tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC March 29, 2014 2:00am-2:31am PDT
kelly versus christie. let's play "hardball." >> good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start tonight with this. late today in a trenton conference room, chris christie reentered the media arena. in his version of facing the lions, the only things missing as he intimidate and taunted members of the press corps were a chair and a whip. all the rest was on display as he poked and derided the capitol reports, invited them to ask about his million defense report he used today as both his shield and weapon. unfortunately, he may not have
gotten all that the taxpayers of new jersey paid for. the report released yesterday by christie administration lawyers proclaimed in no uncertain terms that christie has been exonerated. but there are plenty of skeptics out there. nearly every major newspaper in christie's backyard harshly questioned the report. "the new york times" editorial report writes, quote, this glossy political answer losing cost the taxpayers more than a million dollars in legal fees. this report is an expensive whitewas whitewash. the star ledger also called it a million dollar whitewash, saying let's see what the u.s. attorneys turn up. the bergen writes the completed report raises more question than it buries. what it also buries is hope that the internal investigation might rise above the governor's self-interest. the front page of the trentonian one of christie's hometown papers, says christie begins
with a headline written in all caps, saying "conflict of interest." moments ago, bridget kelly through her lawyer fired back at the report which we know pins much of the blame on her and throws in some salacious details about her personal life to boot. here is part of her statement. the report's venomous, gratuitous and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning ms. kelly have no place in what is alleged to be a professional and independent report. there appear to be two distinct versions of the george washington bridge lane closings. on the one hand, mr. wildstein through his counsel has taken one clear position. on the other hand, mr. mastro has staked a different view. thus, ms. kelly's evidence could be critical in verifying either of the two versions of
events. darryl isherwood, reporter with nj.com and valerie vainieri-huttle, a democratic assemblywoman from new jersey and a member of the state committee that is investigating the bridge lane closures. i want to start with the assemblywoman. assemblywoman huttle, give me
your sense of having read this report, what is not in it? what should be in it? what do you want to know? >> well, you know, they said the report was exhaustive and everything was in the report. we certainly have no more answers to the questions than when we started. the governor was looking for the truth. this report certainly was there to try to exonerate the governor. we still don't have the truth or the answers. and i find it very objectionable and questionable that they interviewed 70 people, and the key people, stepien, wildstein, baroni, kelly, samson were not in the report. certainly i don't think we need to spend a million dollars to find out we needed port authority transparency reform. we've done that two years ago in the legislature and he vetoed that. we did
that for nothing, quite frankly. there is nothing in there. i also feel that really stuck out to me were how they really denigrated the women. bridget kelly was scorned so she caused a traffic jam. >> why do you think they did
that? lame brain politics. >> dawn zimmer was yawning, and the yawning was her defense that she wasn't threatened. i found that to be credible. >> but these lawyers are smart guys. and there must be some women in that report, in that legal team. you're right. it just blew me away that they would go after a woman's private life without any connecting of it to what happened here. they can't give us a motive for why the bridge was closed down for all those weeks. but they can give us some sort of tantalizing personal life story about bridget kelly and the fact that she was having a relationship with somebody else in this matter and was dumped by this guy. what relevance do they think they could even argue? the governor late today defended that salacious attack on her personally. i thought that was pretty bad. your thoughts? >> again, there was no relevance to that. you know, is the governor said he wants to get to the bottom of it. he wants to get to the truth. the only thing this report did, which we're calling a million dollar press release. and as you stated in the
beginning, all of the editorials called it a whitewash. again, we did not get any more answers than we had before. i'm hoping that as we continue with our investigation, you know, with the committee, that we do get some of the answers for the people that were stuck in the traffic. the port authority reform, i welcome that. and we hope that now the governor will consider the legislation that we are putting together. >> thank you for joining us. >> thank you. >> stay with us, assemblywoman. mr. isherwood, it seems to me something fascinating here. this whitewash, whatever you want to call it, this legal paper said get rid of the office of intergovernmental relations which is the one that bridget kelly was heading up there. in other words, there is
something wrong with that very institution that ought to tell you that the governor has a problem here. he has set up an office with apparently the purpose of shotgun people who get in the way of him. of bullying people. once the legal document came out and said get rid of that very office, that tells you the governor has set up something that is basically a bullying operation. and yet somehow he doesn't get touched by it. is he a client of these lawyers? how does he avoid the brush here that he created an office whose job it was to bully? >> yeah, you know, i think that office, a lot of the complaint is their whole goal was to help out at least during the campaign was to help out his campaign. >> yeah. >> looking for endorsements and trying to push people into -- i hate to use the word push, but trying to convince people, mostly democrats, to endorse the governor. and there was a lot of that sort of blurred line of mixed government versus campaign time. you've got a governmental office and governmental salaries doing this campaign work. i don't think that sets up well for anybody. that's the whole goal of that office. >> here is my question. why does the governor keep
changing his lingo? a couple of times ago when he was asked at a press conference or it must have been a town hall, did you fire bridget kelly, he very particularly said i did not fire her. i had her fired. and now he is back to i fired her. what is he trying to separate himself from? is he trying to establish the fact that she did not report to him, therefore he couldn't fire her, that only o'dowd as chief of staff could fire her. is he trying to set up firewall for the courts that separates him from her? by the way, she she only worked a couple of feet from him. he is now acting like she is from some different planet. your thoughts. >> it's obvious he has tried to separate himself. even in today's press conference, he talked about -- he kind of made a joke, i don't know if he intended to make the joke, but lanes of traffic to him. basically access was restricted to these two guys, charlie mckenna, the chief counsel and kevin o'dowd, the chief of staff. and you had to go through those two people to get to him. and i think that's the firewall he is trying to create.
hey, look, people couldn't just walk in and tell me stuff there was a process here. and so it wasn't like somebody could just walk in and confess their sins to me. it had to go through channels there is clearly an effort to backtrack here and say hey, i had walls in place that kept me from knowing this type of stuff. >> i think it's interesting. assemblywoman huttle, this is the question. look, i think he did some work today. it wasn't all failure. but i thought it was interesting today when he said it mystifies why it was done. now, it doesn't take a lot of speculation for a big-time politician, a guy who is pretty aggressive to understand why his staff people would be putting a little heat on fort lee. why does he say it mystifies me? because that gets back to the question of -- well, let's watch him do it. here he is. >> i don't know if we'll ever know what the motive is. as i said when i was here january 9th, it mystifies me on every level why this was done. and i hope some day to have an
answer to why it was done. but i certainly don't have a crystal ball, and i can't tell you if or when i'll ever know. but do i hope to after all this? you bet i hope to. >> assemblywoman, are we to believe that this governor of new jersey has no knowledge of his office's relationship with the fort lee mayor sokolich, that he has no knowledge on what might motive this kind of pushing around or punishing? this is the part that is hard, the context part, whether he knew about the bridge closing prank or not, he seems to be playing a much riskier argument here. i don't know nothing, the sergeant schultz argument from "hogan's heroes." that seems to be something hard to believe. your thoughts. >> again, it's inconceivable that it was just bridget kelly and wildstein, you know, playing traffic jams or playing with the traffic on the bridge without any knowledge, without anyone know that. it's inconceivable to me. again, this exhaustive report shows nothing on who was to
blame and why they did it. and, again, the governor has promised to do a thorough investigation. i don't believe that, you know, this investigation is over. it's far from over. there is no -- there are no answers to the questions. we will continue to raise the questions. and the investigation is far from over. the report was done obviously to try to exonerate the governor and not get the facts. >> darryl, i used the example of a lion tamer with a chair and a whip. he basically pushed the press away from him today. but the lawyers do it too. how do they think they can get away with just dismissing the mayor of hoboken, mayor zimmer, who comes off as very impre impressive, on television, which is the only way i know her. oh, she was yawning. this can't be real. she can't really have been intimidated by giordano, the lieutenant governor, in intimidation besides she was the only other witness. just knocking down the cases of anybody who doesn't agree with the governor here in this report. it doesn't seem to be a fair
report in that regard. >> you know, but that's always been sort of the m.o. here. look, we have a lot of conversations, a lot of things that happened where there are only two people there, or in some cases three or four who actually know the answers to these things. those people aren't talking. >> right. >> that's been the problem all along. you bridget kelly. you have david wildstein. you have bill stepien who all will not talk. thank you so much, and assemblywoman, you're a great guest to have on an important night. no matter how bad the bridge scandal looks for christie, he still considers him a viable candidate for president of united states in 2016. as an east coast republican, he may be among the republicans with the best chance of knocking off secretary clinton, but that's only if he can get past the right wing republicans in the caucuses and primaries. but look at the guy. he is still game to run. he is going out there to vegas this weekend to basically shake his cuff.
plus, what has become known as the sheldon adelson primary, the conga line of 2016 republican hopefuls auditions in vegas right now for that one older billionaire's support. and more importantly, his money. and while things look bleak for congressional democrats this november, republicans have done nothing to address their shrinking political base. and let's face it, lack of a positive political message. think of it. what is it? and that could mean huge gains for the democrats with hillary, at least in 2016. plus, could put another democrat in the white house, her. finally, i know about winston churchill. churchill is a passion of mine. senator ted cruz, you ain't no winston churchill. and this is "hardball," the place for politics.
welcome back to "hardball." the first question governor christie was asked at his press conference late this afternoon was about whether the bridge scandal might affect the 2016 presidential run by him. and christie was ready. >> in the long sweep of things, any voters, if they consider this issue at all in considering my candidacy if there ever is one, i got a feeling it will be a very small element of it, if any element at all. >> but the poll numbers tell a much different story. the nbc-wall street journal poll has been tracking christie's national favorability and unfavorability numbers and they've taken a big hit in direct response to the bridge mess. in the latest poll in march, 17% of respondents had a positive view of christie. 32 a negative view. rewind to october 2013 before the scandal erupted and those numbers were transposed, completely inverse. christie was 33% positive back then, 17% negative. they've gone switcheroo since then. christie said today the bridge scandal will not be a factor in
his presidential decision making. >> the way i'll make a decision about whether to seek any future office would be do i think it's what is best for me and my family. and secondly, do i believe that i have something unique and particular to offer that particular office at this particular time. if the answer to those two questions is yes, then i'll seek that office. and if the answer to either of those questions is no, i won't. and there won't be anything else that will enter into it. anybody who tries to game out the politics of this kind of stuff years in advance, the last 11 weeks should show them that's a fool's errand. >> christie will be in las vegas this weekend, meeting with top aruba fundraisers. we'll get more of that later in the program. it sure looks like christie considers himself a viable contender for 2016 himself. "time" magazine's mark halperin is a senior political analyst and author of
"double down," a great book. and susan page writes the big front page stuff for usa today about politics. mark, i like to remind people who have watched this as civilians, you don't pick the candidates. they pick themselves and you choose among them. will he be one of the people who will try to be a candidate, despite this kerfuffle and embarrassment, and perhaps scandal of the bridgegate? >> chris, my considered opinion on this day is that all things considered, chris christie has the first or second most likely path to the republican nomination today of anyone who is considering running. he is not a perfect candidate. this bridge thing is not helpful. but if you look at fundraising, the calendar, his political skills, his message, and the one thing republicans are looking for in a candidate, who can beat hillary clinton with a possible exception of jeb bush, i say today chris christie i think has the clearest path to the republican nomination of anyone else. >> is there, susan, a establishment candidate nomination fight? in other words, there is going to be a right-winger, a libertarian rand paul or ted cruz or rubio.
but is there still a need for somebody in the sweet spot, somebody who can get the big money and look like they can beat hillary early on. >> right. scott walker, john kasich, jeb bush, first of all, would be established candidates -- >> is that the race he is in? >> i think that's the race he would like to be in. that's the race he seems to be wanting to run in. >> you think he is permanently tarred? >> thing is the main thing people know about him now. you ask americans across the country, what is chris christie? he is the governor who shut down the george washington bridge. i think it is damaging. and i think what is worse for him he is not a good fit in this party. he is not a good fit with a party that is southern and has a lot libertarians and has a lot of christian conservatives. he is a northeastern republican, not a good fit in this party. that's as damaging as the bridgegate scandal. >> why do you think he is running? just because he has nothing else to do? >> i think he is rung because he has met with donors, and then he sat down for a big interview with diane sawyer, and then he is going to las vegas for that big meeting. and i think -- and he did the
news conference today. i think he is trying to rebuild -- >> mark, go ahead. i want to know what the money piece. can you run in the iowa caucuses with a bankroll? will a bankroll help a guy who is relatively centrist against the yahoos running against him? >> i have great respect for susan, but i want to disagree on two things. first of all, what did people know about bill clinton during the perils of his candidacy in 1991? that he was a draft dodger and he had these phone calls with gennifer flowers. what did people know about george bush early on? he was the son of someone at that time who was not a particularly popular ex-president. and secondly, mitt romney was less of a good fit for a southern evangelical tea party party than chris christie is. look, he can skip iowa. he can win iowa in a fractured field. he can raise so much money and have a superpac in iowa that he wins iowa. with the possible exception of jeb bush, i don't see anybody else today -- >> what has he got? define for the person watching
right now. here is a big heavyset guy from new jersey with an ethnic name. trying to run in a southern party, as you pointed out, in a party that sends to be evangelical. what does he have walking into that iowa caucus or new hampshire primary? what does he have the others don't? >> an establishment candidate who rich people love who looks like he could take on hillary clinton and beat her and talk about an anti-washington message. >> you know, i agree that he has an anti-washington message. that's the best thing you can say. an anti-washington message and anti-washington climate. but i -- >> how do you run anti-washington when your biggest name idea is your scandal? >> but i disagree with you. and take the romney example. he is a worse fit with this party than romney was because he is less willing to put up with some of the lip service of the people who make up the core of the party. and people in the republican party pointed to an example of romney and mccain and said we went with a candidate you told us had the best chance of winning. they lost. let's go with someone who appeals more to our hearts. >> what is the second best thing for if he runs an loses? is there a win for him and he runs a good race and comes in
the 207 three or four? >> sure. he could be on somebody's ticket. he could become the leader of the party. and depending where the bridge thing, he could rehabilitate himself by getting back to more of what made him popular in the first place. up next, ted cruz does a bad imitation of winston crucial, my hero. not cruz, churchill. he has done a very good imitation of joseph r. mccarthy. this is "hardball" the place for politics.
in the streets. we shall fight in the hills. we shall never surrender. >> what? even madonna was what type of british accent is that? >> what a disgrace. time for the sideshow that was jimmy fallon of course on ted cruz's recent misimpression of winston churchill. it was so over the top and bad it sounded more like a parody than impression. just for reference, let's compare his rendition to the real thing, the genuine article. >> we shall never surrender. >> we shall never surrender. >> one talked like a man. senator, you're no winston churchill. earlier this week mitch mcconnell was called out for mistakenly featuring duke's basketball team in his campaign ad which would be fine if he was running for reelection in north carolina. but he is not, of course. and that fact was not lost on his primary challenger matt bevin. check out his latest ad. >> march madness in kentucky. commitment, courage, you got to love it.
even if your team is already out of the tournament. we need courage in the u.s. senate too. i'm matt bevin, and i approve this message. because if you want a conservative in the u.s. senate, i need your vote on may 20th. that's "hardball" for now coming up next, "your business" with j.j. ramberg. so they can look half their size. pores...shrink 'em down to size! [ female announcer ] pore refining cleanser. neutrogena®.
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small business owners upset over president obama changing rules concerning overtime pay. and how the owners of popular udder cream helped their small business grow by keeping it small. that and more, coming up next on "your business." small businesses are revitalizing the economy. and american express open is here to help.