prosecutors, waiting out somebody who is going to give him immunity so he will not face any criminal charges. because if he doesn't face any criminal charges he may be a lot less likely to face any civil action which could be very expensive, even if he doesn't have deep pockets. so he wants a deal. if he gets a deal, isn't christie done? >> well, what michael isikoff said is really interesting. and the most interesting part of that for me this weekend, i should say yes, i worked for a website owned by david wildstein. i haven't had any contact with him since this began. but what i will say is the most interesting thing to me this week is on tuesday night, chris christie and the republicans named bill stepien, that had been chris christie's campaign
manager, saying bill stepien is going to be the next chairman in the state of new jersey. on wednesday morning all these stories break from wildstein about e-mails he gave to the committee. so if there had been, if wildstein was still on the team with christie, there would have been a heads up. there would have been some way of getting the news to christie's team that hey, this is coming. bill stepien and others are going to be implicated in stuff that's going to be in the press wednesday morning. and there is no way that chris christie and his team ever would have announced bill stepien as the chairman of the republican party on tuesday night if they knew that was going to happen wednesday morning that tells me the idea here that wildstein and there might be some coordination behind the scenes between the governor's office and him. that's not going on. because if there was -- >> that's my theory too. >> right. >> thank you steve kornacki. you've been a tiger on this story. you're been great. our network's lucky to have you. anyway, up with steve kornacki airs weekends at 8:00 a.m. get up early to watch him on the weekend. coming up, a rare point of agreement between democrats and republicans. they both are loving this christie ordeal.
they love that he is going through hell right now because a lot of them, even on the republican side, just don't like the guy. he's a little too independent i think. also, since they won't support christie, many republicans are doing the next best thing and attacking obama. just the other day congressman britton who i liked having on the show couldn't resist saying benghazi, benghazi, benghazi, what about benghazi and the irs and fast and furious. never mind that none of this has anything to do in either proportion or reality to what we're talking about but they're out there vomiting their latest. christie has a reputation of being a bully. christie said it's untrue ask his reputation is unearned. let's go to the videotape on that baby. finally let me finish with why governor christie can expect some more sleepless nights. this is "hardball", the place for politics. female announcer ] it figures. on your busiest day, you see the gray. try root touch up by nice 'n easy. just brush our permanent color matching creme right where you need it. then rinse. in 10 minutes, zap those grays and get on with your day. nice 'n easy root touch up.
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the head of the republican governors association has had a glaring lack of republican governors rallying around him, and that's christie. he has had some support. u.s. congressman michael grimm yesterday came on "hardball" to back him up. rudy giuliani is also out there for him. and surprisingly, governor nikki haley from down in south carolina. but those are the small exceptions. most republicans have been holding back, not giving an inch of help to this guy. and some have taken the opportunity to actually attack him. catch this. here is lindsey graham. he told nbc news kasie hunt yesterday the scandal, quote, reinforces a narrative that is troublesome about the guy. he is kind of a bully. you know, being candid and forthright and speaking truth to power is one narrative, but the other narrative is, you know, he is a transactional politician. he rewards his friends and he punishes his enemies. later, senator graham backtracked a bit saying he was impressed by christie's press conference yesterday. he handled it as well as he could. that's certainly minimal. meanwhile, rand paul, potential rival for the 2016 nomination
against christie joked about the scandal when he was asked during a white house walkout yesterday. >> i don't know. who e-mailed who and who works for whom. i have been in traffic before. i know how angry i am when i'm in traffic. i'm always wondering who did this to me. >> he didn't even bother to stop. but christie has never shied away from bashing his fellow republicans. is he suffering the consequences of that now? what goes around comes around. david gregory, the moderator of "meet the press" on sunday's on nbc, and david axelrod is a former senior adviser to president obama and an msnbc senior analyst. david, i want to start with you. as a democrat, it seems to me that the democrats are enjoying this for the reasons i would suspect is that they suspect he might be the toughest republican candidate for president in a general election. he gets knocked off, then they only have to face at best maybe scott walker, if jeb bush gets back in the game, of course, but probably face a right-winger who they think they can beat. >> you know, for all the reasons that very few republicans stood up, christie has some broader
appeal as a candidate. he is somewhat independent of the kind of most strident right-wing voices in the party. just the day before he got into trouble signed a dream act in new jersey. these kinds of things enrage the base of the party. but they make him a more appealing candidate nationally. so yes, he was an attractive and may well yet be, chris. i'm not in the camp that says the guy is done. i think if any of these threads get pulled as you suggest and expose him as having lied at this press conference, then he is done. >> no, i don't think he will be caught lying. i think it's a whole truth more than a lie. i don't accuse him of lying at all, never have. what i do think is he never explained why he never showed any curiosity from september all the way through december about what seemed to have been the work of his staff and his appointees at the port authority. that's what to me is the dog that hasn't barked here.
>> i think that that is a serious question, but i'm not sure that will disqualify him as a candidate. but if one of those people who is involved in scheme says as a matter of fact, yes, the governor did know about it, that's obviously game, set, and match. >> that's wildstein. who we're worried about there. let's go to the republican side. it's a little more nuanced, david. it seems to me my hunch is the guy plays outside the pocket. he is a scrambler. he breaks all the rules. most politicians play inside the pocket, they play it carefully, they work with their own side. here is a guy who went out and worked with president obama right at the end of the campaign last year for president. and did his own thing. now they seem to not like that. >> well that. >> also i think some people feel like he was a little too help to feel the president at a critical time. and that's the romney campaign. but i think it goes a little bit beyond that as well. some of it is about ideology. but i think most of it is about personality. and i think that there is a big ideological fight in the republican party right now. but i think the big test for
christie still remains personality, leadership, temperament. and it's why this cultural question that you raised, chris matters a lot. which is, these are not people he knew for 20 minutes. these are people who have worked for him for a long time. and yet there was the cryptic nature of these e-mails. it just had to be cued up. so is this just a rogue operation that took root underneath him without him knowing, without him sort of sending cues that this would be okay, that this would be acceptable, this is how we do things. i think that's the thing that ultimately becomes a leadership question. >> i have to follow up with that, because i think that's so to the point here, david axelrod. the fact that as chris jansing said on our air this morning, that comment or that queueing up as you put it, david gregory, which was it's time for some traffic problems in ft. lee, that was in the middle of a conversation. that wasn't a guess what, i got this idea to screw this guy by screwing up the traffic, somehow
cutting out the two lanes by the four lanes, knowing about the geography and all that stuff. somebody had a larger conversation about this beforehand, and this was like d-day, h-hour. we're going to do it now, but we've been planning to do it for a while. thank you david gregory. i'll see you on that show, "meet the press" on sunday of course, big show on sunday and david axelrod, love your institute out there at the university of chicago. up next the christie bridge scandal has become gold for the late night comedians. no surprise there. this is "hardball," the place for politics. and my customers are really liking your flat rate shipping. fedex one rate. really makes my life easier. maybe a promotion is in order. good news. i got a new title. and a raise? management couldn't make that happen. [ male announcer ] introducing fedex one rate. simple, flat rate shipping with the reliability of fedex.
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shut down your highway. christie is a true conservative. he is committed to proving the core conservative value that government is the problem, even if he has to create those problems himself. i can already see his 2016 bumper sticker. christie, bringing america together or i will [ bleep ] you over. best of all, best of all, his team will make sure you have plenty of time to read those bumper stickers. >> but those bridgegate issues right now may prove especially damaging to a guy like christie since it reinforces the very image he sought to downplay, that of a schoolyard bully. it's a label he tried again to shed in his press conference yesterday, but as jon stewart pointed out last night, sometimes your reputation really does precede you. >> this is not the tone that i've set over the last four years in this building.
it's not the environment i've worked so hard to achieve. >> intimidation, vengeance, vitriol, that's not the tone? >> damn, man, i'm governor. could you just shut up for a second? >> no, no, that's not it. hold on. try that one. >> did i say on topic? are you stupid? >> no, not yet. just haven't found it yet. ♪ >> okay? that's what it is. ♪ i think i finally figured out the tone he set, fu sharp. ♪ fu! >> well, we found a few more feisty moments that "the daily show" didn't get to. here are some of chris christie's other highlights from the past three years. >> you know, some may go down tonight, but it ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart. the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn't get
involved. well, then what the hell are we paying you for? >> you don't send your children to public schools. you send them to private schools. >> thank you very few. i'm sorry for the idiot over there. >> that's it for "hardball". coming up next "your business" with j.j. ramberg. y kibble blen with 20% fewer calories than purina dog chow. isn't it time you discovered the lighter side of dog chow. purina dog chow light & healthy.
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