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“Christie’s Creepy Misogyny”: Behold His Despicable “Blame Bridget” Strategy

Gov. Chris Christie’s million-dollar taxpayer-funded self-exoneration in the Bridgegate scandal certainly found a bad guy — and it’s a gal.

Randy Mastro’s report put the blame squarely on two fired staffers, David Wildstein and deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly. But its treatment of Kelly was mind-blowingly mean, describing her as “emotional,” “erratic” and as a liar; confirming Trenton gossip that she was “personally involved” with chief of staff Bill Stepien, and that Stepien apparently dumped her; alleging that she asked an aide to delete an incriminating email when the investigation began, thus implicating her not only in the plot’s execution but its coverup.

It even recommended that Christie abolish the department Kelly headed and fold it into another office. Mastro stopped just short of suggesting the state torch Kelly’s office and salt the earth it once stood on. That may be what Christie plans to announce at his press conference this afternoon.

Christie’s lawyers’ treatment of Kelly was so shoddy that Stepien, formerly the governor’s former right-hand man, was forced to release a statement denouncing the report’s “gratuitous reference” to his “brief” relationship with Kelly as “a regrettable distraction.”

Blaming the woman goes back to Eve, so it shouldn’t be particularly surprising. But I still find this story bizarre: Why is Christie so determined not only to blame his former allies, but to shame them? He himself called Kelly “stupid” in his two-hour pity-party last January, while he depicted Wildstein as a high-school loser to his student-athlete-president demigod. Now his lawyers have used Stepien to smear Kelly – and that’s pissed off not only Stepien but Kelly’s friends, who took to the New York Times to denounce the report’s heaping dose of sexism in its depiction of Christie’s once fiercely loyal aide.

Mastro’s report maligns Kelly’s competence from the beginning, noting that she was promoted to Stepien’s old job “though she lacked Stepien’s expertise and background.” It even resorts to inaccuracies to heap blame on Kelly, the New York Times reports, accusing her of canceling meetings with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop after he declined to endorse Christie, when documents show others in the administration canceled the meetings.

Mastro’s report has done the seemingly impossible: It cost Christie the affection of the guys at “Morning Joe,” which has been Christie’s clubhouse throughout the scandal. As Taylor Marsh details (I missed it), Mark Halperin called the attacks on Kelly “sexist and gratuitous,” while Scarborough compared Mastro to “Baghdad Bob.” Of course, they’re still protecting Christie by blaming the sexism on Mastro, when it’s unthinkable that the million-dollar report would have dumped on Kelly without Christie’s say-so.

Knowing Christie’s M.O., if the Mastro report becomes a new liability for him, he’ll probably throw the former prosecutor under the bus with Kelly and Wildstein. But he won’t do it with the textbook misogyny he broke out for Kelly. Christie is delusionally headed to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting this weekend, still believing he has a chance to run for president in 2016. Good luck courting the women’s vote, Gov. Christie! Bridgegate is turning into Bridgetgate, another story about Christie’s bullying sexism.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 28, 2014

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave”: Christie’s Exoneration By His Own Lawyers Is Even More Conflicted Than It Looks

Did you hear? Chris Christie has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the three-day lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in September launched by his aides and Port Authority appointees as retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. So, who issued the exoneration—was it the legislative committee that’s been looking into the closures? Or the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey who is also investigating them?

No, it was Christie’s own lawyers. The New York Times reports:

With his office suddenly engulfed in scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey two months ago summoned a pair of top defense lawyers from an elite law firm to the State House and asked them to undertake an extensive review of what had gone wrong.

Now, after 70 interviews and at least $1 million in legal fees to be paid by state taxpayers, that review is set to be released, and according to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings…It will be viewed with intense skepticism, not only because it was commissioned by the governor but also because the firm conducting it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has close ties to the Christie administration and the firm’s lawyers were unable to interview three principal players in the shutdowns, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.

But lawyers from the team who led the inquiry are prepared to vigorously defend their work, which they described as an unfettered look into the inner workings of an administration known to prize loyalty and privacy.

Lower down in the article, it notes: “Gibson Dunn has worked for the administration in the past, and Mr. Christie is friendly with a top partner there, Debra Wong Yang, who like him was appointed United States attorney by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s.”

That’s putting it mildly. What the article does not note is that Debra Wong Yang was one of six lawyers who received highly lucrative contracts from then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in 2007 to monitor a half-dozen medical device makers as part of a “deferred prosecution agreement” he reached with the companies after an inquiry into allegedly fraudulent billing practices. The contract that got the most attention when they were inadvertently disclosed in 2008 was the one awarded to John Ashcroft, who had been Attorney General at the time of Christie’s selection as U.S. Attorney in 2001, and who received between $28 million and $52 million for 18 months of work. Another contract that drew scrutiny at the time was the one that went to the former U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, whose office had just two years earlier opted not to bring criminal charges against Christie’s brother, a Wall Street trader who had been named in a civil SEC complaint but, unlike most of the others in the complaint, had not been hit with criminal charges as well. Both that contract and the Ashcroft one were the target of questioning by a House committee that called down Christie in 2009; the contracts also prompted a revision of Department of Justice guidelines for deferred prosecution agreements.

Now, two of the other contracts have come under more scrutiny. One, worth $10 million, had gone to David Samson, a former state attorney general whom Christie went on to name chairman of the Port Authority and who is now the subject of several federal subpoenas himself as the lane closures investigation broadens out into other matters involving the Port Authority.

And another, the amount of which has never been disclosed, went to Yang, who had in 2002 become the first ever Asian-American woman to be named U.S. Attorney. Her selection as a corporate monitor by Christie had raised fewer questions than the others, beyond the fact that she was a loyal Republican with close ties to Alberto Gonzales, who succeeded Ashcroft as attorney general. But as the Star-Ledger of Newark recently noted, Yang had in 2011 introduced Christie at a 2011 event in New York in glowing terms that suggested their association went beyond being merely fellow former prosecutors, describing him as her “very dear friend” and “truly the real deal.”*

And now Christie has hired her firm, where she is co-chair of the white-collar defense and investigations practice group, to lead the taxpayer-funded inquiry into his administration. In fact, Yang is part of the team working on the case, according to Randy Mastro, the former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani who is leading the team for Gibson Dunn.

Neither Yang nor Christie’s spokesman responded to requests for comment today, but Mastro previously dismissed concerns about any conflict between Yang’s receipt of the lucrative contract from Christie and her work on the team “investigating” his administration. “The work that Deb Yang performed years ago for a private company is completely unrelated to the work now being done in New Jersey today,” Mastro told the Star-Ledger. “Her reputation for integrity and independence is unparalleled. She was one of the most respected US Attorneys in the country and, before that, a distinguished California judge.”

This of course sidesteps the question: the work was indeed paid for by a “private company,” a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. But Yang got the job from Christie.

It should be noted that Yang’s history with Christie is only one of a tangle of associations and potential conflicts among lawyers and clients in the legal fallout from the lane closure scandal. Mastro, the lead Gibson Dunn lawyer representing Christie, had until recently been representing the Port Authority on a case challenging its toll increases. Port Authority Chairman Samson’s lawyer is Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of Homeland Security who is a predecessor of Christie’s as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

Most notable, perhaps, is the representation for Bridget Anne Kelly, the former Christie aide who issued the “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” order and whose testimony, if any, will be so crucial to the investigation. She first hired as her lawyer Walter Timpone, whom Christie had selected as his chief deputy as U.S. Attorney before having to choose someone else when it emerged that Timpone had not been candid about a visit he paid to the home of then-senator Robert Torricelli, who was under federal surveillance at the time as part of an investigation into possible campaign finance abuses and had played a key role in signing off on Christie’s nomination as U.S. Attorney. Soon after Kelly hired Timpone, he stepped back from the case because of a potential conflict, his role as the Christie-appointed vice chairman of the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission. So Kelly instead turned to Michael Critchley, one of the most top (and reputedly most expensive) defense lawyers in the state, who has done a lot of representation of George Norcross, the powerful Democratic boss from South Jersey with whom Christie has enjoyed a mutually beneficial alliance. In fact, it was Critchley who set up a legendary 2003 dinner in New Brunswick between Christie and Norcross, at a time when Norcross was under state investigation—an investigation that was later referred to Christie but he decided to pass on.

In other words, a lawyer with very close ties to George Norcross, who already has considerable leverage over Chris Christie given Christie’s reliance on him for providing Democratic votes in the legislature, is now advising Bridget Kelly on whether she should or should not cooperate with prosecutors from Chris Christie’s former office in their investigation into what really happened inside Christie’s administration in the matter of the retaliatory lane closures.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave”—Sir Walter Scott wouldn’t even know where to start with this one.

*Addendum, 5 p.m.: As Matt Katz at WNYC has reported, Yang also contributed $500 to the fund to pay for Christie’s second inauguration this past January, just before she and her firm were hired for the taxpayer-funded job of representing him.


By: Alex MacGillis, The New Republic, March 24, 2014

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“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


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