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THE SITUATION ROOM
Christie Scandal Development
Aired January 31, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, breaking news, new questions in the bridge scandal swirling around the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. We've just received a response from his administration.
Water worries -- weeks after being told their tap water is safe, there's now new fears hundreds of thousands of people may be exposing themselves to harm.
Why does a top health official say he and his family won't drink their city's water?
TSA exposed -- a former employee writes a shocking tell-all book about the agency he once worked for.
Is the TSA telling the truth about what they see in your full body scans?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following the breaking news this hour. A former aide is suggesting he's holding information that contradicts the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie's, claims about his knowledge of the controversial bridge closures on the George Washington Bridge.
Christie denies knowing about it beforehand and blames former aides, who he says acted alone, allegedly for political retribution. He also said he only learned about the closures from news media reports.
But now, a former Port Authority official says the governor knew about the lane closures at the time.
Christie's administration has just responded with a statement. "Mr. Wildstein's lawyer confirms what the governor has said all along, he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein's motivations were for closing them to begin with. As the governor said in the December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press. And, as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th. The governor denies Mr. Wildstein's lawyer's other assertions."
But there are a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what the former Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, knows and is willing to share. And this could certainly have some huge implications for Christie, the next presidential campaign, in which Christie has been seen as a top Republican contender.
Let's get some reaction from Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, a former Republican presidential candidate himself, a former U.S. attorney and a friend of Chris Christie.
Mayor Giuliani, thanks very much for joining us.
So what do you think about all of this, this potential bombshell today?
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, I'm not sure it's a bombshell, Wolf. It's a statement that creates a lot of ambiguity, some good for the governor, some that create questions.
The part that's good is it's clear the governor didn't know about it beforehand, so he didn't plan it, right?
The question is, when did he find out about it?
The letter is very ambiguous as to when he found out about it. The governor clearly found out about it from the newspapers, so he did know about it at some point. And Mr. Wildstein is very much wanting to get immunity from the government. And I suspect if this Mr. Wildstein had a smoking gun, something you could describe really honestly as a bombshell, the government would have given him immunity. So he is negotiating for immunity.
Who knows, he may even ratchet up his allegations in order to try to get immunity.
So I think at this point, it would be very, very hard to interpret all of these things and come to some kind of conclusion that the governor isn't being forthright or that this really contradicts him.
BLITZER: He's trying to get immunity from the U.S. attorney, presumably in New Jersey. This is David Wildstein.
Paul Fishman, you were an attorney in New York.
Would you give someone like this immunity in exchange for full cooperation, full testimony?
GIULIANI: Not based on the letter that has presently been submitted, because it's too darned ambiguous. It's not going to convict anybody. There are too many arguments, too many ambiguities, too many questions about, well, the governor did -- the governor did know after it happened.
The question is, when did he know? What did he say about it?
All of that is going to be very, very hard to premise any kind of case on.
And here's the point. If Wildstein had blockbuster information, if Wildstein had a very, very strong smoking gun kind of evidence, yes, then you would give him immunity. But they haven't given him immunity, so he hasn't reached that level yet.
BLITZER: And he's pleading the Fifth, at least when he testified there.
BLITZER: Some others are now pleading the Fifth, as well.
Mayor, hold on for a moment, because another mayor, the current mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mark Sokolich, is joining us on the phone right now.
Fort Lee, your community was right at the center of this huge uproar. Commuters were seriously in trouble trying to get to those lanes of the George Washington Bridge separating New Jersey and Manhattan.
What is your reaction, Mayor Sokolich, to what's going on?
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY: Well, you know, to a large extent, I agree with Mayor Giuliani. We lawyers, you know, we're trained to write very carefully written letters. I mean if you really peel back this onion, I mean it specifically says that, you know, there was no prior knowledge, but -- number one.
Number two, look, from my perspective, from Fort Lee's perspective, there's definitely credibility issues with Mr. Wildstein. And he certainly is bucking for immunity.
There is, however, a question -- and, again, this is coming from a guy that's not rooting for the governor to know. I don't want this type of issue in the state that I'm an elected official in. I don't want the state's highest office to be implicated in this. I don't. I told you I take the governor at his word.
However, this letter seems to imply that perhaps there was knowledge during. Now, you know -- or when the newspapers reported it.
You know, Wolf, the newspapers reported this at 7:00 on Monday morning, September 9th. And they also reported it thereafter throughout the entire closure.
So if the knowledge emanated from the press and that knowledge was Monday, well, you know, that's an issue, because this lasted until Friday. And if, of course, the -- you know, he found out about it at the tail end, reading in it the press, well, then that's an entirely different story. They're just -- there aren't enough facts.
Again, I'm not rooting for him to know or not know. I will tell you, I remain very, very concerned about it. But I think it's critical. If it was known Monday, that's one issue. And I'm not rooting for that.
If it was known at the very tail end, well, I'm not so sure then what this letter means at all.
BLITZER: Because the governor maintains that he -- he was told it was simply a traffic study that was underway. That's why they had all those lane closures.
Mayor Sokolich, hold on for a moment.
Mayor Giuliani, hold on to you, as well.
Jake Tapper has been working his sources.
What are you picking up?
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, "THE LEAD": Well, I've been talking to a source in Governor Christie's office about this letter from David Wildstein's attorney. And here's the basic message.
The basic message is Wildstein is asserting that Christie has credibility issues because there exists evidence that Christie knew of these lane closures while they were going on.
Now, it's true that we've heard from Christie different statements he's given suggesting that he learned about the lane closures after the lane closures, after it was all over, I believe was the quote; and also, he said while it was going on, from press accounts. So there is not clarity as to when exactly he learned of these lane closures.
But the point from Christie's office, from the source I spoke with, is the important question is, did he know about the lane closures beforehand?
Did he know about them beforehand?
And Wildstein does not assert that he did.
They also say, does Wildstein suggest that Governor Christie knew about these lane closures because he was involved with them?
Wildstein does not say that. Again, this is what Christie's office said.
The third point is whether or not, of course, this was all an act of political retribution, which it seems like it is, based on Wildstein's texts and e-mails. And, again, Wildstein does not assert that this was Christie telling him to carry something out as an act of retribution. So from their point of view, what is really being suggested by Wildstein's attorney doesn't implicate the governor in the bridge closures. The only thing it questions is whether or not he was imprecise in whether he learned about them during or after.
BLITZER: But there is a...
TAPPER: That is something...
BLITZER: -- there is a line in the letter from Wildstein's lawyer that says Mr. Wildstein...
BLITZER: -- contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him...
BLITZER: -- and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.
TAPPER: And I asked -- I asked the governor's office about that, of course. And they said they have no idea what he's talking about, so they can't respond.
I mean, you -- we were hypothesizing before maybe it had to do with some of the things Governor Christie said when he seemed to be distancing himself from Wildstein and the relationship they had.
But they can't respond, because they don't even know what he's talking about.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's clever, one of the things you always try to do when you're involved in one of these things, is to define the issue on your terms. And what the Christie people are trying to do, clearly, is define the issue of did Christie know in advance.
Well, that's not the only issue in this matter. You know, what -- if he lied at that press conference about something else, that's not helpful to him.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a second...
BLITZER: John Stanton of BuzzFeed is here. I want to get to you in a moment.
But Mayor Giuliani, I'm going to play the clip. This is from the January 9th news conference that Governor Christie gave, that nearly two hour news conference, when he basically said he knew nothing about any of this until he read about it in the newspapers.
Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: And I knew nothing about this, and until it started to be reported in the papers about the closure. But even then, I was told this was a traffic study. I don't know what else to say, except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this, of the planning, the execution or anything about it, and that I first found out about it after it was over. And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study. And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday, that was brought to my attention or anybody else's attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was Governor Christie, Mayor Giuliani, at that January 9th news conference.
The other day you said something intriguing. And I want you to give us some context. You said something about a 50/50 chance he was telling the truth, not telling the truth.
BLITZER: Explain what you were trying to convey.
GIULIANI: Sure. That -- what I said was that the "New York Times" article created a situation where it made it look like it was 50/50 as to whether he knew. And that was in response to a question from Geraldo Rivera, which essentially said that he believed that the article made it 100 percent clear that he knew. And then the way it was misinterpreted, but then corrected, was that I had said it was 50/50 as to whether the governor knew.
I hadn't said that. What I had said was, if you read "The Times" article, the "Times" article has a lot of innuendo, a lot of suggestion, but when you read it, there's as much information that he did know as there is that he didn't know. And I said it was -- "The Times" article was 50/50.
BLITZER: You're a former U.S. attorney, obviously, a former mayor. if you were sitting with Governor Christie right now, what advice would you give him?
GIULIANI: Well, the advice that I would give him is, you know, make sure that all these statements are accurate. I can hear, in the governor's statement, a way in which you can make the Wildstein letter consistent with the governor's statement. The governor said that he did find out about it through the newspapers.
So when did he find out about it through the newspapers?
The first day, the second day, the third day, the fourth day?
I think the mayor was quite fair in the presentation that he gave. It probably would make a difference as to when in that sequence he found out.
But the most serious charge would be, did the governor know beforehand and plan it?
Well, clearly, Wildstein is not saying that and there's no evidence that he did.
Now the question is, when did he find out and how did he find out?
And so far, Wildstein's letter does not really contradict that the governor did find out afterwards and he found out from the newspapers.
What we need to know the answer to, and I'm sure the U.S. attorney will get the answer is, what newspaper, at what time and on what date did the governor actually find out?
BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, hold on for a moment, because Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor, he has a question he wants to ask you.
Go ahead, Professor Dershowitz.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Mr. Mayor, you were one of the greatest United States attorneys in history and certainly one of the most aggressive...
GIULIANI: And now, I always get a very tough question when Alan starts that way.
DERSHOWITZ: And so my question to you is, don't you think there's enough now for the U.S. attorney to call in the governor and to start asking him some of these very, very hard questions?
And what kind of questions would you ask him if you were -- not if you were his adviser, but if you were the U.S. attorney sitting on the other side of the table...
DERSHOWITZ: -- what questions would you ask him?
GIULIANI: I think this U.S. attorney is a very careful -- from what I know of him. I don't know him personally, but I -- in U.S. attorney circles, he's thought of as very careful, very complete. This is going to be one of those, Alan, where he's going to want to have all the facts, because he probably only gets one shot at the governor, right, if he gets a shot at him.
So, no, I don't think I'd call him in right now. It's too early to call him in. I would probably want to gather all of the information that I have. Look, this could be Wildstein's first attempt at getting immunity. There may be a stronger Wildstein statement that is given later in an effort to kind of push immunity.
But there is an aspect here that if the U.S. attorney questioned him, you could really clarify, which is, when did Chris Christie find out, from what newspaper, and on what date?
That answer could either make things a lot easier for Chris or they could make it a lot harder.
But I think you have to wait for the U.S. attorney to gather all of info -- all of the information. You generally don't want to -- you don't want to talk to the top guy until you've talked to everybody else, you've gotten their statements as clearly accurate as they can ever be -- and they're never absolutely accurate, as you know, Alan. But you want to get to the end of the process before you go after the governor.
DERSHOWITZ: But you would ask him?
You would definitely call him in at some point?
You would not give him a pass, right?
You would call him in at some point?
GIULIANI: I don't think it would be good for anybody if the governor weren't eventually questioned, meaning anybody -- I mean the best result for Chris Christie here is that he's cleared. If he were cleared without any kind of full and complete investigation, then his political opponents would use it against him. If he's cleared with a full and complete investigation from an Obama appointed U.S. attorney, that's going to make him, once again, a very viable candidate.
BLITZER: Let me bring in a final thought from Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who has been right at the center of all this.
It was your community that was so severely affected by these lane closures over these several days.
Do you have a question you want to ask either Mayor Giuliani, Professor Dershowitz, Jeffrey Toobin?
Or do you want to just make a final point, Mayor Sokolich?
SOKOLICH: I mean, I think -- I feel kind of flattered, so I think I'm, to a certain extent, on the same page with Mayor Giuliani, in the sense that, if this knowledge surfaced -- and I'm not putting words in the mayor's mouth, but if this knowledge is established to have been provided through the press to him on Monday, that's an issue, because it was four days of hell thereafter, or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I mean, whatever amount of time transpired between when he knew and -- because that would have necessitated a drive up to Fort Lee, not for an apology, but to immediately have everyone cease and desist from delivering this retribution on the community.
I'm not piling on here. I'm just saying it's an artfully written letter, doesn't talk about prior. It talks about during. I would love to know what they mean by during. If it's Monday, that's one thing. If it's Friday late morning, that's another, Wolf.
BLITZER: Because the lane closures occurred over, what, four days.
Mayor Giuliani, you want to respond to that?
I think the mayor has laid out pretty much the way the U.S. attorney is going to look at it. Obviously, the earlier the notice, the more the question of what was done, how was it done, why wasn't it done. At any point, there can be explanations as to why it wasn't done, including the fact that he was engaged in a campaign, or possibly that he accepted the explanation that this was a test.
That might not have been the truthful explanation, but when you're in the middle of a campaign and you're running a state, you have these lane closure, you read about them in the newspapers and your staff tells you, well, this is a test that's being done...
GIULIANI: ... it's conceivable that you would not take action.
SOKOLICH: That's correct.
GIULIANI: I admit it would be harder the earlier that notice takes place, but not impossible to explain.
DERSHOWITZ: Mr. Mayor, considering the history of Christie, that he has a long record of taking retribution against political opponents, whether they be a professor at Rutgers or somebody in another city, don't you think any reasonable person would have at least suspected on day two, day three that maybe this wasn't a test, maybe this was political retribution, and at least start asking people some hard questions?
GIULIANI: Well, I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I think -- I don't know how big an issue this was.
After all, there were 50, 60 Democrats that supported him. This was one mayor, albeit an important mayor, but I don't know how important this was to the campaign, so that the candidate would get himself all involved in it, or instead he might be thinking about 10 or 11 other things.
I ran in a campaign number of times, the president, mayor, all kinds of campaigns. You can't believe, Alan, how many things people don't tell you. And I know it's hard for people to believe who haven't been involved in it, but there were many things that happened in my campaigns that people did that I didn't want them to do, and I didn't know about it until after it was over with or it was too late to do anything about it.
BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, hold on for a moment there.
Alan Dershowitz, if you could hold with us.
Stand by for a moment, Mayor Sokolich.
We want to take a quick break. We're going to resume our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're continuing the breaking news coverage, the latest developments involving Governor Chris Christie, what he knew, when he knew it about those bridge -- those George Washington bridge lane closures.
Now someone he appointed to the Port Authority is making allegations suggesting, suggesting that Governor Christie may be lying. These are very serious allegations.
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, is still with us. Mark Sokolich, the current mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, which was at the heart of all this, he is with us as well. We have got Alan Dershowitz, got Jeffrey Toobin, John Stanton of BuzzFeed. Chris Frates is here from CNN.
Let me start again with you, Mayor Giuliani.
This is a serious allegation. The governor's got to deal with it. Would you advise him to just have another one of these long news conference, an hour, hour-and-a-half, two hours, and once again open -- he was very forthright the last time. Every reporter who was there had ample opportunity to ask whatever he or she wanted.
GIULIANI: I don't think I would at this point. I think I would let all these facts play themselves out before he makes a final, complete statement about this.
Who knows, who knows how people are going to change their statements, who knows how much they're going to be motivated to exaggerate. There are so many perils here. I think I would -- he's answered everything that he can answer. And the fact is , there will be a point at which he's going to have to give a final and complete answer to this.
And like the U.S. attorney is probably going to wait until he gathers all the facts, so he can question the governor -- he doesn't want to do it midterm, because things can change -- probably, the governor should wait until this thing is over with and they get all the facts. And then you know what questions to ask the governor.
BLITZER: Joining us on the phone, Mayor Giuliani, is Assemblyman John Wisniewski. He's one of those co-chairs in the New Jersey legislature leading this entire investigation.
And, Assemblyman Wisniewski, give us your reaction to these latest developments.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Well, these are very serious allegations.
They are based on a paragraph in a two-page letter that Mr. Wildstein's attorney wrote to the Port Authority seeking to have his legal fees paid. And in that one paragraph, he calls into question the veracity of the governor's statements, based on documents that he says he's in possession of.
I guess -- I don't know what those documents are right now, so it's hard to say what this means. I am concerned that Mr. Wildstein was under subpoena from the committee in the last session and provided documents, and it appears that what he's talking about now has not been previously provided.
So I would like to know why those documents weren't given to the committee before, or are these new documents or somebody else's documents he's talking about?
BLITZER: Well, if he withheld documents, would that be some sort of crime?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, it certainly would be contemptuous of the committee's subpoena. And there's a procedure for the committee to go through to address that.
But I'm not so much worried about that, but I'm trying to figure out, if he chose to withhold them, why? Are these documents that he only recently came into possession of? And what do they say?
Look, they're serious allegations, because what Mr. Zegas' letter is saying is, is you shouldn't believe the governor. But we need to see the documents to understand whether there's merit to that claim to not believe the governor.
BLITZER: Because the suggestion from some of the legal experts is that Wildstein simply wants to get immunity. He also wants the Port Authority to pay all his legal bills, which could be pretty significant if this thing goes on and on and on, which, presumably, it will.
So, what's the next stage? You're leading this investigation, Assemblyman Wisniewski. Tell us where we go from here.
WISNIEWSKI: Well, we have documents that are supposed to be received by the committee on Monday, February 3, which is the response date for the 20 subpoenas that had gone out.
We know that we will get some. We know that some attorneys have asked for additional time. And we know at least one attorney has issued a challenge to this subpoena and saying that they're not going to respond to it on certain constitutional grounds. We need to look at the material received as a result of those subpoenas. Mr. Wildstein and his attorney today have given the committee additional material that we now need to seek, either through subpoena or voluntarily. And that's part of what this committee has been doing, following each piece of material step by step to see where it leads next.
BLITZER: Assemblyman Wisniewski, I want you to stand by. We're going to continue the breaking news coverage.
I want to say goodbye to Mayor Giuliani.
Mayor Giuliani, before I let you go, quickly, just tell us what happened with this suspicious powder that was found in the mailroom in your Midtown Manhattan office building today. Was that a letter addressed to you?
GIULIANI: It was a letter addressed to my administrative assistant, care of me. It contained a white powder.
Of course, it created tremendous concern, because there are about six or seven or eight of these letters that have been sent out, I think most of them in New Jersey, to different people. So it came together with a group of six or seven or eight that they were all concerned about.
But the police department showed up. My firm, Giuliani Safety and Security, is a security firm, thank goodness, so they knew how to handle it immediately. They did a test. The preliminary test is that it's nontoxic. So the building was opened. The building is now operating.
But the FBI are doing further tests to determine, you know, is there anything else there? But, at this point, it appears to be a nontoxic substance. We don't know if it's connected to the six or seven others that were sent to people in New Jersey.
BLITZER: Were there any threatening words in a letter?
GIULIANI: No. No, they weren't threatening, but from a person that is unknown to me, unknown to my assistant. And it's kind of a strange letter more than a threatening letter.
BLITZER: What did it say in the letter?
GIULIANI: It said something about you're being my best friend.
And this person is not my best friend or my assistant's best friend or anyone that we know. I don't know what the other letters say, the other six or seven that the FBI is investigating in New Jersey. It's possible there was another letter in New York that was sent that was similar to this. So, at this point, all we know is, the good news is, it's nontoxic.
The bad news is, we don't really know, is it connected or isn't it connected? BLITZER: Yes. Well, even -- and you're a former U.S. attorney, former mayor of New York.
Even sending a letter like this, even if it's nontoxic, that could be a crime if the implication is that there's some sort of threat, because you saw the reaction from the local law enforcement, the hazmat units, the FBI, everybody who got involved.
GIULIANI: I think it was a little bit more of a reaction because they had information. We actually were a little surprised at how big a reaction it was, but because they had all of these other letters that they thought possibly it was connected to.
It may turn out that it was. It may turn out that it wasn't. It's a little like the Christie situation. Until you get all the facts, it's very, very hard to come to a conclusion about these things.
BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
GIULIANI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.
GIULIANI: Thank you.
BLITZER: We will get back to the breaking news -- much more right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We've been covering the latest developments involving Governor Chris Christie, a former political associate making some serious allegations in a legal letter his attorneys wrote. Chris Christie denying any wrongdoing whatsoever.
"The New Jersey Star Ledger" newspaper in an editorial just published and said among other things that the former associate David Wildstein who resigned from the Port Authority, "The New Jersey Times Ledger" saying this, "Star Ledger", I should say, "Wildstein claims there is documentary proof that the governor has been lying. If this proves to be true, then the governor must resign or be impeached because it will show that everything he said at his famous two-hour press conference was a lie."
John Stanton, the D.C. bureau chief of BuzzFeed.com is here.
What do you think about all of this?
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED.COM: I think that, you know, when you're in the middle of the scandal, if you can't answer the question in two or three words, I didn't do it, no, you get into these long explanations where you're giving all these dates and times, and tons of new things, stuff that I didn't knew things (ph), you're in trouble.
If you look at past scandals of Anthony Weiner and others, they always have this kind of drawn-out process where they give long detailed answers and then they have to come back and give a whole other set of answers. And this is, at least politically, problematic for him. Now, whether he's done anything wrong I think is almost becoming beside the point.
BLITZER: So, legally, you don't know -- no smoking gun by any means, but politically you think he's in trouble?
STANTON: Yes, it's really creating this picture that a lot of people have always sort of had about New Jersey, New Jersey politicians, that it's a little bit dirty, and they sort of do these kinds of things to each other. And it's starting to stick to him now. And even if he ends up being exonerated, it could not go away from him.
BLITZER: Well, we have a couple of New Jersey politicians on the phone right now. John Wisniewski is still with us.
So, what do you make about that? You're one of the co-chairs of this investigation in the state legislature.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN (via telephone): It's too early to make any final pronouncements about what this means, but what it does say are there serious concerns about the veracity of the governor's statement. That was made clear by the letter that Mr. Wildstein's attorney where he point-blank says that you shouldn't believe the governor. He says it based on emails or other documents that his client has in his possession that the committee hasn't seen.
I think we need to see those documents to determine whether or not he's got a credible argument, that the governor wasn't telling the truth on January 8th. I mean, I think, all told, the governor has shown a remarkable lack of curiosity about what happened, what was carried out by his staff. And that's an entirely different issue, but it certainly adds more questions to the investigation.
BLITZER: Let me bring other New Jersey politician into this conversation. Mark Sokolich is the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey. Fort Lee is -- the residents of Fort Lee suffered significantly during the four days of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
What's your bottom line?
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE, NJ (via telephone): My bottom line, Wolf, is we have to stop talking about a traffic study. There was never a traffic study. There wasn't one then, there wasn't one during and there certainly wasn't one after.
BLITZER: But somebody told apparently, if you believe the governor, someone told him the lane closures, which continued for four days and there were horrendous traffic jams, was the result of a traffic study. Who told him that? SOKOLICH: I couldn't even venture a guess. But as I said before, you know, looking at Zegas' letter, you know, during the closures, if it was Monday, it's a problem, if it were Thursday, it's a problem, but much bigger problem on Monday.
But, again, just to go back and not repeat myself, I wish everyone would stop talking about a traffic study. There never was one. To close the busiest bridge in the world, a traffic study would last and span months and months and months. You don't have that, it doesn't exist. And I think it really goes to the heart of credibility, quite frankly.
BLITZER: Dana Bash is here, you've been working your sources.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just one thing I also want to point out and I'll talk about that in a second, is that "The Star Ledger" says Wildstein claims there's documentary proof that the governor has been lying.
Words matter here, and facts matter, and especially when you're talking about specifics, politics aside. Wildstein's lawyer does not say that Christie was lying. It was very carefully written, saying that he has some evidence tying Christie to the fact this he knew or pushing back on the fact that Christie may have known about it during the time. That's very different than saying that he lied.
BLITZER: Well, at one point, he does say in the letter Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.
BASH: About him. Not necessarily about what the governor knew in the traffic study.
So, look, I mean, this -- the problem for Chris Christie is that this has become personal. Just talking to somebody who is a friend of Christie's, who is concerned about the fact that during the press conference, he really kind of waved some red meat in front of Wildstein, saying the whole -- look, I was class president, I was a football star and he was a dork. I mean, you know, he didn't say that, but that was sort of the gist that everybody who's ever been to high school kind of gets that. And maybe that wasn't the best idea because this is a guy whose back is up against the wall, his reputation is at stake, his livelihood, everything is at stake.
And, clearly, this letter, the whole point of it was to get legal fees back to pay for all of this, but it's also -- he's also somebody who has been antagonized.
BLITZER: All right. Wrap it up for us, Chris.
CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just think -- to piggyback on what Dana says, what's also interesting is that when he got that job at the Port Authority, he was introduced as a good friend of the governor who needs a position on the executive level. They created a position for him that had broad authority so that he could see everything that was happening there. And people assume that he was the eyes and ears of the governor.
FRATES: So, to then distance himself so much, to your point, I think is very interesting and would make him angry.
BLITZER: All right. We've got to wrap it up. But we've really gone through a lot.
John Stanton, thanks very much. Chris Frates, Dana Bash, Mayor Sokolich, John Wisniewski, Alan Dershowitz -- thanks to all of you as well.
We'll continue our coverage of this as we get more information. We'll, of course, share it with all of you.
But there's other important news we're watching here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including serious water worries. There are new fears hundreds of thousands of people may be exposing themselves to a potentially dangerous chemical.
Plus, shocking allegations about what some TSA officers do about those full body scans. We have details of a former employee's expose.
But, first, Chris Cuomo has this "Impact Your World."
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the face of hope. Faith was born HIV negative even though her mother had the virus. She's the ultimate example of the goal of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, creating an AIDS-free generation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the research, we have the medication. People have to be educated around the world. We've got to get rid of the discrimination and the stigma that associated with even getting tested.
CUOMO: Celebrity photographer Nigel Barker (ph) saw the success of the foundation's programs when he visited Tanzania, even in a nomadic tribe steeped in culture and tradition and reluctant to change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spoke to the women who had been trained by the foundation in the ways of how to deliver a baby safely. Now if you can reach a group like this, you can treat children anywhere in the world.
CUOMO: And the foundation seems to be doing just that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take for example, Sub-Saharan Africa, 700 babies are being born every day HIV positive.
But the good news is when I first got started in 2008, I was saying a thousand babies are being born every day HIV positive. And I'm realizing that a generation free is doable in our own lifetime. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: There are new concerns that hundreds of thousands of people may be exposing themselves to a potentially harmful chemical in their water. Weeks after a disastrous spill in West Virginia, traces of the chemical remain. Officials say a study shows the levels are safe, but that study is now being questioned.
CNN's Athena Jones is working the story for us.
What's the latest, Athena?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, first it was the toxic chemical MCHM. Then, the company responsible for the spill said another chemical PPH was also dumped into the water, though in smaller amounts.
Now, there's these questions about studies talking about the chemical's safety. It's enough to leave a lot of West Virginia residents concerned about the quality of the water authorities are saying is safe to drink.
JONES (voice-over): Charleston, West Virginia, residents are still nervous about using the water three weeks after a chemical spill at freedom industries contaminated the Elk River.
SHAMAYA LEWIS, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: I just want to know, who do you trust?
JONES: West Virginia American Water has rescinded the "do not use" order for thousands of area residents, saying that test chemicals dumped into the water have dissipated.
But that's not enough for mothers like Shamaya Lewis.
LEWIS: Who do I trust? Do I trust the water quality specialist that's been told to call me and I've been continually following up on, I spoke to him again yesterday? Or do I trust you all to go ahead and let my children and, you know, bathe and stuff in the water?
JONES: The water company working with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said extensive testing show levels of the toxic chemical MCHM, one of the compounds released, were below the one part per million the CDC considers safe. CNN conducted its own test of the water in mid-January with similar results.
Dr. Rahul Gupta who leads the public health department in West Virginia is not taking any chances. He says he and his family won't drink the water. DR. RAHUL GUPTA, HEALTH DEPARTMENT: It's easy for folks to say, well, we don't think that's a problem, but we can't prove that right now.
RICHARD DENISON, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: I think we're seeing an unfolding disaster that's in slow motion here.
JONES: And Richard Denison, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, says the CDC is basing their conclusions on a 1990 study on lab rats that doesn't prove the water is safe.
DENISON: Federal and state officials have largely been flying blind, trying to make decisions on the fly with very little information to go by. I don't think they should have lifted the do not use order. I think we are still seeing even just today, reports of water in schools that is testing above that limit.
JONES: And today the water -- last night I should say, the water company put out a statement saying that because there's simply not enough data on this chemical, MCHM, that out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women, quote, "may wish to consider alternative drinking water source" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Athena, thanks for that update.
Whether you fly or work for pleasure, who hasn't wondered what TSA agents are thinking or saying about those images of your body generated by airport security scanners. There's now a new story about what used to be going on, and you won't like it.
Here's CNN's Rene Marsh. She's got an update for us.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right. Some people may not like this.
A former TSA agent penned an article for "Politico". And it reads like an expose of the agency he once worked for. Now, these allegations do nothing to help clean up the agency's public image.
MARSH (voice-over): A former TSA officer calling out the agency he once worked for, stirring up fears and suspicions many fliers already had. Jason Harrington (ph) says the agency uses ineffective anti-terrorism security measures at the expense of the public's health, privacy and dignity. And he's just getting started, adding officers would pull a passenger's bag or give a pat down because a flyer was rude.
Those body scanners that gave flyers a virtual trip search and produced graphic images Harrington describes as entertainment. Officers gawking at images of overweight people and genitals, their every fold and dimple on full, awful display, piercings of every kind was visible. He adds the wrap a scan full body scanners couldn't distinguish classic explosives from body fat and guns were practically invisible if turned sideways.
TSA says many procedures and policies referenced in the article are no longer in place or characterized inaccurately. For example, scanners that show graphic images are no longer in airports.
MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: For them to be saying today it's not a big deal because they've been now removed after all the years when they resisted removing those in airports I think is a little hard to take at this point.
MARSH: When it came to profiling, Harrington says until 2010, officers had a list of 12 nations whose passengers automatically received enhanced screening. To that, the TSA said, no comment.
MARSH: Well, in a statement, the TSA tells us that they don't tolerate unethical or unlawful behavior and they take quick action when it is discovered. We should note we reached out to that former TSA agent who wrote the article, no response yet.
BLITZER: Pretty disturbing stuff.
BLITZER: Obviously. All right. Rene, thanks very much.
We've got a lot more news coming up. On the eve of the Super Bowl, there's new pressure on a team that isn't even playing to change its name. We're going to tell you the latest.
BLITZER: Washington's pro football team won't be in the Super Bowl again this year. There's also new pressure to make sure a team named the Redskins never again plays in the big game or, indeed, any big game.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
What's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, to coincide with the Super Bowl, Native American groups have racheted up the pressure on the Washington Redskins. A powerful new online video indicates these groups will not back down in this confrontation.
TODD (voice-over): It has the look of a promotional video for Native American tourist spots.
But it's not until the end when their message is delivered.
NARRATOR: Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don't -- TODD: This powerful online video, timed to coincide with the Super Bowl is another way Native American groups are calling attention to their fight over changing the Washington Redskins' nickname.
WILSON PIPESTEM, HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: We continue to see institutions like the Washington football team that have resisted that and continue to resist.
TODD: The Redskins are firing back through their attorney, Lanny Davis.
LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY: There should not be a name change, which is not about race, it's not about disrespect, it's about loving the Redskins.
TODD: A poll this year showed four out of five Americans don't think the Redskins name should be changed. There was one poll which asked Native Americans specifically about it taken almost a decade ago. That survey showed nine out of 10 Native Americans were not bothered by the name.
(on camera): What do you make of the polling that shows that many Native Americans aren't offended and many others don't want the name changed?
RAY HALBRITTER, ONEIDA NATION ENTERPRISES: It's a dictionary defined offensive racial epithet. You shouldn't be using that to sell a national sports team to America or to the rest of the world.
TODD: He's referring to the Merriam Webster Dictionary's definition of "redskin" which says it's usually offensive.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in at the Super Bowl.
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Let me remind you, this is the name of a football team. A football team that's had that name for 80 years and has presented the name in a way that is honored Native Americans.
TODD: Redskins owner Dan Snyder, won of 32 owners who Goodell works for, said recently he'll never change the name. With both sides dug in --
Is there a realistic chance the team will ever change its name?
CINDY BOREN, WASHINGTON POST: I think there's a realistic chance if it affects sales, if suddenly it's no longer one of the most popular, you know, merchandise drivers for the league. I mean, it generates a tremendous amount of money for the league. If that changes, if people stop voting with their pocketbooks, yes, then it'll change.
TODD: Now, the Redskins just responded to the online video by calling it, quote, "a fitting tribute to the nation's Native American heritage." The team says it respects those who disagree with them but says it's grateful for the support it has among Native Americans, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.
His successor in the Super Bowl, which do you think President Obama would rather talk about? CNN's Jake Tapper asked him in an exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to give you a choice, you have to pick one.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
TAPPER: I'll give you two. Hillary versus Biden or Broncos versus Seahawks. You have to tell me -- you have to pick one and give me the winner.
OBAMA: Well, I think that Broncos/Seahawks --
TAPPER: You're going to go with that one?
OBAMA: Surprisingly enough.
I think it's going to be a lot like the Seahawks/49ers game. I think it's going to come down to the last play. And in the end of the day, I'm not going to pick it because I don't want to offend any of the great cities who are participating.
TAPPER: So, you'll go with the Hillary/Biden one then?
TAPPER: No, you're going to opt out of that?
OBAMA: I'm too smart for that, Jake. Come on, man. I love the state of Washington and I love the state of Colorado.
TAPPER: You're not running for anything anymore. You won them both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: See that interview with the president of the United States. Remember, you can always follow us going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.