Friday, January 31, 2014

Christie: That's all, folks

The lawyer of former Port Authority official David Wildstein says that there is evidence that NJ Governor Chris Christie knew about that now-notorious bridge closing as it happened. We do not know the nature of this evidence, nor do we know who has it.
But it is clearly meant as a threat to the governor. Indeed, the allegations make up just one paragraph in a two-page letter that otherwise focuses on Mr. Wildstein’s demand that his legal fees be paid and that he be indemnified.
One can learn more by reading the actual letter, which is here. It's hard to imagine how a public official (and former close friend to Christie) could level such a threat against the governor unless there were something real in back of it all.

This much is certain: Unless the Wildstein message can be explained away in a quick and convincing fashion, Christie's presidential ambitions are over.

Wildstein, of course, is no kind of hero. He admits that he was willing to hide evidence of wrongdoing in exchange for coin.

We still have questions to ponder:

1. What was the true motive for the lane closing? Was Christie miffed because he did not get an endorsement? Or does Kornacki's theory hold water?

2. Did Christie bring about his own ruination, or was he attacked by an external force?

I would note that Jeb Bush is making noises about entering the 2016 race. Jeb appeals to the same sector of the GOP that Christie calls home -- that is to say, the non-Tea Party sector. It has been said that Chris Christie's removal would open a path for Jeb.

Some Republicans are decrying a "librul" conspiracy against Christie. Possible. But where's the evidence?

Incidentally, we now have further data concerning the Dawn Zimmer allegations. See this HuffPo piece. Also see this piece on, in which we learn that the director of a local housing authority is accusing Zimmer of corruption. Zimmer counters that these charges were trumped up by pro-Christie forces after she leveled her own claims against Christie.

Frankly, I've been a tad suspicious of Zimmer all along. True, she makes a good impression in interviews. But I can't help feeling that there is something more to the story she tells.

Added note. Christie's chances of becoming president may soon be as non-existent as those of John Edwards. Isn't it nice, though, that people are finally paying attention to non-sexual scandals? Progress!

Update: (website of the Star Ledger) has published an editorial calling for Christie to resign if Wildstein's accusation is true.
Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.
If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.
The order to close those lanes came from Wildstein, and was triggered by an email from Kelly. That much is not in dispute. And that alone is damning evidence that Christie's administration is dangerously out of control. But if the governor himself was involved, this moves to a new level.

Is Wildstein telling the truth? He faces a criminal investigation himself, so he has a powerful incentive to give prosecutors damning information they can use against a bigger fish. That would give him leverage to negotiate a plea deal. So it is too early to know.

But Wildstein says he has documents that prove the governor was lying at his famous two-hour press conference, when Christie blamed the event on the "stupid" actions of his own staff. And certainly, Wildstein was in a position to know the roots of this conspiracy. A Christie acquaintance since high school, he was appointed to a senior position at the Port Authority, despite having no expertise in transit issues. He was the governor's eyes and ears at the authority.
Digby also thinks that this imbroglio will force a Christie resignation. At least one (very unscientific) poll suggests that impeachment is likely.

There's one important point I should have noted in the first version of this post. Christie, in his response to Wildstein's claim, now claims that he did not have "prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened." The wording suggests that he may have known as they happened. (Technically, Christie's new statement could be taken as a simple admission that he lacks any ESP ability.)

My God. This is both sad and extraordinary. Not long ago, Christie ran ahead of Hillary Clinton in some polls. Right now, I doubt that he can rectify the situation. Even if Wildstein were to get the money he requests for attorneys' fees -- well, obviously, the pay-off itself would be damning.

I wonder: How many hours (or minutes) will pass before we hear a Republican pundit shout "BENGHAZI!"?


DanInAlabama said...

"...2. Did Christie bring about his own ruination, or was he attacked by an external force?..."

Either way it is the result of a Republican's dirty trick.

Alessandro Machi said...

I think it is important to link why this is such a big deal. Christie and Obama walked along the Jersey shore, photo-opping as they showed that republicans and democrats can get along. Which by the way is how Christie became almost as popular as Hillary Clinton.

Once Christie goes the we can get along route, he can't then close bridges as political punishment.

If Christie had not photo-opped with Obama, BridgeGate could have been passed off as an error in judgement.

Joseph Cannon said...

But don't forget, Alessandro, that the same photo-op made Christie very UNpopular with quite a few Republicans. So it was a calculated and actually rather bold move on his part.

Maybe one could say the same thing about the Bridge business.

stickler said...

A bit off-topic: can you make Jon Stewart's clip on Davos not auto-start blabbing way, way downscreen?

stickler said...

Is everyone forgetting in the moment, who would succeed Christie were he to resign or be impeached?

Gov. Guadagno? Brrrrrr.

Joseph Cannon said...

stickler, I removed that video. I did not know it autostarted on your browser.

Anonymous said...

I think Christie is done as a national candidate. He's not the first nor will he be the last NJ pol to believe he can get away with business as usual. NJ politics has never been a game of bean bag; we've had a legion of 'compromised' officials, Republican and Democratic.

I thought the best description of this fiasco was: the arrogance of power.

NJ governors have a lot of power to unleash on friends and enemies. Christie admitted to 'playing the board' in November's election. He wanted that example--I can appeal to everyone--to preface his entry into national prominence, the GOPs best hope. He's made enemies galore along the way. Now they're coming out of the woodwork. Little bit of Karma in the mix.

Look at the way he's treated his so-called loyalists. Wildstein was thrown under the bus during that first press conference. Then the Port Authority announces they won't pick up Wildstein's legal fees. He's ready to lash out if given immunity. I think we're going to see the same thing with Bridgett Kelly. Her first lawyer [a Christie ally] dropped her. She's the mother of four kids; I don't suspect she's going to be willing to go down for The Boss who called her a liar and basically abandoned her.

For months, I've been reading complaints of Jersey homeowners over the dispersal of Sandy funds, how the money has been mishandled, used more for power brokering rather than community relief.

Where we are right now? This is likely the tip of the iceberg. And yes, Christie's demise opens the door for a Jeb Bush. I've even heard some whispering about enticing Romney to make another drive-by. Or John Bolton!

The GOP is in total disarray.


Alessandro Machi said...

Sure the photo-op with Obama made Christie unpopular with the shrieking, ultra insane and narrow portion of the republican party, but to all of america, including normal republicans, he became more popular.

Anonymous said...

I think the more serious problem for Christie is the metastasis from BridgeGate per se to the many other scandals awaiting a more thorough review of his career. The US Attorney will gain control of any and all investigations of incidents that may have involved federal law violations, and so reprise the Ken Starr role.

Few can withstand the rooting through the dirty linen that entails. The lurid drip-drip from likely over-reaching media feeding frenzy reports from the prospect of high ratings may first see him step down as head of the RGA, on his way out the door.


Anonymous said...

I see a Bush behind this. Don't know if they got Karl Rove back into the fold but the timimg is just to convenient. Mother Barbara and her "it's time for some new names (I'm paraphrasing), was a red herring meant to throw people off the track while the Bushies planned their next move for Jeb. Remember, he was the one, not Dubya that the family assumed would run in 2000.

gregoryp said...

Seems to me that we just caught a big ass break with this bridgegate brouhaha. Christie strikes me as an old time boss type politician who is both exceptionally corrupt and power mad to boot. Just imagine the most corrupt politician in the White House since Nixon.

I shudder to think about it. A Christie Presidency had one of those all time disaster presidencies written all over it. It is bad enough that in my lifetime we've had pretty much 40 plus years of incompetence, war mongering and hubris. When Bill Clinton was the best leader and the greatest president in that time then you know that the leadership from that position has been non-existent and despicable. Amazingly we have survived 8 years of the absolute worst president of modern times only to be saddled with a spineless twit. Would we have survived a guy like Christie who probably belongs behind bars? I am not sure. The elasticity of this country is surely close to the breaking point. We've only got so many bounce backs.