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

“Will The Press Let Chris Christie Clear Himself?”: The Beltway Press Has A long History Of Showering Christie With Adoring Coverage

The starting point for any allegation of executive office cover-up, like the one surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is always the same: What did he know and when did he know it?

Eleven weeks after Christie held a marathon press conference to address questions about the bridge scandal that has enveloped his administration, we still don’t know the answer to the central question in the case: When did Christie find out that the city of Fort Lee had been brought to a four-day stand-still when at least one senior member of his staff teamed up with his appointee at the Port Authority to purposefully clog traffic lanes?

The release today of a self-investigation undertaken by Christie’s handpicked attorneys, and at a cost of at least $1 million to New Jersey taxpayers, does little to exonerate Christie on that question.

In fact, the report confirms that David Wildstein, the Christie appointee at the Port Authority who remains at the center of the scandal, insists he told the governor, in real time, about the lane closures on Sept. 11, 2013, and had detailed that meeting to one of Christie’s aides in December. Christie claims he doesn’t recall that conversation and from that he said/he said stand off, the internal probe generously declares Christie version is be believed and that he didn’t find out until weeks later about the Fort Lee fiasco.

Miraculously, in a scandal that brought weeks of relentlessly bad news for Christie in January and February, as revelation after revelation painted a picture of a deeply corrupt administration, his new paid-for investigation couldn’t find much bad news for the governor. The report, according to Christie’s attorney Randy Mastro was “a search for the truth.” It just so happens the reports is also “a vindication of Gov. Christie,” as Mastro stressed to reporters today.

Fact: Mastro served as a New York City deputy mayor under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been perhaps Christie’s most public defender since the scandal broke in January.

Christie aides are hoping the new report, which reads more like a legal brief on the governor’s behalf and which failed to interview key players, represents a political turning point for Christie who has aspirations to run for president in 2016. But whether that strategy works depends a lot on how the national press treats the new report and the public relations push behind it. (Fact: The Beltway press has a long history of showering Christie with adoring coverage.)

For the first time since the scandal broke in January, Christie sits for a one-on-one interview with a national media figure, Diane Sawyer, which will air on ABC’s World News With Diane Sawyer tonight. The interview will be a good indication of how the Beltway press treats the new report and if it’s willing to allow Christie to clear himself of any wrongdoing before the U.S. Attorney’s office and New Jersey lawmakers in Trenton complete their own investigations.

A key to the ABC interview will be if Sawyer presses Christie on when he knew that roadways were being jammed, which remains the central point. Over time, Christie has given an array of answers to that very simple question.


But a review of the governor’s public statements on the controversy shows he has never said precisely when he first heard about the closures, giving slightly different explanations on three separate occasions and at one point describing his knowledge as “an evolving thing.”

What Christie does now when asked about his knowledge of the lane closings is to stress he wasn’t involved in the implementation of the plot.

This has probably been the most important strategic move Christie’s office has made since January: convince the press that the key question of the scandal is whether the governor planned the lane closures, not whether he knew about the wrongdoing in real time. Time and again this winter when asked, Christie has been very careful, and very emphatic, in insisting he was not involved in the plotting of the dirty tricks scheme; he had no advance knowledge.

From a February appearance on a radio call-in show:

“The most important issue is, did I know anything about the plan to close these lanes, did I authorize it, did I know about it, did I approve it, did I have any knowledge of it beforehand. And the answer is still the same: It’s unequivocally no.”

But again, that’s not really the question at hand. Think back to Richard Nixon. The pressing, constitutional question wasn’t whether Nixon himself had drawn up the harebrained scheme to break into Democratic Party offices inside the Watergate apartment complex in 1972. It was whether Nixon knew his underlings were running a criminal enterprise from inside the executive offices.

The same holds true for Christie today. And the fact that his paid legal counsel could not produce a report that erased doubts about the governor’s knowledge of the dirty tricks campaign poses a political problem.

Meanwhile, will the new initiative be enough the rekindle the love affair that had blossomed between the Beltway press and the N.J. governor? During that media romance, Christie was relentlessly and adoringly depicted as a Straight Shooter; an authentic and bipartisan Every Man, a master communicator who was willing to cut through the stagecraft and delivers hard truths.

Following Christie’s reelection last November, the admiration reached a new, sugary high. “Chris Christie is someone who is magical in the way politicians can be magical,” Time’s Mark Halperin announced on Meet The Press that week. Added Time colleague Michael Scherer in a cover story later that month, “He’s a workhorse with a temper and a tongue, the guy who loves his mother and gets it done.”

We’ll soon see if the press uses the new, one-sided report to return to its days of glowing Christie coverage.


By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, March 27, 2014

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Than Traffic Problems”: Chris Christie Having Trouble Moving On From That Bridge Thing

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s plan for getting past “Bridgegate” was to simply get past it. As soon as the emails showing that his aides and allies purposefully created traffic congestion as part of some sort of retribution plot were reported in the press, Christie fired aide Bridget Kelly and Port Authority executive David Wildstein. After taking a day to compose himself (or get his story straight), he held an epic press conference at which he spoke until he could plausibly argue that he had answered every single question reporters had for him. Since then he’s mainly appeared before (suspiciously) friendly town hall audiences. He seems to think he’s done enough to get past the worst of it. Yesterday, Christie told a reporter, “You folks are the only people at the moment who are asking me about this.”

Unfortunately, Kelly and Wildstein are also still talking. They are communicating with us from the distant past (a few months ago) thanks to Wildstein’s very helpful cooperation with New Jersey state legislators investigating the scandal. Wildstein — who has a reputation for being “capable of anything” — looks to be working to undermine his former ally with a steady stream of documents. The most recent batch include a return of the headline-friendly “traffic problems” line.

Kelly and Wildstein were texting last August about prominent New Jersey Rabbi Mendy Carlebach. Carlebach — not exactly a liberal, as he was a chaplain at the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions — had somehow pissed Wildstein off, though it’s unclear how. (Carlebach claims to have no idea what he could’ve done.) And what do Christie’s allies do to people who piss them off? Exactly. Here are the messages, from the Bergen Record (via TPM):

In the texts about the chaplain, Wildstein sent Kelly a picture of Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, later writing: “And he has officially pissed me off.”

“Clearly,” Kelly responded on Aug. 19.

“We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?” Kelly wrote.

“Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed,” wrote Wildstein, an executive at the bi-state agency that controls the region’s airports.

“Perfect,” Kelly wrote.

These texts took place just a few days after the “time for the traffic problems in Fort Lee” email from Kelly to Wildstein, and a few weeks before the Fort Lee “traffic study” lane closures were carried out. This “traffic problems” suggestion looks to be a joke, and it doesn’t appear that any sort of retribution against Carlebach actually happened, but the fact that the intentional creation of traffic problems was already being treated as a joke between Wildstein and Kelly might indicate that the practice happened more often than just the one time in Fort Lee. (Or else it suggests that they were just so excited about their plan for Fort Lee that they couldn’t shut up about it.)

One thing Chris Christie probably does not want is for text messages like this to continue surfacing in the press weeks after the scandal blew up, while he is in the midst of attempting to convince voters and the press that he and his office have moved past the whole thing. But there is still the threat of more to come. Wildstein’s attorney sent the committee new copies of documents he already disclosed, but with fewer portions redacted, revealing the identities of some of the people he was communicating with. Much is still redacted, but Wildstein could always negotiate to release a bit more. The fact that the target of these messages was a Christie ally, not a small-time Democratic politician, makes them all the more damaging, since part of Christie’s survival strategy rests on having his party and his allies close ranks and declare the investigation a partisan witch-hunt. It’s enough to make a guy wish he hadn’t surrounded himself with incompetent sociopaths.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, February 27, 2014

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Someone Orchestrated That”: Why Did Port Authority Police Tell Angry Motorists To Blame The Democratic Mayor Of Fort Lee?

We’ve learned quite a bit about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) scandals over the last couple of months, including the fiasco surrounding the George Washington Bridge lane closures, but there are some core, foundational questions that haven’t been answered. Indeed, these are questions neither the governor’s team nor any of its allies have made even the slightest effort to address.

It remains unclear, for example, exactly who conspired to use the power of the Christie administration to deliberately cripple a New Jersey community last September. It’s equally unclear why members of Team Christie hatched and executed their plot.

And then there’s the cover-up of the administration’s admitted misdeeds. It’s this third angle that garnered some attention over the weekend, including an interesting piece from the Bergen Record’s Mike Kelly, who reported that state investigators are asking a simple question: why did Port Authority police tell angry motorists to blame the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee?

That question, which has lingered for months, may no longer be dismissed as just a footnote in the controversy now enveloping the Christie administration over whether the traffic snarl that overwhelmed Fort Lee’s streets for parts of five days was really political retribution.

A special state legislative committee examining the scandal now plans to investigate whether the call-the-mayor instructions were really a way of getting the message to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, that the crippling traffic jams were punishment for his failure to endorse the reelection of Governor Christie, a Republican who had been touted as a possible future presidential candidate.

“It appears that someone issued instructions or talking points,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-chairman of the special Assembly-Senate committee investigating the lane closure scandal. “Someone orchestrated that.”

Almost immediately after the Christie administration deliberately paralyzed Fort Lee, locals started demanding answers. For reasons that remain unclear, Kelly explained, Port Authority police officers at the scene told furious drivers they should call the mayor or borough officials.

The implication was hardly subtle: those looking for someone to blame should look at Sokolich. In reality, that didn’t make any sense, so why did the officers tell motorists something that wasn’t true? Or more to the point, who told the officers to convey false information?

This isn’t some tangent. To learn who was responsible is to better understand why Team Christie did this and who helped orchestrate the cover-up.

At this point, it’s still unclear why Port Authority police said what they said, but it’s clear state lawmakers looking into the scandal consider this important.

“It goes to the whole issue of abuse of power and efforts to conceal,” Wisniewski told Kelly. “It’s an important issue that we ultimately need to dive into.”

Meanwhile, MSNBC’s “Up with Steve Kornacki” moved the ball forward yesterday, too.

A Port Authority police officer with personal ties to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was at the George Washington Bridge when access lanes were closed last September and personally drove David Wildstein, the Christie appointee who supervised the closings, on a tour of the area as traffic brought it to a standstill.

Documents submitted to a New Jersey legislative committee by Wildstein also show that the officer,  Lieutenant Thomas “Chip” Michaels, appears to have sent periodic text messages to Wildstein updating him on the effects of the lane closures and their crippling impact on the town of Fort Lee. In one message, on the first day of the lane closures, Michaels told Wildstein he might have an idea to “make this better.” It is not clear what he meant.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 17, 2014

February 18, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Governor And His Rogue Operation”: We’re Watching A Governor Who’s Slowly Losing Control Of His Own Enterprise

Last weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) office went on the offensive, targeting former ally David Wildstein with a leaked attack memo a day after Wildstein’s attorney said “evidence exists” proving the governor lied about the bridge scandal. The move backfired: the memo highlighted, among other things, Wildstein’s high school record, making the pushback appear ridiculous.

Late on Friday afternoon, as Rachel noted on the show, Christie’s office tried to do damage control on their damage control with another leak.

The memo from Gov. Chris Christie’s office attacking former appointee David Wildstein’s credibility landed with a thud. It was a striking and deeply personal broadside coming from a chief executive of a state, and even his allies called it a mistake.

But one important person hadn’t seen the missive ahead of time: the governor himself.

Christie’s aides did not run the document – which took the extraordinary step of highlighting incidents from Wildstein’s high school days – by the governor before they sent it out, according to two people familiar with the matter. Instead, someone tucked the high school lines into a daily briefing email to the governor’s supporters, and blasted it out earlier than planned.

Whether or not one believes Christie, a notorious micro-manager, was actually out of the loop is a matter of perspective. Given that the attack memo made the governor’s operation look even worse, it stands to reason Christie aides have an incentive to tell Politico the governor wasn’t involved, though we may never know whether or not this is true.

But even giving Christie and his office the benefit of the doubt, this latest effort raises questions anew about what kind of operation, exactly, the governor is running in New Jersey.

Over the last month or so, the governor’s office has come up with a version of events it desperately hopes the public will believe. It goes like this:

Leading members of Team Christie went rogue last fall, using their power to cripple a community on purpose. As the scandal intensified, other leading members of Team Christie went rogue again last week, launching a misguided attack on a perceived foe. The governor who tends to oversee even the smallest details of his operation, we’re told, was blissfully unaware of what was going on around him in both instances.

This isn’t what the governor’s critics are saying; this is what Team Christie is saying. It’s their defense.

The governor hoped to cultivate an image of an effective manager who knows how to take control and lead, but by all appearances, we’re watching a governor who’s slowly losing control of his own enterprise.


By: Steve Benen, The Maoodw Blog, February 10, 2014

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Dark By Choice”: Christie Still Unsure About Traffic Study

As Rachel reported on the show last night, there were quite a few developments late yesterday in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal, including the governor himself answering questions on the controversy for the first time in weeks.

Indeed, one of the more striking moments last night came when Christie, appearing on a local radio show, stuck to a position that’s literally hard to believe.

CHRISTIE: [A]s I said at the time of January 9th when I did my press conference, I still don’t know whether there was a traffic study that morphed into –

HOST: You still don’t know at this point whether there was a traffic study?

CHRISTIE: Well, what I’m saying, Eric, did this start as a traffic study that morphed into some political shenanigans, or did it start as political shenanigans that became a traffic study?

The host’s incredulity was understandable, since the notion that there was some kind of legitimate traffic study was discredited quite a while ago. Christie hopes to maintain his credibility as multiple scandals surrounding his administration continue to unfold, but the more he suggests the traffic-study fig leaf was real, the more suspect his defense appears.

It’s worth emphasizing that in the same interview the governor “unequivocally” denied having anything to do with the Fort Lee scheme before it was executed by his team last September.

It was, of course, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, who said it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and it was Kelly who also raised some eyebrows late yesterday afternoon.

Kelly, whom Christie fired last month, has refused to comply with the subpoena issued by the state legislature’s investigatory committee.

In a letter issued [Monday] by the lawyer for Kelly, who last month was fired as Gov. Chris Christie’s deputy chief of staff after emails emerged showing she had apparently orchestrated the lane closures, Kelly cited both her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

Michael Critchley, Kelly’s lawyer – widely known as an aggressive and highly skilled trial lawyer – wrote in the letter that, “Here, the information demanded from Ms. Kelly … directly overlaps with a parallel federal grand jury investigation being conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

Kelly is not the only former member of Team Christie to take the Fifth in response to investigators’ request for information – Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, and David Wildstein, Christie’s former aide at the Port Authority, both did the same thing in January.

And speaking of subpoenas, Christie also acknowledged last night that his office has received a federal subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s office as part of its investigation into the bridge scandal. This is separate from the subpoenas issued by the state legislature’s investigatory committee. The governor said his office will comply with the federal subpoena.

Finally, Christie said during the radio interview last night that he’s “curious” about “what happened here” and remains “really anxious to find out.” It’s unclear, however, why he didn’t ask Bridget Ann Kelly why the scheme was hatched before her dismissal.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 4, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: