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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: New Jersey Port Authority Scandal


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PAUL: Joining us now, Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, Democratic congressman, I should say, thank you so much, first of all, for taking the time to be with us. I know you call this disturbing, these new claims. Does this claim though, how much merit does it hold? How much credence do we give it at all until any evidence is actually provided?

REP. FRANK PALLONE JR., (D) NEW JERSEY: Well, I think it's pretty significant because here we have, you know, one of the governor's chief aides, through his attorney, basically signaling that what the governor said at the press conference is not true. And so it goes to the governor's whole credibility.

Again, it's an allegation, but if it is true, and this is coming from, you know, he says not something who was close to him historically but still close to him as governor, he's essentially saying in this letter that the governor wasn't telling the truth when he said he didn't know that the lanes were closed when they were.

So I think that the "Star Ledger" and others saying that this could be the beginning of the end of this administration are accurate if the allegations are true. And of course we don't necessarily know that, but it's pretty serious in that it's coming from someone who was directly involved in the whole mess.

PAUL: It's also coming from somebody, though, who may have another card to play here. When we look at the purpose of this letter, is he just trying to get the Port Authority, as some have said, to pay his legal bills and what about immunity?

PALLONE: Well, I think that's very possible, Christi. I think that this may be a way for his attorney to say, look, you give me immunity and I will tell the whole truth in the matter. And this isn't the first time that Wildstein has said that. He also said it before the state legislative investigative committee, which is also having hearings. So he's clearly signaling that he's willing to talk and, you know, give his version of the truth, and it may very well be expecting some sort of immunity.

PAUL: Well, you know, Christie has been emphatic that he knew nothing about this, that he knew nothing about the motivation, the alleged, you know, political motivation behind closing those lanes. But there are two very different things at play here. I mean, it's one thing to know about the closures. It's another thing to know about the motivation behind it. Yes?

PALLONE: No, I agree with you. I think that we don't really know that Wildstein is saying that he has evidence or that he's going to indicate that the governor knew the motive or actually gave the order to close the lanes. But I think it's significant enough that he's saying that the governor wasn't telling the truth. I mean, after all, you know, it's not just a question here of the legality but also that the governor is being honest with the public. I think if the governor isn't being honest, then you start seeing efforts to impeach him or say that he should resign. So it is significant in that he's charging that the governor wasn't telling the truth.

PAUL: Congressman, I mean, you know the governor. I'm just wondering, do you think Chris Christie is the kind of man who would get up for two hours in front of the world basically and spout over and over again that he's innocent and that he didn't know about any of this if there could be evidence out there that he did?

PALLONE: I'm not -- I really can't answer that, Christi. I mean, I think my concern all along has been this whole abuse of power. In other words, there's a whole series of indications here that the governor's administration was using threats, bullying people, you know, trading Sandy money for, you know, approval of developments or using it improperly. So I think that it's about the abuse of power and, you know, what this Christie administration was doing wrongly.

You know, whether it goes to the actual, you know -- whether the governor lied or not, I can't really tell. But certainly Wildstein is alleging that the governor wasn't telling the truth, and that's a very serious matter in addition to all of these other concerns we have about how Sandy money was used, whether it was used improperly and the whole mismanagement of that.

PAUL: Yes, because if that did happen, I mean, you I think pointed out in another interview that would mean that he would be a liar. Do you believe that we're going see federal prosecutors question Christie over this?

PALLONE: I think that's where we're going. I mean, you know, I think it's inevitable that the U.S. attorney gets involved with this. Obviously that's what Wildstein is asking happen. I think, you know, he's looking for some sort of immunity. This isn't the first time his lawyer has suggested that. So this is going to be thoroughly looked at by the U.S. attorney, by the state legislative committees that are looking into this.

And you know, more and more keeps coming out every day. But I know you maybe don't want to talk about this so much, but my biggest concern is this trading of money that came from the federal government for Sandy relief, you know, for other political favors. And we're getting more evidence of that every day, too. So there's a lot that has to be looked at here.

PAUL: That is certainly something that we've talked about and we've covered and will continue to do so. And Congressman Frank Pallone, we appreciate you taking the time to be with us this morning. Thank you.

PALLONE: Thank you.


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