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    • Brad Friedman

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    • January 9, 2014 in Columnists

    Chris Christie’s Bridge Too Far

    ChrisChristie_FughetaboutitPrepping for today’s BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, and may touch on this story a bit more then, or later as it continues to explode.

    Either way, it’s one that, despite being largely ignored by the D.C. media originally, seemed to have legs when it quietly emerged a couple of months back.

    Today’s blockbuster by Shawn Boburg in The Record, including tons of documents (emails and texts between the conspirators), almost ensures those legs. The question is now, as it has been from the jump, how NJ Gov. Chris Christie, a 2016 Presidential Republican fave, handles it. Oh, and if criminal charges — even federal criminal charges, since this ultimately affected interstate commerce — will emerge.

    To date — seemingly forgetting the old “it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup” mantra — Christie’s handled it very poorly. He’s spent weeks denying any foreknowledge of the several-days closure of several lanes of the George Washington Bridge (the world’s busiest) last September as part of an apparent (now pretty much confirmed) political payback scheme against Democratic Fort Lee, NJ Mayor Mike Sokolich. His response, to date, has largely been to belittle questions and reporters and officials who’ve asked about it. He may have one more chance to save himself if he actsquickly now and fires a whole bunch of people, and comes clean on everything he knows. But if he knows more than he’s letting on so far (as is likely the case), he may be watching 2016 — where he coulda been a contender — go down the drain.

    Here’s the lede of Boburg’s story. And no, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — “Got it”, are not lines from The Sopranos. They are actually lines from this actual, now-documented, scandal…

    Private messages between Governor’s Christie’s deputy chief of staff and two of his top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create “traffic problems in Fort Lee” by shutting lanes to the George Washington Bridge and apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock.

    The messages are replete with references and insults to Fort Lee’s mayor  — who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election  — and they chronicle how he tried to reach Port Authority officials in a vain effort to eliminate the paralyzing gridlock that overwhelmed his town of 35,000, which sits in the shadow of the world’s busiest bridge.

    The documents obtained by The Record raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority. Instead, they show that one of the governor’s top aides was deeply involved in the decision to choke off the borough’s access to the bridge, and they provide the strongest indication yet that it was part of a politically-motivated vendetta-a notion that Christie has publicly denied.

    “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie’s senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the closures. Wildstein, the official who ordered the closures and who resigned last month amid the escalating scandal, wrote back: “Got it.”

    Other top Christie associates mentioned in or copied on the email chain -all after the top New York appointee at the authority ordered the lanes reopened -include David Samson, the chairman of the agency; Bill Stepien, Christie’s re-election campaign manager and the newly appointed state GOP chairman; and Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman.

    Christie has previously said that no one in his staff or campaign was involved in the lane closings and he has dismissed questions about political retribution by joking that he moved the traffic cones himself.

    Full story, documents, etc. at The Record

     

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    UPDATE 1:44pm PT: Christie has released the following written statement this afternoon, , versus the combative on-camera statement he usually enjoys making (via reporter Brett LoGiurato):

    “What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”

    Well, for a start, the behavior would seem to be very representative of his Administration, given the number of top level Administration staffers found to have participated in it, according to the emails and texts released by The Record today. That said, Christie has hit all the necessary points here “seen today for the first time” … “outraged and deeply saddened” … “I was misled” … “without my knowledge” etc.

    Now he better start firing a lot of people, and hope that they don’t sing and/or his fingerprints aren’t on any more documents to come. These folks are all likely to be under subpoena and/or oath now in both legislative testimony and potentially depositions. Dems are, no doubt, already preparing 2016 ads with shots of the GWB and traffic jams, I suspect…



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