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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Christie's Bridgegate; Class-Action Lawsuit Filed in George Washington Bridge Scandal; Christie Denies Being a Bully; Interview with Rudy Giuliani; New Jersey Assembly Committee To Release More Bridge Scandal Documents Friday; Brain Dead Pregnant Woman Kept On Life Support Against Family's Wishes
Aired January 09, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEMON: Airs tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for watching. "AC 360" starts right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Don, thanks.
Good evening, everyone. There's breaking news tonight in the New Jersey bridge scandal. We've just learned that tomorrow the New Jersey state assembly committee investigating it will be releasing nearly 1,000 pages of documents collected as part of its investigation.
Now this ended a day that began with the man who polls say could be the next president of the United States taking on the scandal. Chris Christie's marathon session with reporters on revelations that a top aide and a close political appointee ordered up four days of epic traffic jams on the world's busiest bridge as political retribution.
This morning in the state capitol of Trenton Governor Christie apologized to the people of New Jersey, said he was embarrassed, humiliated, blind-sighted. He announced the firing of the deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, called her stupid and deceitful, and asked his two-time campaign manager to step down as consultant to the Republican Governors Association which Governor Christie heads.
And that was just the first of many big developments today. A short time later long-time Christie friend David Wildstein appeared before state lawmakers. He's the Port Authority figure who resigned in the wake of all this. When questioned about the affair, he took the Fifth Amendment. He didn't talk.
Wildstein is the former Port Authority appointee who allegedly caused the traffic jams by closing lanes to the George Washington Bridge from the city of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Now late today Governor Christie did cause a traffic jam of sorts in Fort Lee when he arrived at city hall to meet with the mayor, Mark Sokolich, who you'll hear from shortly on this program. First, though, we want to give you an extended look at Governor Christie facing the music.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey. I apologize to the people of Fort Lee. And I apologize to the members of the state legislature. I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.
There's no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for their appropriate role in government and for the people that were trusted to serve.
I believe that all of the people who were affected by this conduct deserve this apology, and that's why I'm giving it to them. I also need to apologize to them for my failure as the governor of this state to understand the true nature of this problem sooner than I did.
This morning, I've terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly, effective immediately. I've terminated her employment because she lied to me. But I don't want any of you to confuse what I'm saying this morning. Ultimately I am responsible for what happens under my watch, the good and the bad. And when mistakes are made, then I have to own up to them and take the action that I believe is necessary in order to remediate them.
I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution. And I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover.
This was handled in a callous and indifferent way and it is not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years and not the way it will conduct itself over the next four.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So I'm just asking, what do you ask yourself about it? They either thought this is what the boss wanted or this -- as a group they were willing to go rogue and do this and then try to cover it up and then lie to you.
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, obviously -- I said earlier, John, I'm heartbroken about it. And I'm incredibly disappointed. I don't think I've gotten to the angry stage yet, but I'm sure I'll get there. But I'm just stunned. And what does it make me ask about me? It makes me ask about me, what did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me?
And believe me, John, I haven't had a lot of sleep the last two nights. And I've been doing a lot of soul searching. I'm sick over this. I have worked for the last 12 years in public life, developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk. One that I think is well-deserved.
But you know when something like this happens, it's appropriate for you to question yourself. And certainly I am. And I am soul- searching on this. But what I also want the people of New Jersey to know is that this is the exception, not the rule.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That was Chris Christie today answering every question put to him, some more than once. Nearly two hours in all. An army of fans, critics and fact checkers scrutinizing every word obviously.
Some big items raising questions namely how he could fire his deputy chief of staff without actually having just spoken to her at all about what he fired her for. He said he fired her because she lied but didn't question her about the details of the whole bridge closure. He said it would have been inappropriate to do that.
Some smaller items as well, the governor says he couldn't pick Fort Lee's mayor out of a lineup nor could he remember ever meeting him, though he said it's very possible he did.
Here's the lineup, an event in northern New Jersey two years ago, Governor Christie on the right and the mayor over there on the left.
In any case as you saw at the top they meet again today. And here's what Governor Christie said on the way out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: We had a very good and productive meeting. I have great respect for the mayor. We had a very good conversation.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you tell us what was said, Governor, during the meeting?
CHRISTIE: I just did. A very good and productive meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, do you feel better now that you've met him?
CHRISTIE: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he accept your apology?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well that and the breaking news about tomorrow's document dump, capping quite a day -- an apology, two firings, the early beginnings of a federal investigation.
A central figure taking Fifth. Supporters and skeptics alike going over each and every line of the governor's actions so far.
A lot to talk about with chief national correspondent John King, Shawn Boburg who broke this story in the pages of the Bergen Record, and chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
So, John, we just heard that clip that you questioned the governor at his news conference. What did he accomplish? What didn't he accomplish today?
KING: Well, what he did not accomplish is end all the questions, Anderson, because you're going to have this legislative investigation, the federal investigation, likely to be even more investigations.
What he did not do is leave himself any wiggle room. He said he had nothing to do with this, he knew nothing about it. He also said he didn't have a climate that sanctioned this kind of behavior or encouraged this kind of behavior. And so he followed the crisis 101 playbook, when a politician or CEO is in trouble you come out and you repeatedly apologize, you say you're embarrassed, you say you're humiliated, you promise to hold those people accountable.
He did a very good job as a pretty good politician in making that case today. And if the facts support what the governor did today, there's a chance he could turn this coal into a diamond and people will say he decisively handled the crisis. But these investigations are in their very early stages. You mentioned the document dump, some 900 more pages expected tomorrow. And this is going to go on for days and weeks and likely months -- Anderson.
COOPER: And I just want to tell our viewers I've just gotten online a report that now a class action lawsuit was filed today against Governor Christie, one of his former aides, Bridget Anne Kelly who was fired and two former Christie appointees, basically saying that the lane closures forced people to arrive late for work, be docked pay, and endure other economic hardships.
Shawn, you broke the story of these e-mails. For you what are the remaining questions you would like to have answered?
SHAWN BOBURG, THE BERGEN RECORD: Well, I think Governor Christie addressed the immediate and most damaging concerns, and that is he denied that he had any involvement. What's left unresolved is how this came about, who was involved. He didn't do much to explain the broader narrative of how this could happen, especially within the confines of his inner circle.
So I think that -- those answers are -- will be sought both in the press in various investigations that unfold over the coming weeks and months.
COOPER: And, Shawn, the fact that there are heavy redactions in portions of the documents that you received, a lot of the names of the people involved in this, is that raising eyebrows in New Jersey? Do you know who made those redactions?
BOBURG: That actually came up in today's hearing. The explanation by David Wildstein's attorney was that these were not -- these documents and the redactions weren't pertinent to the requested information in the subpoena. There will be some scrutiny of that. And I think there's going to be some conversations between legislator's attorneys and Mr. Wildstein's legal representation to get reasons behind the redactions.
COOPER: Gloria, one of the questions that's obviously still unanswered is why exactly a deputy chief of staff would take it upon herself if in fact she did to do something of this magnitude, to try to pull off messing with such a major bridge.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And that's -- and that's the key question as far as I'm concerned that the governor did not answer today. She is only a deputy chief of staff. She clearly doesn't have the authority to tie up traffic this way. She was clearly acting in concert with others or under the direction of others. And the governor's answer to that question was, you know what? I didn't fire her directly. And he did not talk to her directly.
And that's presumably, Anderson, because he was walled off by attorneys so he couldn't be seen as tinkering with any kind of investigation. But the question that the public will be asking is, did he create an environment in which people think they thought this would actually please the boss?
You know, people like somebody who's tough and strong when he's working on your side against the big bad guys, but when somebody is working to tie up your traffic and make life difficult for you? They don't like it so much.
COOPER: Shawn, I mean, this has actually been going on locally in terms of a story -- you broke this story for more than 100 days. So it's been covered for awhile.
The governor today was talking about the idea that there was a -- some sort of traffic study being done, which was one of the stories apparently he had been told. But is there any evidence that at any time over these last more than 100 days he requested from his staff evidence like the results of this -- alleged traffic study or that there had even been, you know, I don't know, a requisition for a traffic study?
BOBURG: No. And I think those are some of the lingering questions. This has not been a quiet issue here in New Jersey. And the governor has actually made pretty forceful comments in public in the past that this was a traffic study, backing up his close associate who testified that it was a traffic study. So I think that there are going to be some remaining questions about how he came to those conclusions, whether he did his due diligence, whether he inquired of his staff adequately.
The other issue here is that we should keep in mind for people who do not know the Port Authority, it controls the area's airports, its bridges and tunnels. It's an independent agency, bi-state agency, that is not directly controlled by the governor's office. They appoint people to run it. So that makes this even more remarkable that someone within his inner circle was exerting or seemed to be authorizing some sort of traffic study, even if you believe that on its face. Her very involvement raises questions.
COOPER: John, for Governor Christie to give this massive press conference, I mean, two plus hours, and categorically deny any involvement whatsoever, if -- I mean, either he's telling the truth, and if he's not telling the truth, there's no way to come back from today's press conference. Either what he says is true or this can have devastating consequences for him, correct?
KING: Correct. Anderson, if he's not telling the truth about something material, if he missed some tiny fact that's irrelevant to the conclusions that's one thing. If he's not telling the truth about something meaningful and material well, then this quick sand turns into a trap door for him politically.
Consider the moment. He's about to begin his second term. He just won in a landslide, thinks he has a mandate to push his agenda through New Jersey, a blue state, and he's a red Republican governor, and then he wants to travel the country supporting Republican candidates in 2014, to use that as his springboard to 2016. If he becomes nuclear, meaning he can't get things done at home and these questions dog him on the road, it changes everything.
What he hoped to do today is to begin to slam the door shut on his personal involvement. His team has to hope these investigations go as quickly as possible and they prove him right. Because if people get nervous -- two weeks ago we'd be having a conversation about Chris Christie rock star traveling the country. Every Republican wants to hug him and be seen with him.
Tonight that's a question mark. He needs to make the question mark go away.
KING: Both for his success here at home and his viability on the national stage.
COOPER: We got to -- we got to leave it there. John, Gloria, Shawn, great to have you on the program. Thank you.
Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper. Tweet us using hash tag ac360. Next more on the question that could secure Chris Christie's future or seal his fate, is he a blunt straight talker or a bully? Also former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on his fellow Republican and his view across the river.
COOPER: More on the New Jersey bridge scandal. As we reported moments ago a class action lawsuit has now been filed against Governor Chris Christie, a former top aide Bridget Anne Kelly and two former Christie appointees to the Port Authority which operates the George Washington Bridge.
Now the suit claims the plaintiffs were, quote, "trapped on the roadways for a considerable period of time," forced them to arrive late for work to be docked pay and endure other economic hardships."
Also at the breaking news tonight late word that we'll be getting more than 900 new documents tomorrow related to this whole affair. It will be fascinating to see how they affect the arc of the story if they do and whether any of them speak to another big question, namely whether the governor's well-known sharp elbows I guess you could say and short temper contributed to the current scandal. At the news conference today, Governor Christie addressed the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I am not a bully. And what I will tell you is that the folks who have worked with me over a long period of time would I believe tell you that I'm tough, but I've shown over the last four years in the tone that we've set here that I'm willing to compromise, that I'm willing to work with others. And the campaign showed with all of the folks who came from the other side of the aisle to support us that if we weren't willing to have relationships with those folks, it would have never happened that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Governor Christie today suggesting he's not the kind of politician who pushes people around.
"Keeping Them Honest," though, there is plenty of evidence that he may be including his reaction to a doctor who publicly questioned his medical fitness to serve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: This is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV. If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I'll have a conversation with her about that. Until that time she should shut up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: His critics say he's thin skinned. His supporters say he's direct, honest, and straight-talking kind of guy.
Tom Foreman has more.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Born in the state with a long history of heavyweight brawling, Chris Christie learned early that his combative ways could be costly. In 1995, he tried to charge through the Republican old guard to win an assembly seat and was crushed at the polls, leading to years of quiet work in the political background.
Yet after being elected governor in 2009 and re-elected in 2013, the tough guy once again took center stage.
CHRISTIE: Maybe the folks in Washington, D.C. should tune in their TVs right now, see how it's done.
FOREMAN: Christie has famously battered reporters.
CHRISTIE: Did I say on topic? Are you stupid? On topic. On topic. Next question.
If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your question.
FOREMAN: Voters are fair game, too.
CHRISTIE: I'll ask you where you send your kids to school. Don't bother me about where I send mine.
FOREMAN: He spoons out advice like bitter medicine.
CHRISTIE: And let me tell you something. After you graduate from law school you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom your rear end's going to get thrown in jail, idiot.
FOREMAN: And through it all, he walks a political tight rope.
STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: Some people won't like his style. They'll see him as too tough, too angry, too obnoxious.
FOREMAN (on camera): So there is a risk in being this brusque and brash about things.
ROTHENBERG: Absolutely, but that's more, more than outweighed by his reputation as a straight talker, a straight shooter, not your typical politician. And in this day and age that is a huge plus not to be a typical politician.
CHRISTIE: I don't hide my emotions from people.
FOREMAN (voice-over): So although Christie is apologizing over the bridge incident now, sorry is a word that fits him like a bad suit, and one he seldom says.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with another politician who's both enjoyed and at times suffered from a reputation as a take no prisoners political leader, former New York mayor and presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani. A short time ago I spoke with him today.
COOPER: What did you make of what Governor Christie said today?
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, what I made of it is pure Chris Christie. I mean, this is a straight guy. He -- big mistake in his administration. It happens. It happened to me more than a few times.
COOPER: You have no doubt that he had no involvement?
GIULIANI: I'm absolutely positive. I think Chris Christie is one of the most honest, straight guys you're going to meet. I think -- also I think had he known about it he would have never acted this way.
Had he known that he had some involvement in this he never would have -- he never would have treated it lightly the way he did. He didn't act like a person who had knowledge before the fact.
COOPER: It does seem looking at the press conference had he been involved in any way, if he had anything to hide, this is not the press conference you would give.
GIULIANI: Right. I think that's absolutely true. If -- we've seen people who hide things, five, six months. There are all these stages.
GIULIANI: There are all these stages that they go through of being a little bit more transparent, a little bit more transparent. Just don't go out and open themselves up completely. Plus I know Chris really well. I mean, he's a good friend. And in the last couple of weeks he wouldn't have acted the way he acted if he knew. Even if he had some knowledge, even had an inkling of it, his remarks would have been different kinds of remarks.
COOPER: Because he was very -- he was belittling reporters who brought it up.
GIULIANI: Yes. No way.
COOPER: He --
GIULIANI: No way if you knew about it.
COOPER: Attacking them or even suggesting.
GIULIANI: And having run a very complicated administration, sometimes it's impossible for people to believe it but you really don't know. I know when a mayor says I didn't know people find it hard to believe. Your closest aide or your closest friend. My closest friend was my first deputy mayor Peter Powers. We went to high school, college and law school together. He ran my campaign, he got me elected mayor.
He probably could do more things on his own without telling me than the people who weren't as close to me. I mean, he felt the most degree of I make this -- I can make decisions for the mayor.
COOPER: There are those who say well, look, this was his deputy campaign manager, you know, sending this e-mail saying time for a traffic -- traffic issue at Fort Lee or whatever it was.
COOPER: Even if Chris Christie didn't orchestrate it, wasn't involved in it, didn't know about it in advance or didn't know about it subsequently --
COOPER: -- the fact that there are those who say the fact that this person, this woman thought this was the kind of thing that he would like that that says something bad about his leadership style, about what goes on behind the scenes.
GIULIANI: Politically stupid things, political pranks that turned bad, all that other stuff? Every -- don't tell me this doesn't happen in the Obama administration, in the Clinton administration, in the Bush administration.
COOPER: If this was something that Governor Christie knew about, again you don't believe it and there's no evidence that he did --
GIULIANI: I really doubt --
COOPER: Is it something -- do you think it's a big deal? I mean, or is this just, as you say -- this is one of those vindictive things that politicians do?
GIULIANI: It's a big deal because of the consequences. You know, if there hadn't been a person who died, or -- then it might not be as big a deal. And of course, whether it's a big deal or not it becomes a big deal once he says he didn't know about it.
GIULIANI: At this point if he knows about it then of course it becomes a very big deal. But I'm quite convinced from the way he's acted both today and most importantly in the lead up to this that he didn't know about it. And I think it becomes something that, you know, it's obviously never going to be a plus.
The only way it becomes a slight plus for him is the way he handled it today, which I think was about as open as I've ever seen a politician.
COOPER: You don't think this has some sort of long-term impact on Governor Christie?
GIULIANI: If the story remains the way it is?
GIULIANI: Absolutely not. I can see the negative -- he had a couple of people that were bad people or in terms of -- I shouldn't say bad people, people who made bad mistakes. On the other hand he's a guy who immediately, upon learning about it was about as open as a politician has ever been so it kind of washes out.
COOPER: When he says -- he said today I'm not a bully, do -- I mean, there is that, you know, whispers about him talk about him.
GIULIANI: I think there are two things that create that image. One is he's a big man. Right? And two is he comes back at you pretty hard. Well, that's -- I mean that's just the way people, you know, react. I don't see anything in his background that suggests that he takes advantage of people, that he pushes them around, that he's nasty to them, that his -- in terms of his personal contact.
I've been with him and his family many, many times. I don't see anything different about him than, you know, most of the other people that I know. But it is a stereotype. And unfortunate thing for Chris is, and this should be true with me, if something happens that reinforces your stereotype it becomes a big deal. On the other hand, if you make some other kind of mistake, people ignore it.
I remember when I did a press conference, if I in the slightest way sounded annoyed, the story was mayor lost his temper. They thought I had a bad temper. Sometimes I'd walk out of a press conference and I would have completely screwed up something in the budget, screwed up a date and I'd say to my press secretary, I can get ruined for that. And they would say no, no, no, that's not part of your stereotype.
They know you're smart. They just think you have a bad temper. But I see this more as not suggesting somebody's a bully, a stupid political prank that backfired, which could happen in any administration to anyone based on an aide who just misinterpreted things and went further than you should go.
COOPER: Mayor Giuliani, thanks very much.
GIULIANI: Thank you.
COOPER: As always you can find out more of the story on CNN.com.
Just ahead I'm going to talk to the guy Governor Christie said he wouldn't be able to pick out of a lineup, Fort Lee's mayor, he joins us on the program ahead.
And later a family's fight to honor a brain-dead pregnant woman's wishes. They say a Texas hospital has turned her into a human incubator for a fetus. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me ahead.
COOPER: Well, as we said before the break, Governor Christie apologized in person today to Fort Lee's mayor, Mark Sokolich, just hours after saying he wouldn't be able to pick the man out of a lineup. In fact the two men have appeared in public together and the mayor -- and Governor Christie acknowledged it's very possible they had met before.
This photograph was taken in a news conference in 2011 where Christie spoke with several mayors about sick pay reform. It's actually posted on the governor's own Web site.
We love Governor Christie's opening line was when he met with Sokolich today. As for the mayor, whose city was thrown into chaos by the bridge scandal, he called today's meeting productive. The governor's apology comes a day after the mayor told Wolf Blitzer he didn't need an apology from Christie, but the rest of the city did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH, FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY: Do me a favor. Don't call me. But call the families who were waiting three, four times longer for emergency service agencies when their loved ones were having heart palpitations or their loved ones had extreme chest pains and were waiting for our ambulance car to arrive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that was the mayor of Fort Lee yesterday. Was today's apology sufficient we wanted to know? Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich joins me tonight.
Mr. Mayor, Governor Christie characterized your meeting as very good, productive. Are those the world you would use?
SOKOLICH: I would use them as productive. I thought that there was a heartfelt apology which we accepted, and we took Governor Christie at his word. I mean, I'm not so sure we have much more of a choice but we did. It was a sincere exchange.
COOPER: As far as you're concerned, is this over or still is this just one chapter that's done?
SOKOLICH: There are mounds of documents that still need to be gotten through. There are a lot of folks. There's a large ensemble that's apparently involved in this. There are names that were redacted from the texts, in the e-mails. So I think any reasonable person would reach the conclusion that there's more to come or more stuff to find out about.
COOPER: When you read that e-mail from Bridget Kelly to the Port Authority saying we need to have a traffic problem for Fort Lee and the response was got it. When I read that it sounded as if the person on the other end of that knew instantly what that meant. And I'm not sure why the person on the other end of it would know instantly what that meant unless there were previous discussions about it.
SOKOLICH: Absolutely. And when you say "got it" you don't just come up with a statement like that out of the clear blue without something transpiring or something that precedes it. I agree with you 100 percent. That "got it" was a ratification or confirmation that everything that previously transpired was acceptable. I know my instructions and I'm going to move on them.
COOPER: Does it seem odd to you that the governor had been told that there was a traffic study being done, and even though the story continued to bubble up it seems like at no time did he ever ask anybody on his staff to see the traffic study or to see a requisition form for the traffic study. Does that seem odd to you?
SOKOLICH: There was never any traffic study. There will never be any traffic study concerning that shut down during that week in September. That's clear. That's unequivocal. I don't know why we keep talking about a traffic study. I think that's something that they need to grasp and deal with. You don't shut down the busiest bridge of the world without months and months and months of due diligence before you do it.
COOPER: And for a staffer to have felt like they had the leeway to do something like this, do you believe the governor would have had to have created some sort of a culture in his office that allowed staff to behave this way or to think this would be OK?
SOKOLICH: I think it's one of two options. It's either a loose cannon on the decks, and that could certainly be possible somebody is out there act on his own. Apparently not though, reading the text there is more than just Wildstein there. The guy that called me an idiot was involved. So there are other folks. But yes, it would appear that there was latitude that was either implied or delegated that would -- I don't want to say promote something like this, but almost condone something like this.
COOPER: How often -- there are some photographs of you guys together in sort of group situations. The governor said maybe he had met you at a group situation, but he couldn't have picked you out of a lineup. Did that surprise you? How often had you actually met him?
SOKOLICH: In defense of the position he's taken, I'm sure he meets thousands of people. So I certainly -- I guess I'm a guy that's relatively forgettable. I'm not so sure anymore. But back then I guess I wasn't noteworthy.
COOPER: He could certainly pick you out of a lineup now. That's sort of an odd choice of terms for him to be using today.
SOKOLICH: You're not kidding. And you know, just in passing at the end of our conversation with the governor, I did say to him, I guess a little sarcastically. Governor, am I now on your radar? He chuckled. His response was that Fort Lee now gets its own radar screen. So we're hopeful that that screen is going to well in advance let us know if there's retribution coming our way. I don't think it's coming and we hope it doesn't come.
COOPER: Mayor Sokolich, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
SOKOLICH: Thank you.
COOPER: Joining me now is former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer and CNN political commentator, Paul Begala and also U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm who represents New York's 11 District.
Ari, what did you make of how Governor Christie did today? Do you have any doubt given the press conference he has to day two plus hours press conference that he is hiding anything?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: No. It's impossible for somebody give a news conference like that if you know that you were involved, if you had some inkling that this was going on. If you thought your staff was deceiving you why would he have done all the things he did leading up to this news conference. Let alone it would be a suicidal press conference by denying everything as emphatically as he did. I thought he was believable. I thought he was humble. He was usual blunt self. I thought he dealt with it very well today.
COOPER: Congressman, certainly a lot riding on that press conference. Was that your take as well?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: Absolutely. From what I know of Governor Christie going back to my undercover days working public corruption in New Jersey, this is a man of honor and integrity. I think he was sincerely hurt. His staff disappointed him, especially people that he really trusted. They broke his trust and made him look bad. They embarrassed him. I think that's what you saw today.
You saw an honest, open governor that does show his emotions. That's why people may call him a bully because his passion often comes through and it's not that he's bullying it's that he passionate. A strong advocate for New Jersey and the causes that he believes in I think that came across very, very well today.
Most importantly, he took ownership and I think that's bold leadership when one, someone can admit they were wrong which he did, and two, take responsibility for it. And lastly, he actually took the proper action immediately to terminate those that he knows was involved.
COOPER: Paul, you said that Christie had a choice to make today between being a crook or a snook. What did you make of how he did?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he clearly took the right choice and I do think obviously he's entitled to the presumption of innocence. No evidence he knew anything about this in advance. I think we should grant him that. The problem is then he's left with a choice that gee, I didn't know. Now, this is a man as the congressman pointed out who was well-known as a tough federal prosecutor, a U.S. attorney, where he specialized in cases involving public corruption abuse of power.
I think he had something like 130 convictions of corrupt politicians in both parties. So he knows about how to go after abuse of power. These lanes in this bridge were shut down and there was an outcry right away. He did not act like a guy who wanted to get to the bottom of it, did he? He said today in his press conference, I called my staff in and had my chief of staff look into it for an hour, a one- hour investigation, really?
In the middle of that he certainly seemed to believe his staff because he called the governor of New York. When the New Yorkers on the Port Authority that right board, Port Authority Board reopened those lanes and we see in these e-mails that Mr. Christie's appointees were very upset about that.
The "Wall Street Journal" reported that Governor Christie called Governor Cuomo to complain about the fact that those lanes were reopened and that the guy who runs the Port Authority was too serious about getting to the bottom of this. That's the "Wall Street Journal."
COOPER: So you're saying a lack of leadership running up to today is what he showed?
BEGALA: Well, yes. And I think that sort of lacks credibility. Because a guy with those kinds of prosecutorial chops should have handled this a lot better. Also as a political guy, this seems and locks in permanently the definition of Christie as a bully. It's exactly what Rudy Giuliani was telling you.
Anything that feeds the master narrative is going to stick. And Christie is a straight talker. He is a tough talker. I like his no nonsense style. That's his positive narrative. His negative narrative is he's a bully, a guy that took away the security protection from a form governor after the former governor criticized him. A guy who line item vetoed the funding for programs at Rutgers University run by a professor who had voted against the Republicans on some state board?
This was all reported in the "New York Times" over the Christmas holidays. There's a long pattern of this guy being a bully and I think that politically is his problem. I don't think he can recover from that.
COOPER: Ari, in the run-up to this, this has been going on, the public maybe nationally knows about this just in the last day or two. This has been covered in New Jersey for more than 100 days. Did the governor do enough in the run-up to this to investigate it?
FLEISCHER: Well, probably not. I think if he had thought this was going to be the staff lying to him he would is said to somebody else, you need to come, in investigate this. I don't believe my staff. I think you have to take it at face value he had reason to believe his staff, that's why he was so angry today about it.
Paul's partially right here. What you've got now going forward, the gate and bridge gate is starting to fade. No gate unless Christie lied today. I don't think that's the case. You'll have the regular bottom line usual scandal. E-mails get revealed, other things about this staff or that staff.
Reporters staking out people on lawn saying did Governor Christie tell the truth today? They're going to try to find the deputy chief of staff and do that to her. It won't fully go away. What you just heard is the first superpac add of the 2016 race if Christie is the candidate for the Republicans.
The Democrats will cling to this. I don't think calling somebody a bully is exactly a disqualifying charge for the president of the United States. There are a lot of issues out there. I don't think in the Republican primary this amounts to a hill of beans. He dealt with it today as he needed to with good authority.
COOPER: Congressman, do you have any doubts that more names will come out of this? I mean, 900 pages of documents are being released tomorrow. That there are more people around the governor who must have known about this?
GRIMM: Well, to be honest, I wouldn't even begin to speculate. I don't think that would be fair. The documents will disclose whatever they will disclose. I do disagree with the panel. Listen, I think Chris Christie in the end comes out of this looking like a breath of fresh air that he's honest and he's open and he can deal with a crisis. And when something goes wrong he owns up to it.
I don't think we see enough of it. I think even in the current administration you have a lot of passing the buck. You have all types of scandals from the IRS to Benghazi and so on, "Fast and Furious," and no one gets fired, no one knows what's going on. I think the American people will realize in the end that the governor accepts mistakes, he apologizes for them, and that really he's a real person which matters a lot I think to the American people.
COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Congressman Grimm, Ari Fleischer, Paul Begala, guys, thanks very much.
Just ahead, as the battle over the fate of a brain dead woman rages on in Texas. What about the health of her 20-week-old fetus. What are the odds of a full term birth? Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in and our legal panel as well.
Also ahead, a rare moment of contrition from Dennis Rodman for what he said about an American prisoner in North Korea and basically for being drunk on CNN's air the other day. We'll be right back.
COOPER: New developments in another story we've been following closely. Attorneys for the family of Marlise Munoz are said to be preparing to take legal action. She's the 33-year-old brain-dead woman. She remains connected to life support machines despite her known wishes and her family's. She suffer add apparent blood clot in her lung. No one knows how long she or the fetus she's carrying went without oxygen.
The hospital says its hands are tide by a Texas state law that says a pregnant woman can't be removed from life support. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now along with our equal justice panel, criminal defense attorney, Nark Geragos and a former federal prosecutor, Sunny Hostin.
So Sanjay, the Munoz family says she might have gone an hour or longer without oxygen after her collapse. She also underwent cardiac resuscitation with electricity. Do we know what kind of damage that could have done to the fetus? Could the fetus itself be brain-dead as well?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is a concern. I mean, when you think about what happens in a situation like this, she had a pulmonary embolism, went to her lungs. That means that there wasn't enough oxygen in the blood that was moving around the body. That's why organs start to fail including the brain as you were just saying in the case of the mother.
The concern is could that same thing have been happening to the placenta and the fetus obviously as well. I've talked to several experts about this over the last couple of days. This is an unusual situation as you know. As so no one can say for sure. But the idea this there was low blood flow to the brain.
The brain is usually the organ that's preserved in the body. If there wasn't enough oxygen-rich blood get together brain there's a good chance the placenta and fetus were affected as well.
COOPER: Right now, the fetus is in its 20th week, originally in its 14th week when she collapsed. The hospital says there's a heartbeat, but that's all they know at this point. When would doctors be able to test its health and viability?
GUPTA: As a general guideline, doctors talk about around 23 or 24 weeks of gestation before a fetus is what is known as viable, able to live outside of the womb, outside of the uterus. That's a general guideline. Before that it's really hard to know much more. Even with regard to brain death in adults, a lot of it's a clinical exam, being able to examine the patient.
With the case of this fetus you know, you could do scans, ultrasounds. If the brain had had a period of time without blood flow, you may be seeing signs on those imaging that the brain's not developing properly. But beyond that it's very hard to say for sure that in fact what has happened to the brain or not happened to the brain.
COOPER: OK now let's turn to Sunny and Mark, from a legal standpoint, does any of this matter? Sunny, in your opinion you believe she should be kept on a ventilator if there's a chance the baby is alive and can be born?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the law provides for that, Anderson. I also think we keep on hearing her wishes are clear. I don't believe that. I can't imagine -- I believe they did have sort of this end of life directive discussion. I've had that with my husband who's a doctor. I can't imagine --
COOPER: Her husband said she never wanted to be on a ventilator.
HOSTIN: Right. But I can't imagine they discussed being on a ventilator while she was pregnant. We know this was a wanted pregnancy. She was already 14 weeks into her pregnancy. She is a mother. Again, I can't imagine that given those sets of circumstances they had that discussion. And I do want to say this, Mark Geragos was earlier making fun of me because I have my legal pad in front of me. I try to be prepared as possible.
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Who comes on here with notes?
HOSTIN: This is not the first time this has happened. Since 1982, 30 cases worldwide of women that are brain-dead have given birth to sometimes, oftentimes healthy children. A woman in Hungary gave birth to a 17-week-old healthy baby. She was kept alive for almost 2 1/2 months.
COOPER: I hear your point. It doesn't matter whether the fetus is alive or not in your opinion?
GERAGOS: No, it doesn't. Obviously this is a law that was designed by proxy to deal with the abortion issue in Texas. That's what it is. So all they're trying to do here in Texas in this hospital is they're misreading the law number one. They're trying to get the fetus to a period of time where or a point at which there's going to be an issue. These lawyers obviously, I think, are the lawyers for the family --
HOSTIN: How are they misreading the law?
COOPER: You're saying the law is written for -- you're saying they're misreading the law the law is for people in a persistent vegetative state or comma not brain-dead.
GERAGOS: Right. In every state-of-the-union this woman is considered dead. She's brain did. That's condition of death. The only reason they are interpreting this law to say they've got to keep her there is that she is alive. She's not alive. Under any definition in any state in the United States, because of the abortion controversy that's the only reason this thing is being played out. The sooner the lawyers get into court the better because they don't want to get into a situation where this is going to become an abortion issue even more so than it is.
HOSTIN: It's sort of interesting that you're tossing out abortion and the term abortion. That's really a red herring here, Anderson. This is a wanted pregnancy. She was 14 weeks pregnant. There was never any discussion of abortion so to sort of inject that in here really intellectually dishonest.
COOPER: You don't believe this law was written in response to an attempt to kind of put limits on abortion in the state of Texas?
HOSTIN: No, I don't. And I think when you look at the law, and I have, they're talking about situations that oftentimes happen where you have a woman who is pregnant, there's a wanted pregnancy, and something unfortunately happens. It's happened before.
GERAGOS: Persistent vegetative state or coma which is different than brain-dead which is dead.
HOSTIN: Why have there been 30 cases of brain-dead women that have given birth to healthy babies?
GERAGOS: You can get an apocryphal story in Hungary.
HOSTIN: Hungary, Virginia, California, Vermont.
GERAGOS: You've got your list.
COOPER: We'll leave it there. Sunny, thanks very. We'll continue to follow this.
Still ahead "Sole Survivor," the incredible story of a woman who was only four years old when she survived a deadly plane crash.
Plus Dennis Rodman's apology for his bizarre according to him somewhat drunken rant.
COOPER: Tonight CNN film presents "Sole Survivor," which tells four incredible stories of tragedy and triumph. At the center of one of those stories is a woman named Cecelia, who is just 4 years old when she was the only survivor of a Northwest Airlines flight that crashed in Detroit in 1987. Now in the film she talks about putting the pieces together.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I realized that I was the only person to survive that plane crash, I was maybe in middle school, high school maybe, being an adolescent and confused. So it was just extra stress for me. And I remember feeling angry and survivor's guilt, why didn't my brother survive? Why didn't anybody? Why me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was working the night of the crash. One of the guys I was with, Dan, actually heard a moaning. After a few minutes we saw a chair laying upside down and we picked up the chair. Underneath it was little Cecelia, the survivor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don really makes an effort to be active in my life. We talk all the time on the internet. He came to my wedding and we danced at my reception.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't think that anybody would survive. Yet the feeling of it, I guess with the 156 people perishing that night, I went home with I guess a little glimmer of hope where the other guys on my crew really didn't go home with anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I need to keep in touch with Don because he's almost like a link to the void that I mentioned earlier where I don't remember what happened.
COOPER: It's an amazing story. Stay tuned right after "360" for CNN film "Sole Survivor" at 9:00 Eastern. A lot more we're following, Susan Hendricks has the 360 Bulletin.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a 360 follow, a Missouri man accused of sexual assaulting a 14-year-old classmate when he was 17 pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child. Matthew Barnett was sentenced to two years probation. Daisy Coleman says Barnett raped her in January of 2012 and she denied accusations her family did not cooperate with the investigation.
In New York, a grand jury has indicted India's deputy counsel general on visa fraud and making false statements. But she won't face arraignment due to diplomatic immunity. Her arrest and strip search last month drew outrage in New Delhi where protesters gathered at the U.S. Embassy. Dennis Rodman has apologized for his outburst during an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo. He appeared to suggest Kenneth Bae an American held in North Korea may have done something to deserve punishment. Rodman said he'd been drinking. Bae's family accepts that apology.
COOPER: Unbelievable. Susan, thanks. We'll be right back.