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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Christie To Be Sworn In Today; Arctic Air Blasts Northeast; Interview with Fmr. Mayor Steve Lonegan

Aired January 21, 2014 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: Everybody wins!

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will hit the ground running, come out swinging and end up winning.

MOOS: -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEWSROOM": My family lives in Minerva, Ohio. I don't remember that guy. I'll have to call my mom, later today.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

Our special coverage of Chris Christie's inaugural address is next.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Bundle up and hunker down. Half the country is back in the deep freeze, and over 2,300 flights are already canceled.

And guess what. There is another government shutdown in D.C., weather related. And more snow and subzero temperatures are on the way, full coverage coming at you through that thick mess.

Also, this hour, Governor Chris Christie, about to take the oath of office for four more years, facing an avalanche of allegations since his landslide election victory.

Just wait. The inaugural address is coming at you in minutes.

And she says, sexual abuse by her middle school teacher had haunted her for more than a decade.

Now wait to hear what happened -- wait until you hear what happened when she finally confronted the teacher on the phone, on video and then went ahead an posted the whole thing on YouTube.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, January the 21st. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

He beat his opponent by 22 points and then bragged on election night that maybe the folks in Washington should tune in and see how it is done.

But as the hour arrives for Chris Christie to take the oath of office for a second term as New Jersey's governor, election night might seem like a long time ago.

Christie and the lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, will be sworn in just before noon Eastern time and our coverage of it all begins with CNN's Erin McPike in Trenton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Christie, do you have a few seconds?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In his prepared remarks, the embattled New Jersey governor is expected to discuss the need for smaller government and unity among the people, but apparently missing, the scandals engulfing his administration.

On Monday, forceful denials and charges of lying flew back and forth between Chris Christie's lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, and Hoboken's Democratic mayor, Dawn Zimmer.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR KIM GUADAGNO (R), NEW JERSEY: The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false.

MCPIKE: Guadagno, a Sandy victim herself, called Zimmer's allegations false and illogical.

Zimmer spoke exclusively to Anderson Cooper on Monday night about the alleged threat.

MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER (R), HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: This isn't something you forget.

When the lieutenant governor of the state of New Jersey tells you in a parking lot, if you tell anyone, I will deny it, you remember it.

And, you know, I was very upset. I did a journal entry a few days later.

MCPIKE: Zimmer also accused New Jersey Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable of intimidation for the project.

He says the claims are absurd, adding, "I welcome a full and thorough law enforcement review of her libelous claims."

Complicating matters, Zimmer herself has given different versions of her story and still supports Christie's record as governor.

ZIMMER: He has done very good things for Hoboken. I think he's done terrific things for the state. Overall, I do think he has been a great governor.

MCPIKE: A new national poll from the Pew Research Center shows his unfavorable rating doubling in the past year from 17 percent to 34 percent.

A majority of respondents who have heard of the George Washington Bridge controversy say they don't believe Christie when he says he wasn't aware his aides ordered the lane closures.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE: Now as we first reported on CNN earlier this morning, Christie decided to cancel his inaugural party tonight on Ellis Island due to severe winter weather.

But the main event gets under way later this hour. Christie will be sworn in here at the Trenton War Memorial around noon.

Then he'll give what aides say will be about a 25-minute address, and he's expected to touch on themes on bipartisanship.

He's going to say we cannot fall victim of the attitude of Washington, D.C., the attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong.

So it's a more sweeping address and may still be a campaign preview if he is to run for president in 2016, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Erin McPike, reporting for us, thank you for that.

So as we continue to follow the countdown and live coverage, take a look at the banner down below. "Reign of terror," that's pretty strong words.

My next guest is about to share the dais with the governor for the big moment. That's all coming later this hour, but he is clearly no fan.

Richard Codey is a Democratic state senator and a former New Jersey governor himself. He is live, despite this awful weather.

Governor, thank you so much for being with us, but, wow, when I read -

RICHARD CODEY (D), NEW JERSEY STATE SENATOR: My pleasure.

BANFIELD: -- some of the things you said in an interview to Salon, I was astounded at some of the -- I don't -- I'm going to say hyperbole, because a "reign of terror" is pretty darn strong, and things like, "there has been an absolute cover-up," "the arrogance," "the governor should be totally destroyed."

Do you regret using any of this very strident language?

CODEY: I don't know I used that kind of language.

What I said is that there's been an abuse of power, and, clearly, there's a cloud over Trenton, and it results not from the -- when we think of corruption in terms of somebody enriching himself. No, the governor would never do that or the lieutenant governor.

But there's a clear abuse of power here and there's a lot of fear. And that's what's happened over the last four years.

If you don't agree with the governor or the administration, they're going to get you. And that's what happened over in Fort Lee and that's what happened over in Hoboken.

If you're not on board, we're going to get you, simple as that.

BANFIELD: But, Senator, I'm just concerned when you make such sort of categorical accusations that there has been a cover-up here.

There's no proof at this point that leads directly to the governor. And I'm sure having worked amidst the law for as long as you have, you know that those claims won't hold up in any kind of court.

Why would you --

CODEY: Yeah, as I said, I don't know where you got -

BANFIELD: From Salon. That's a direct quote.

CODEY: I didn't know where you got those.

I haven't spoken to Salon in a long time, but in any event the incident that happened out in Fort Lee clearly goes to the top people in the administration.

And this new allegation from Mayor Zimmer goes to almost the very, very top when we're talking about a lieutenant governor.

And yesterday, unfortunately, she didn't even answer questions from the press. Miss Zimmer made herself available to the press. She has journal entries. She has aides that said, Yeah, right after that conversation, she told us what the conversation was.

These are very serious, serious things that have to be thoroughly investigated, and it is going to take a while for these two investigations to unfold.

And we'll see who remains and who doesn't remain as time goes by.

BANFIELD: OK, so I'm going to read a direct question from the magazine and an answer from you.

Do you believe the governor directly instructed the lanes to be shut down?

CODEY: As I said, I did not speak to Salon magazine, so I can't --

BANFIELD: It is quoting you as saying, "No, but at the very least, this could have created a climate."

Again, there is a difference between a climate and a direct accusation that there's a cover-up.

So are you saying that this reporting in Salon is just 100-percent off-base? CODEY: Yeah. As I said, I have not spoken to Salon in a long time.

But there is a climate of fear here in Trenton. I've said it before and I will say it right now, no question about it.

BANFIELD: Well, it's intriguing to say the very least. I appreciate you taking the time, especially with the weather the way it is, to speak with us, and especially on a day where you have other duties as well.

Senator, thanks so much.

CODEY: Thank you very much.

BANFIELD: So the Republican congressional candidate, Steve Lonegan, is standing by Governor Chris Christie. And we are going to speak with him a little bit later on on LEGAL VIEW, so stand by for that, the other side of the coin.

And from a political storm to a literal storm, you saw the pictures behind the senator. A snowstorm is grounding flights and shutting down federal government offices in Washington today.

The details on just how much snow is expected to hit the East Coast and you know what? A lot of the rest of the country, too.

It's all coming at you, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So, as if we did not get enough snow already, there is plenty more coming today from the Virginias to Massachusetts, in fact.

I want to show you the scene in North Dakota. Does that remind you of the movie, "Fargo?" It should. The high winds, the blowing snow, memories of old country.

This is creating dangerous driving conditions, though. It's also very dangerous if you get stuck out in that.

And this nasty weather is just getting started for the Northeast, as well. According to FlightAware.com, brace yourself. More than 2,500 U.S. flights have now been canceled.

And, in Washington, well, just before we get to Washington, schools are closing early. Many of them are being canceled.

In D.C., for some people, work is being canceled, too. The federal government announced they are going to shut down a whole lot of their offices there, as well.

One person who did not get the day off is Athena Jones. Oh, she got the bad one, outside. She's outside, bundled up at the National Mall.

And meteorologist Jennifer Gray gets the warmer assignment, but very difficult assignment, because she has to track this awfulness. And I am going to start with Athena, so we can clear her, Jennifer, because it is cold out there. How are you doing out there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ashleigh. It is cold out here. The temperature has been falling already.

And it's only been snowing for just over an hour, but you can see it is blowing around. It's beginning to stick.

And this is just beginning, as you mentioned. We are going to see as many as eight or nine inches by the end of the day. It is supposed to snow until 9:00 p.m. And, so, the temperature is going to be falling, wind gusts as well.

The National Weather Service has put out a winter storm warning and a wind chill advisory, advising people to stay home, if they can, not to travel. Travel is going to become dangerous. And, if they're outside, to be like me, to have on a hat and gloves.

As you mentioned, the federal government is closed. Many schools are closed. I just talked to -- called a museum. Many of these Smithsonian Museums did open on time, but they say they may close early because of the weather.

And, also, at the White House, we learned the last hour or two that a meeting the president and the vice president were to have has been postponed because of the bad weather.

They were going to meet with the presidential commission on election administration to talk about how to make elections more efficient and cut down on poll lines.

And a travel from the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, she was set to travel down to Orlando, Florida, to talk to folks about the Affordable Care Act, to educate people about that healthcare law. That's also been canceled.

So those are just a little bit of the impacts that we're seeing, along with all the snowplows we've seen passing several times, out dropping salt on the roads and preparing to plow that snow when there's enough of it.

Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: But you know what I thought was so cool, Athena, was that, just like the Post Office, apparently, Supreme Court justices don't take a day off for snow or weather.

They're operational. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today. I can't imagine how they are going to get everybody in to turn on the lights and the heat.

But, Athena, thank you. Go warm up.

Jennifer Gray, this is not the polar vortex, I'm told, that we were experiencing last week, but it feels like it nonetheless. JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, It is a very, very strong push of Arctic air. And it is coming. It's going to be affecting the Northeast.

If you have to commute home this evening, it is going to be rough. Interstate 80, 95, from New York City to Washington, even up to Boston, as we get into the late hours.

This is where the snow is now. We'll zoom in on D.C. You can see it already coming down. Baltimore seeing snow. Traveling up 95, you can see New York City, getting the snow right now, and then, Boston, will be pushing in your direction as we get into the late afternoon hours.

But we'll track this. Look at rush hour. 6:00 p.m., we have snow in D.C., New York, and Boston, and then as we go through the early morning hours of tomorrow, D.C., New York, you should be better off. Then, some lingering snow showers in Boston before this thing pushes off.

It is going to be fast moving. It's basically going to affect you today and tomorrow morning. That's it, but look at these snow totals - 6-10 inches of snow across portions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey. Eight-12 inches along the Jersey coast and Boston could pick up some of the highest snow totals. We're going to see anywhere from 6-10 inches of snow in New York City; and D.C., a lot of snow for you, 4-8 inches of snow.

This is going to be hanging around, Ashleigh. Like we said, today -- tonight is going to be the big trouble spot for folks trying to get home, and then tomorrow morning for places like Boston.

BANFIELD: I'm breaking out the SUV to try to get home today and back to work tomorrow. I'll cross my fingers I'm going to have a sub tomorrow at this time. All right, thanks so much, Jennifer. Nice to see you nice and warm and toasty.

Some live pictures I'm bringing to you now. While that looks like the symphony, it is live pictures from the State House in Trenton, New Jersey. Pretty exciting there because Chris Christie is about to take the oath of office about 44 minutes from now. We're going to talk live with one of his supporters. You heard a critic just moments ago. The other side of that coin right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So a couple of pictures once again from Trenton, New Jersey. That's a live picture.

I mentioned before the break that it was the State House, it's not. It's not the State House at all. In fact, it is the war memorial. That's where the swearing-in of Governor Chris Christie is going to take place in 40 minutes or so. It happens one minute before the top of the hour. We're going to have live coverage for you.

Earlier on in the program, a staunch critic, former governor, Richard Codey appeared on the program to talk about what he thinks about Chris Christie and his involvement in what he thinks is "bridge-gate" and what he thinks is a - is a culture of sort of bullying in the governor's office.

Well, not to be outdone, I'm joined now by a man that ran against Chris Christie in 2009. It was the Republican primary, and it was a pretty contentious fight too. That said, the man you are looking at right now is a staunch defender of the governor.

Steve Lonegan is a conservative Republican, whom Governor Christie not only endorsed, but also raised money for when he ran for U.S. Senate against Cory Booker last fall. AndI can call I Mayor Lonegan because you were the mayor of - how -- .

FMR. MAYOR STEVE LONEGAN, BOGOTA: It's Bogota.

BANFIELD: It looks like Bogota, but it's Bogota.

So, just state of the state on the circumstance that Chris Christie finds himself in from your perspective.

LONEGAN: Well, first of all, you hear about how this is an administration of retribution and retaliation. If anybody should know, that would be me. I ran a hard-hitting campaign against Governor Christie in the primary. We held back no punches. We had a really brutal battle. I had never seen any sign of retribution, and as a Republican, who at many times was his biggest critic, even after election. I supported him when he did the right thing and I whacked him when we did things that we didn't think were right. I have never seen even the slightest trait of retribution.

You know, when someone uses their position in office to move their agenda, that's not retribution, that just advancement, that's governing, and that's what he has been doing.

What I've been watching for the past two weeks is what I call the Democrats going through a cathartic vent after putting up Barbara Buono who was - and leaving her out there to dry. Leaving her hanging, and many of the Democrats supporting Governor Christie. You think they are making amends, perhaps, for leaving her out there like that and the DNC saying, hey, guys, what are you doing? You are building this governor up to beat Hillary Clinton. You are making him a star. Let's go after him and pull him down. And that's what I'm watching.

BANFIELD: All the things you are saying right now may be fine and dandy, but when you go across American and you ask Americans what they think of Chris Christie now, this has had an effect. There may not be a tie right now directly to the governor but the optics have had their effect. In fact, almost 6 in 10 Americans who heard about the bridge controversy say they do not buy Chris Christie's account of the lane closures. There are the numbers -- 32 percent say, sure okay I'm in, but 58 percent say they do not believe his protestations. That's painful if you are a supporter of Chris Christie, when you're looking towards 2016. You have to admit that.

LONEGAN: It is painful, but we have to fight our way through it. Look, we just heard Dick Codey say that he didn't do that interview with Salon in which he made these claims that this was a reign of terror. I mean that sort of tells you something about this movement-subtle, below the radar, above the radar - to pull down Governor Christie's image. No one has proven that Chris Christie knew a single thing. There's not one shred of evidence that he know a single thing about the bridge being closed --

BANFIELD: I'll give you that, but There are optics and you have to admit that optics are important when you are looking toward a potential front-runner.

Let's talk about what it takes to be a front-runner. You, yourself, said you went up against him in a primary, and Chris Christie, if he so chooses to go for the 2016 nomination, he will be in a primary as well. Do you think that what's going on right now is going to have the opposite effect of what Democrats want in that the base is strangely, those who really don't like him within the base, are coming to his aid. I think that we can throw up a poll out there that shows among Republicans, there has been no change (INAUDIBLE).

LONGEGAN: I can see that because a lot of Republicans might have been not such strong supporters of Christie are looking at this as a pile- on. They're looking at what just happened with Lieutenant Governor Kim Gaudagno, where suddenly the Democrat mayor for Hudson County New Jersey and suddenly has an epiphany, and eight months after some meeting in a parking lot says she was being strongarmed into pushing through a development program.

BANFIELD: But it's not so implausible, sir, when you start to see the stories coming out of the woodwork. You know that old expression, where there's smoke, there's fire?

LONEGAN: Well, it is implausible when you realize that Hoboken has gotten about $100 million in aid approved. They're getting all kinds of aid -

BANFIELD: Okay, let's just clarify that, because there have been a lot -- that number gets thrown out a lot. A lot of it is federal disaster -- flood relief, which has nothing to do with Chris Christie. That came from the feds and that is outside the number that the Hoboken mayor says was approved by Chris Christie for disaster relief, so let's make sure we are not calling apples oranges.

LONEGAN: Exactly right, except that Hurricane Sandy funding which she said was held hostage is determined by FEMA, by the White House and the Christie administration has pushed through money for school construction, the sale of a hospital, to help the medical school. That community gets millions and millions of dollars. There isn't a sign of them not getting money.

BANFIELD: Look, you can say what you want about no ties being made directly to Chris Christie, but each time a new story erupts or a new allegation of a scandal erupts, it does erode someone's trust in whether they should give the benefit of the doubt. And just this morning, I am reading that Carl Lewis, the Olympic athlete, is saying that all of a sudden he fell out of favor with the governor. He was all set to become an athletic spokesperson for the state of New Jersey, and then shazaam, he decided to run against -- for a Democratic nomination and Chris Christie cut him off and one of his employees that was to be paid. The employee is saying that happened.

LONEGAN: This reminds me of an episode during the Reagan administration where the labor secretary, Ray Donovan was attacked as being corrupt. He went through an entire process, and he had that famous line - still famous quote after he was vindicated saying where do I go to get my reputation back. The Democrats are doing everything they can, and this is coming down from the DNC, to pull down the front-runner in the Republican primary for president.

BANFIELD: All of this is politics.

LONEGAN: As soon as I see a shred of evidence that Governor Christie knew about "bridge-gate," that there was any money held back in Hoboken in order to push a redevelopment project, I will be the first to admit it. No one can (INAUDIBLE).

BANFIELD: You will come back on this program?

LONEGAN: I absolutely will.

(CROSSTALK)

LONEGAN: You have to wonder, what's happening with the development program in Hoboken? If anybody knows Hudson County, try to get through planning boards, zoning permits. You have to schmooze this guy, buy tickets to the mayor's ball. I think there's a lot more to this than we know.

BANFIELD: And I can't wait to have further conversations with you about it. And again, I really appreciate you battling the weather. You were supposed to be on about 23 minutes ago and he was five blocks away when his time slot came up. Thank you for being with us. I appreciate it.

LONEGAN: Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: Good to meet you and see you.

We are continuing with our coverage. There is a story that has come across our radar, very disturbing. A woman says she was sexually abused for years by a female teacher in her middle school. When I say years, I mean more than a decade. I want you to watch what happens when she telephones that teacher to confront her on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You realize that you brain washed me and you manipulated me and that what you did was wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I regret it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: You are going to hear a lot more of that confrontation and find out what ended up happening next and why that teacher will likely not face charges for the alleged sexual abuse. It is coming up in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: A California woman says it took her years to muster up enough courage to confront her middle school teacher for sexually abusing her.