February 2, 2014

New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski was in for another round of badgering from Meet the Press host David Gregory this Sunday, as he repeatedly pushed the lawmaker to exonerate Gov. Chris Christie from the Bridgegate scandal.

Gregory knew the soundbite he was looking for and he finally got it at the end of the interview. Gregory interrupted the assemblyman at every turn and treated him like a hostile witness for the second appearance in a row. And just like the segment with Eleanor Clift, the bar has now been lowered with what spells trouble for Christie. It's only a scandal that will harm him now if they can prove he directly ordered the bridge closing.

Gregory also made the assertion that in order to avoid looking political, the New Jersey Democrats had better get some Republican on board with them to go after the governor. I'd like to know when David Gregory is going to ask Darrell Issa that same question about all of his witch hunts, or any other Republican that comes on his show, for that matter? I'm not holding my breath.

GREGORY: We are back. That, of course, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie denying that he had anything to do with the lane closures of the George Washington bridge. The man leading the investigation into the bridge scandal is here with once again now, Assemblyman John Wisniewski. Thanks for being here. Welcome back to Meet the Press.

WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.

GREGORY: So now you have David Wildstein as we have been talking about this morning saying that evidence exists that Christie is not telling the whole truth. What do we actually have here?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, that's the question. we don't really know what the evidence is. He submitted over 900 pages of documents in response to the committee's subpoena. Apparently what he's talking about must be something other than what he's...

GREGORY: Well, let me stop you there. 900 pages, nothing implicates Christie. Is that right?

WISNIEWSKI: Nothing that said the governor knew contemporaneously, which is the allegation he's making now.

GREGORY: So, if he had this, why didn't he give it to you.

WISNIEWSKI: That's a great question. We don't have that answer.

GREGORY: So doesn't that undermine his credibility, as the investigator?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, it really raises questions about him...

GREGORY: This guy wants immunity.


GREGORY: He wants his legal bills being paid and he's raising a charge that you really should have known if he turned over 900 pages of information.

WISNIEWSKI: Well, the question is, the use of the words evidence exists, as opposed to saying I have documents or I have an e-mail. It's a curious choice of words which maybe he knows somebody else that has information. Maybe this is a conversation he had. Maybe this is something else that is not within the scope of the subpoena the committee issued. So it raises questions about what does he have and why doesn't the committee have it?

GREGORY: Do you any reason to not believe Chris Christie and what he said publicly?

WISNIEWSKI: I have a lot of questions what the governor said and I have a lot of questions about what Mr. Wildstein is saying. And the only way we can answer the questions is to get more information and more documents.

GREGORY: So to that point, are you getting more information as early as tomorrow?

WISNIEWSKI: As early as tomorrow we hope to be starting to get responses to the subpoenas. Some attorneys have asked for leeway in terms of the production dates, and we've granted

GREGORY: And what about the U.S. Attorney? Look, there's a criminal probe, right, by the U.S. Attorney in this district, Paul Fishman. Is he going to shut down what you do so he can do what he does?

WISNIEWSKI: No, our council met with the U.S. attorney and they've had a conversation and he was very comfortable, our attorney was very comfortable that this investigation can proceed on a parallel track.

GREGORY: What's the end game here? And I ask that because you've talked about some of it and I've made this point clear before. You were the state Democratic chairman. Okay? You are a Democrat who actually was responsible for the political arm of the state. You've been asked about what crime might it be involved here.

Back in January you said on NBC Nightly News. Let me play it on the screen.

(begin video)

WISNIEWSKI: Using the George Washington bridge, a public resource to exact a political vendetta is a crime. Having people use their official position to have a political to have a political gain is a crime. And so if those tie back into the governor in any way, it clearly becomes an impeachable offense.

(end video)

GREGORY: So what is the crime that is an impeachable offense?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, the question is, did the governor commit one of these acts? Is the governor responsible for this? We don't have any proof right now that the governor said “Go and close the lanes.” We know that somebody who was in his office, Bridgette Kelly, ordered the lane closures. And so the hypothetical was asked, is this a crime? Well, using a public resource for political purposes...

GREGORY: But let's be clear. people are going to come forward, people who want immunity are going to turn on governor. This is how this works when you're a potential target, right, you turn on the governor. But you're making it very clear that the bar is high. You need very clear proof that the president, rather the governor, ordered this. Is that right?

WISNIEWSKI: Absolutely. We don't have any proof. We need more proof. And remember, we're a legislative inquiry. We're trying to change the way the Port Authority operates. Our end game here is not any law enforcement action. Our end game here is to change the culture of the Port Authority to make this agency more accountable, more transparent, which it's not right now.

GREGORY: You're not after governor Christie?

WISNIEWSKI: That's not our goal. Our goal is to fix the Port Authority.

GREGORY: Would you like to see him stay in office?

WISNIEWSKI: I think that's up to the people of New Jersey as to whether he continues or whether he is going to -- it's up to him.

GREGORY: Do you have a responsibility as a Democrat to seek more Republican voices, to stand next to you to say let's be truly bipartisan about this, and let's make it very clear that all the shots that might it be taken at the governor, only are valid if they can establish that he ordered this? Otherwise, this thing can grind on and eat away at him politically.

WISNIEWSKI: But this isn't a probe about the governor. let's make it clear. This is not a probe...

GREGORY: But wait a second, if he is in trouble, if you're going to... if he is in trouble, it's absolutely about the governor, because you just told me that you would have to prove that he ordered it, so it's everything about the governor.

WISNIEWSKI: First of all, let's follow the steps where they led us. They led us to the bridge, to the governor's office. Now we're in the governor's office. Who told Bridgette Kelly to close the lanes? Under what authority? We don't know. That's what we have to find out. The bar has been set high because the governor has certain ambitions and people are talking about him in a national context. But the fact of the matter remains, is we want to get answers how this could happen.

GREGORY: And you've scoured e-mail. You've scoured text messaging. You've looked at a lot of communication within this administration already, haven't you?

WISNIEWSKI: We've looked at all of the documents we've gotten from Wildstein, Baroni. We haven't gotten responses back from the governor's office. We haven't gotten responses back from any of the other individuals we subpoenaed. So we don't know what this will lead us to.

GREGORY: But nothing yet implicates the governor.

WISNIEWSKI: Nothing yet implicates the governor directly.

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