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“Chris Christie Bullies Again”: Bullies Bully Out Of Weakness, And Christie Is Now Weaker Than He’s Ever Been

Gov. Chris Christie says he’s been humbled, that he’s been doing some “soul-searching” after his staff got caught arranging traffic jams to punish political enemies.

But bullies bully out of weakness, and Christie is now weaker than he’s ever been. He can’t possibly give up his only real political asset—a talent for intimidation that makes victims want to be on his side to win his protection—when he needs it most.

In only the latest example, his legal team is spitting paper at the Jersey pols who’ve crossed him. Christie’s choice as lead attorney for his office’s “internal review,” Randy Mastro, sent a letter, obtained by The Bergen Record, to Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer requesting a “private interview” and documents, including her correspondence with the press.

“In a show of force,” The Record reports, Mastro also wrote to “Hoboken officials that he had assembled a team of ‘five former federal prosecutors’ to look into Zimmer’s claims.”

Zimmer, of course, claims that Christie officials had threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy aid if she didn’t support a particular real estate development, charges those officials deny.

At the same time Christie lawyers were beckoning Zimmer to their den, the governor’s office sent a memo to supporters with press clips about Zimmer that, it says, found “serious questions of authenticity, contradictions, and hypocrisy.”

Zimmer’s allegations are now the subject of a US Attorney investigation, and her attorney replied to Mastro by saying, “We question whether it is appropriate for the Governor’s Office, in essence, to be investigating itself, particularly when an investigation of the same subject matter is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“Five former federal prosecuters,” charges of hypocrisy, a “private interview”—this stuff reeks of bullying. But Mastro, The Record writes, “seems to try to dispel any notion that the letter is meant to intimidate a witness—he notified federal authorities in advance that he would be contacting potential witnesses, he wrote.”

Still, as James Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University, told the Star Ledger, Mastro’s letters show him acting more like a defense attorney than as a fact-finder conducting an “internal review” to learn who dunnit. “The letters strike me as a fairly heavy-handed attempt to intimidate—and cleverly done,” Cohen said.

No matter how much humble pie Christie insists he’s eating, he just can’t quit the bullying. Remember how, during his marathon press conference, a reporter told him that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said it’d be “premature” for the governor to visit his town and apologize for the dangerous, five-day traffic jam his people created at the George Washington Bridge? Christie ignored Sokolich’s wishes, parked his entourage at Sokolich’s office, staged some photo ops with citizens not throwing tomatoes, and left the Fort Lee mayor saying he was relieved that Christie promised there’d be no more retribution. Now, Christie’s lawyers have invited Sokolich and his staff to hand over documents, too.

The attempt to put the squeeze on NJ mayors does double duty by also intimidating other potential witnesses and officials receiving subpoenas (the NJ legislators investigating the bridge scandal issued eighteen new subpoenas yesterday).

It’s all part of the web of fear that Christie has established throughout New Jersey. It’s aimed as much, if not more, at Democrats than at Republicans, and until the GWB scandal broke, that fear was passed off as the Christie miracle of “bipartisanship.”

Even though the former front-runner in the GOP presidential race now looks like he’ll never make it to the primaries, even though Christie boosters like Joe Scarborough say he should resign as the head of the Republican Governors Association, anyone who the governor’s office can conceivably touch still lives in fear of his wrath.

The bully can still steal their lunch.

UPDATE: This afternoon Christie spokesperson Colin Reed sent an email pushing back against New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, saying she made “no fewer than five misleading statements” on Morning Joe today. Most irksome perhaps was what she said about Mastro’s letters: “They’re trying to sort of threaten people, not explicitly, but saying, you know, we’re going to go back after you if you come after us.”


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, February 11, 2014

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

“Christie’s Evolving Version Of Events”: The More You Look, The More You See Nuances, Changes, And Contradictions

One of the overarching challenges facing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is not just his ongoing bridge scandal, but also the veracity of his claims about the scandal.  If Christie’s version of events had been consistent and reliable throughout, it’d be easier to believe his arguments about what role, if any, he played in his aides’ misconduct,

But the closer one looks at the governor’s claims, the more one sees nuances, changes, and contradictions.

It’s not just what Christie knew and when; it’s also what Christie claims he did about the now-infamous incident in Fort Lee.

In December, the governor belittled reporters and lawmakers who took the bridge controversy seriously. Asked about false testimony his top aide at the Port Authority delivered to the state Assembly, Christie said his “curiosity is more than satiated.” Asked whether he would look for additional information, the governor replied, “Why would I? … I have a lot of things to do. I know you guys are obsessed with this. I’m not. I’m really not. It’s just not that big a deal.”

Christie added during a mid-December press conference, “I’m not running around doing independent investigation…. If you’re asking me if I’ve done independent investigation, the answer is no.”

Except, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the governor said largely the opposite this week, telling the public during a radio show that he did launch an independent investigation – two months before he said he didn’t launch an independent investigation.

“As soon as I was aware of the fact that there was a problem, which was when [Port Authority Executive Director] Pat Foye’s email came out, I had my staff say, go find out what’s going on over at the Port Authority. Why are they fighting with each other over this? And what happened? […]

“As soon as I knew that there was some issue here, I asked my staff to get to the Port Authority and find out what’s going on…. The first time this really came into my consciousness as an issue was when Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority’s email about this incident was leaked to the media…. That’s when I asked my chief of staff and chief counsel, I said to them, ‘Hey, would you look into this and see what’s going on here?’”

Really? Because that represents a pretty sharp break from Christie’s original story.

According to the governor’s latest version of events:

* In October, after learning of the trouble at the Port Authority, Christie dispatched the top two aides in his entire administration to get to the bottom of things.

* In December, in response to questions, Christie said he sees no need to get to the bottom of things.

* In January, during a two-hour press conference, Christie makes no mention of his chief of staff and chief counsel investigating the matter at his direction.

* In February, Christie boasts about an internal investigation he previously said he wouldn’t launch.

Remember, that’s not my story; that’s the governor’s story.

If the governor sent his top two aides to investigate problems at the Port Authority, why didn’t Christie mention this before? And what did his chief of staff and chief counsel find when they investigated the matter at the governor’s behest?

It would appear that Christie, just this week, came up with a new story with key details he neglected to mention during multiple press conferences in December and January.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the claims are untrue, but as a rule, evolving stories featuring new, previously unmentioned elements are harder to believe.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 7, 2014

February 8, 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

“The Vehemence And Vindictiveness”: I Used To Like Chris Christie, But Now I’m Beginning To Worry That He’s A Thug

I generally vote Democratic in presidential elections because I generally agree with the Democrats on social and other issues.

(Democrats are generally for “small government” on social issues, for example, whereas today’s Republicans often want to restrict choice, legislate personal morality, link Christian church and state, and otherwise have the government intrude in places where I don’t think the government should be, which I find annoying and un-American.)

That said, I’m sympathetic to some Republican views on fiscal conservatism and personal responsibility, and I don’t think the answer to every problem is “more government.” In some areas, in fact, I think the answer is probably “less government.”

So, if the Republicans were ever to produce a presidential candidate I like who is reasonable on social issues and strong and smart on economics (as opposed to being an ideologue), I would make the ideal “swing voter” who might help the Republicans capture the White House again.

For the last couple of years, I have thought that this Republican candidate might be Chris Christie, the famous governor of New Jersey.

I find Christie’s views on some social issues (gay marriage, for example) offensive and un-American. But I like his no-nonsense, practical approach to the budget and getting things done. And I love the fact that he’s willing to say and do things that run counter to the Republican Party’s talking points. This shows independence of thought and fortitude that I admire and like.

So I was thinking that it might be possible that I would end up voting for Chris Christie, who seemed to be the obvious Republican front-runner.

But now I’m increasingly worried that Chris Christie is a thug.

This is not just because of the order-up-a-traffic-jam-to-punish-a-political-opponent scandal.

Yes, that’s bad, and, regardless of whether Christie knew about it or ordered it, it reflects badly on the tone of leadership he sets in his administration. But subordinates do sometimes do things that their bosses are horrified by, and, for now, I am willing to believe that it’s possible that Christie really did know nothing about it and was actually shocked and appalled when it was brought to his attention.

It’s also the way Christie is behaving now that the traffic scandal has been exposed.

First, he torched the deputy chief of staff who ordered the traffic jam. Yes, he had to reprimand and disown her, but even if Christie didn’t implicitly sanction the jam, he could have done more to show how bizarrely out of character this behavior was for his administration and how disappointed and betrayed he felt.

Second, and far more saliently, he has now completely torched a former political ally — the guy who actually created the traffic jam.  In a startlingly long and harsh statement released yesterday, Christie’s team invoked the man’s behavior in high school to nuke his credibility. The man’s high school social studies teacher, Christie’s team triumphantly reported, once accused him of doing something deceptive.

(Something deceptive? What, exactly? And if the man did, once, in high school, do something that someone found deceptive, is this really relevant 30 years later? Has Chris Christie never, ever done something deceptive? Never? Even in high school?)

Yes, this man’s assertion that Chris Christie knew about (and, therefore, sanctioned, if not directly ordered) the traffic jam has the potential to destroy Christie’s political career.

But still … the vehemence and vindictiveness of Christie’s attack on the man was startling.

This sort of attack doesn’t make Christie look like an independent, statesmanlike leader who has the fortitude to make hard decisions and stand up for what he believes.

It makes him look like a thug.

And I don’t want to vote for a president who is a thug.


By: Henry Blodget, Business Insider, February 2, 2014

February 4, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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