mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Brazen Arrogance Bordering On Amusing”: Christie-Brand Leadership: The Buck Stops Over There

About a week ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked about the governor’s “Bridgegate” scandal. The Republican presidential hopeful made it seem as if the entire fiasco had nothing to do with him.

“I’m the governor; it happens on my watch,” Christie said. “But you can’t be responsible for the bad acts of some people who wind up in your employ.”

A day later, the Garden State governor told the editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader, “I’ve learned to be less trusting and ask more questions, first off. The fact is my general nature is to be a trusting person.”

All of which led to yesterday’s Christie interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who asked about the scandal that’s helped drag down the governor. From the transcript, by way of Nexis:

KELLY: So far there’s nothing tying you to giving the order in the bridge gate scandal.

CHRISTIE: Nor will there be.

KELLY: But the case is not yet closed and so some say, what if you get indicted? Are you a risky bet?

CHRISTIE: No, the U.S. Attorney said in his press conference weeks ago, that there will be no further charges in the bridge matter. He said that affirmatively three or four times. This has been 15 months of investigation and there’s been no connection to me because there is no connection to me. I had nothing to do with it, knew nothing about it and nor will there be evidence come to the contrary because it just didn’t happen.

The more the governor says the scandal has “nothing to do with” him, the harder it is to take his defense seriously.

Indeed, looking back at Christie’s comments to Jake Tapper, note that he refers to his former aides – now under criminal indictment – as people who “wound up” working for him, as if the governor showed up at his office one day and discovered some random people who just happened to somehow end up in his administration.

The truth is far more straightforward. Some of Christie’s top aides conspired to punish some of Christie’s constituents because a local mayor failed to endorse Christie’s re-election. These Christie administration officials abused their powers – allegedly to a criminal degree – in Christie’s name.

“There is no connection to me”? C’mon. Even if one is inclined to accept the governor’s explanation at face value – Christie was simply too ignorant of what was happening around him to be held responsible – clearly the scandal has at least some connection to him, given that this was his team acting in his name.

What’s more, there’s also the possibility of a more direct link. David Wildstein’s lawyer said two weeks ago that the governor “knew of the lane closures as they occurred” and that “evidence exists” that proves it.

In last night’s interview, Megyn Kelly also reminded Christie that two-thirds of his own constituents do not believe he’d be a good president. The governor replied, in reference to New Jersey residents, “They want me to stay. A lot of those people that 65 percent want me to stay. I’ve heard that from lots of people at town hall meetings, ‘Don’t leave,’ and ‘Don’t run for president because we want you to stay.’”

Christie also probably believes they were saying “Boo-urns.”

To be sure, the brazen arrogance borders on amusing, but the notion that New Jersey voters are so in love with Christie that they can’t bear the thought of him moving to the White House is plainly silly. As of two weeks ago, the governor’s approval rating in his home state was down to just 35%.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2015

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Chris Christie’s Problems Are Just Beginning”: Why The Bridgegate Indictments Don’t Clear His Name

While other Republican presidential contenders get to make their case for why they should lead the country, or take pot shots at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,  New Jersey Governor Christie is doing his best to not let his past define him. But when that  past, in the form of Bridgegate,  continues to dominate the news, that gets  harder and harder to do.

Just wait for the Bridgegate trials to begin.

If Bloomberg News is right, Federal prosecutors haven’t just been going after Bill Baroni, Bridget Anne Kelly, and David Wildstein, all of whom were indicted yesterday on federal corruption charges, and the latter of whom has already pleaded guilty; prosecutors are also apparently looking at former Port Authority Chairman and Christie confidant David Sampson in a separate criminal probe not related to Bridegate, but to allegations Samson tried to shake down United Airlines.

In the meantime, in damage control mode, Christie used Wildstein’s guilty plea and the indictments of Baroni and Kelly, and the fact that he was not himself named in the indictment, as proof that he’s in the clear on Bridgegate. In a statement, Christie said that the “charges make clear what I’ve said from day one is true: I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.”

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who has been on the Bridgegate caper since January of 2014, did offer Christie a kind of qualified lifeline at his press conference Friday, saying: “Based currently on the evidence available  to my office and the agents  with whom we have been working, we will not be bringing any further charges related to the matters discussed in today’s indictment.”

Yet just minutes after Wildstein’s guilty plea was formally announced, his lawyer Allan Zegas was serving up red meat for hungry reporters. Zegas relayed to reporters Wildstein’s contrition for his role in the  alleged plot, but before he walked away from the microphones, he re-iterated what he has said before, that “evidence exists that the Governor knew of the lane closures while they were occurring.”

Zegas told reporters that Wildstein, one of Christie’s former point men in the Port Authority, had been cooperating for some time with federal prosecutors, had answered thousands of question from them, and was still being questioned. Zegas volunteered also that “there is a lot more that will come out,” all of which he said that Wildstein will be willing to testify about at trial. Wildstein is scheduled to be sentenced in August, but that could be moved until after the trial, when the government and the judge in the case can fully assess just how well Wildstein cooperated with prosecutors.

When U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman was asked directly at yesterday’s press conference about Zegas’s tantalizing comments about Christie, Fishman declined to answer. When Fishman was asked directly if Christie “was in the clear,” he said “I am not sure what that means so I really can’t answer that question.”

“Is he going to be further investigated,” the questioner pressed.

“I am not going to comment on whether anybody is going to be further investigated in connection with this or any other matter ever,” said Fishman.

“Can we say [Christie is] cooperating?” another reporter asked.

“I am not going to say whether witnesses are, or are not, cooperating.”Fishman responded.

Another reporter asked if it could be said that Governor Christie had been misled by the conspirators. Fishman passed on that question as well.

But Fishman did have his version of a “stay tuned” tease when he confirmed  that other names might surface in the case as “un-indicted co-conspirators,” who may have been willful participants but might not be charged for their role in what prosecutors allege was a criminal conspiracy.

“The indictment does say Bridget Kelly, Bill Baroni, David Wildstein and others” Fishman conceded. “We don’t identify un-indicted co-conspirators in our indictment by name unless they have been previously mentioned in a publicly filed court document, and that is not the case here. There may come a time during the course of the proceedings when we  will make a disclosure to the court or defense council who the co-conspirators are, but it is Department of Justice policy not to do it now,” Fishman told reporters.

“To charge someone and to convict someone, we have an obligation to only bring a case in which we have sufficient evidence  to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is in fact guilty of a crime. That is not the standard for somebody to be an un-indicted co-conspirator. The standard for an un-indicted co-conspirator can be less than that. It can also be that we don’t plan on charging somebody that was involved,” Fishman said.

The indictment charges that Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein purposefully timed the George Washington Bridge lane closures in September 2013 to create maximum havoc on the first day of school, punishment doled out after Fort Lee’s Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich refused to endorse Christie for re-election. What will come out in excruciating detail at trial is just how vindictive the plan actually was in its particulars. This will no doubt provide an opportunity for the news media to run archival tape of Governor Christie publicly offering the defense that the Fort Lee traffic jam was caused by a legitimate Port Authority traffic study, a cover story Federal prosecutors now charge was entirely fabricated, and a part of the criminal conspiracy.

Based on the tenor of  the post-indictment press availabilities for lawyers representing Bill Baroni, and a similar availability held by former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and her attorney, what the public is going to be treated to at trial will be a public circular firing squad. It will be Christie operative turning on Christie operative, all with their liberty hanging in the balance. All parties have vowed to mount vigorous defenses that will paint  David Widlstein as a liar.

And what do all three of these folks have in common? Governor Christie thought they were all fit to hold high positions of public trust.

 

By: Robert Hennelly, Salon, May 2, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Good News, Bad News For Christie”: The Governor And His Allies May Still Not Fully Appreciate The Broader Circumstances

Given all of our previous discussions about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal, it’s only fair to note, as Rachel did last night, new reporting that prosecutors have not yet tied the governor directly to the infamous misdeeds.

The U.S. Justice Department investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has thus far uncovered no evidence indicating that he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.

The September 2013 closures – where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were shut down, causing a traffic nightmare for commuters – has been the subject of several federal and state investigations.

Federal officials caution that the investigation that began nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that authorities haven’t uncovered anything that indicates that Christie knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes.

We don’t yet know the source of this leak or its veracity, but it may very well be entirely true that prosecutors haven’t directly tied Christie personally to the bridge closings. Indeed, as of late yesterday, the governor seemed to be feeling pretty good about his standing, as if this WNBC report exonerated him.

But even if we assume the report is accurate, and we also assume that federal prosecutors never close in on Christie personally in the investigation into this scandal, the governor and his allies may still not fully appreciate the broader circumstances.

The Star Ledger’s editorial board, to its credit, hasn’t forgotten.

Before he finishes this victory lap, a few reminders: No one on the investigative committee has accused him of personally ordering these lane closures. It is hard to believe he would be that stupid.

But what about the cover-up? What about the bogus claim that this was all part of a traffic study? That came from Bill Baroni, Christie’s appointee as deputy executive director at the Port Authority, after he was coached for several days by senior members of Christie’s staff. Was Christie so out of touch that he was oblivious to all that? Hard to believe he was that stupid, either.

Part of the problem for Christie from the very beginning is that the governor’s best case scenario – the version of events that are the most favorable to him personally – is that Christie was such an inept and incompetent leader that has no idea that some of the top members of his team conspired to abuse their power in his name.

Under the usual conditions, this might sound like scathing criticism, but in Christie’s case, it’s his best defense. The governor and his supporters eagerly hope the WNBC report is accurate, so they can say Christie’s team deliberately crippled a New Jersey community on purpose, but the governor was too clueless to know what was going on around him.

And to this day, Christie still can’t explain the basics of how and why his handpicked team members abused the power he gave them.

For that matter, let’s also not forget that this isn’t the only Christie scandal that remains ongoing.

So I suppose what we’re left with is a good news/bad news situation for the governor. The good news, he may not personally be charged in the “Bridgeate” scandal. The bad news, the scandal isn’t over, the controversy itself still raises important questions about his competence, and there are other lingering scandals that may do lasting damage to his administration.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 19, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Chris Christie Spares No Legal Expense”: Short-Changing The State’s Pension Fund Is Another Story

Anyone who slogged through the 344-page report on Bridgegate from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers in March understood that this old fashioned whitewash would be extremely expensive.The governor hired one of the nation’s  big time law firms, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which dutifully declared that Gov. Christie was not to blame for the massive traffic jams last year. Those problems were the work of others, the report insisted. The governor’s hands were clean.

Now taxpayers are starting to see what that one-sided report is really costing them. The latest invoices show that the state has been billed over $3 million in legal fees for work on behalf of the governor’s office. The governor’s legal team billed the state $1.1 million for work in January and another $2.6 million for February. Since the report came out in late March, there will undoubtedly be a few more eye-popping invoices to come. Moreover,  other administration employees will require legal help as the investigations continue.

The governor and his staff deserve legal help, of course, and it’s customary for the public to pay for it. But at a time when Mr. Christie is squeezing every extra penny out of his state budget and short-changing the state’s pension fund, the governor has spared no expense on his lawyers.

Taxpayers should question whether the gold-plated report is, at best, another form of public relations for the governor. Despite all the interviews, the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher team failed to talk with many of the major players, including  Bridget Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who was fired by Mr. Christie, and David Wildstein, a former Christie ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The report blamed Ms. Kelly and Mr. Wildstein for the scandal, adding disparaging comments about both.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, N.J., who charged that the administration threatened to cut her Hurricane Sandy funds if she failed to support a development promoted by the governor’s allies, also refused to talk to the governor’s lawyers.. Without her side of the story, the report mocked her for yawning at a public event (thereby showing that she had not been upset about threats) and concluded that her charges “do not match objective reality.” The public is supposed to fork over millions of dollars for that?

The acting state attorney general, John Hoffman, should take a hard look at some of these bills and decide whether  the taxpayers of New Jersey are being over-charged.

 

By: Eleanor Randolph, Taking Note, Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, June 11, 2014

June 14, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christie-Brand Leadership”: Always Blame Everyone Else

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was among the many special guests to appear at the dedication ceremony this morning for the Sept. 11 museum, and according to the Associated Press, the original program called for Christie’s remarks at the event to be followed by Idina Menzel’s performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

“A last-minute change prevented what could have been an uncomfortable moment,” the AP reported.

Perhaps, though at this point, it would have been the least of the governor’s troubles.

For example, Christie was a featured guest yesterday at an event on fiscal responsibility, despite the fact that since he became governor, New Jersey’s debt has been downgraded a record six times and the state is currently facing a serious shortfall. As the New York Times reported, “The event’s timing was awkward for both Mr. Christie and his hosts at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which invited him on the program for his experience ‘balancing difficult fiscal choices.’”

Dana Milbank discovered that the governor is taking responsibility in his preferred way – by finding someone else to take the blame.

CBS News’s Bob Schieffer … laid out the bad news: $807 million budget shortfall; downgrades by credit-rating agencies; worry that the state can’t pay its pension obligations; and slow job growth. “Not so long ago, people were talking about the New Jersey miracle,” the genial newsman said. “Now suddenly the news is not so good about New Jersey.”

Christie did what any strong leader would do when presented with such facts: He blamed the economists. “They overestimated our revenue,” he said.

This is marginally better than Christie’s original line – the governor initially tried to blame President Obama – but the fact remains that David Rosen, the chief budget officer for the last 30 years for New Jersey’s Office of Legislative Services, specifically warned state officials that the governor’s projections simply weren’t reliable. Instead of listening to Rosen, Christie mocked and bullied him.

Asked about the state struggling to pay for its pension, the governor went on to blame New Jersey’s four previous governors.

Christie added that his bridge scandal – which, coincidentally, he also blamed on everyone else – would be little more than a “footnote” in his political legacy. “My future is going to be based upon the record” of his fiscal management, the governor concluded.

After six debt downgrades and a massive budget shortfall, Christie probably ought to hope he’s mistaken.

As for the still-lingering bridge scandal, Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, is more than a little upset about the widely-panned Mastro report – generally seen as taxpayer-financed propaganda intended to clear the governor. Yesterday, Stepien’s lawyer insisted that Christie’s lawyers retract the “false and misleading statements” they published about Stepien or they’ll sue.

And speaking of Stepien, the editorial board of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, added today:

According to Tuesday’s testimony from Michael Drewniak, the governor’s pugilistic press secretary, Christie wondered aloud during a Dec. 5 meeting whether Stepien was deceiving him by hiding what he knew of the lane closures.

“I always wondered if Stepien knew more about this,” the governor said, according to Drewniak.

That revelation is potentially damaging to the governor. For one, he claimed unequivocally during a Dec. 13 press conference that no one in his inner circle knew about the lane closures. Drewniak’s testimony indicates that the governor had his suspicions, but decided to keep them secret. It is also revealing, and a bit revolting, to note that Drewniak watched the governor make this misleading statement without making a peep.

So how can the governor explain this one away? Another convenient memory lapse. Asked about it on his 101.5 FM radio show Tuesday night, the governor said he has “very little recollection of that conversation.”

The “footnote” rhetoric is clearly an example of wishful thinking, not a reliable prediction.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 15, 2014

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: