Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Today’s Bridgegate scoop on January 14 , 2014 : Christie met with official responsible for bridge lane closings while they were happening ...... The heat is turning higher on Christie - New Jersey Assembly announces special Bridgegate investigation committee as Christie's problems pile up , note that The committee, under the leadership of Assemblyman John Wisniewski, has been given special counsel and subpoena power it can use to find the motive behind the lane closures on George Washington Bridge last September. Gov. Christie is also facing a federal investigation into his use of Hurricane Sandy relief funds — and both scandals are ballooning as he has to deliver his state address on Tuesday.


Today’s Bridgegate scoop: Christie met with official responsible for bridge lane closings while they were happening


And I use the term “met with” loosely. I’m skeptical that Christie’s innocent but this story’sgetting way more hype today than it deserves.
Gov. Chris Christie was with the official who arranged the closure of local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11, 2013 — the third day of the closures, and well after they had triggered outrage from local officials beset by heavy traffic.
It isn’t known what, if anything, Mr. Christie discussed with David Wildstein that day, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official was among the delegation of Mr. Christie’s representatives who welcomed him to the site of the World Trade Center for the commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks there…
Mr. Christie addressed Mr. Wildstein in a news conference last week, saying he had not encountered him “in a long time.”
“I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election,” which was held Nov. 5, Mr. Christie said last week. “You know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had with David since he worked at the Port Authority. I did not interact with David.”
Wildstein is the guy at the Port Authority who replied “Got it” when Bridget Kelly sent him the now famous e-mail about it being time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. And here’s the Journal with proof that Christie met with him while the lanes were closed on the bridge! Except … it doesn’t really prove that. It proves that they spoke in full view of several people at some point on 9/11, when both of them had good reasons unrelated to Bridgegate to be in proximity to each other. (The Port Authority built and owned the World Trade Center.) Did Wildstein mention the bridge closings to him that day? The Journal doesn’t know. Did the two men ever even speak privately? They don’t know that either. Had enough complaints from local officials about the lane closings reached Christie at that point to make it probable that he would have pulled Wildstein aside and asked for an explanation? Still no idea. How ’bout what Christie said later about not having encountered Wildstein in “a long time, well before the election”? That’s surely a lie, right? I don’t know: If 9/11 was the last time he saw Wildstein before November 5th, would that qualify as a “long time”? It’s subjective. Given how many people Christie probably chatted with at Ground Zero, should he be expected to have remembered the encounter with Wildstein at all? What kind of scoop is it if it can instantly be defeated by the two of them saying, “Yeah, no, we never talked about bridge stuff”?
All we know is that the governor of New Jersey chatted with Port Authority officials at Ground Zero on the anniversary of the attacks. Go figure. If you’re looking to pin Christie to the closings, you’d be better off looking at his daily schedule to see if there were any unusual meetings with Kelly and Bill Stepien either when the closings were first ordered or when they finally went into effect. That’d be weak circumstantial evidence too, but at least you’d start without an obvious innocent explanation.


TRENTON — The New Jersey lawmaker leading a legislative investigation of the George Washington Bridge scandal said he hopes Gov. Chris Christie didn’t “parse” his words today when he promised to cooperate with those looking into the matter.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said the governor’s remarks about the widening political quagmire, delivered during his “State of the State” address in Trenton today, did not convince him of anything.
“I’m neither more or less confident,” Wisniewski said after the speech, during which the governor repeated some of what he said last week in a nearly two hour long news conference where he apologized.
Christie said his administration would “cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of trust does not happen again.” That line caught the Assemblyman’s attention.
“Today he curiously used the words ‘all appropriate (inquires),’” Wisniewski said. “I’m hoping he’s not parsing his words in some way, because a legislative inquiry is an appropriate (inquiry).”
State of the State: Chris Christie will 'cooperate' to ensure 'breach of trust' doesn't happen againGov. Chris Christie delivered the 2014 State of the State Address to 216th Session of the N.J. State Legislature, Tuesday January 14, 2014 amidst the Bridgegate controversy and a federal investigation into his post-Hurricane Sandy ad campaign. (Source: NJTV)
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey and the inspector general of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — the bistate agency that controls the bridge — are also looking into the decision to close local access lanes leading to the bridge in Fort Lee for what appears to have been an act of political retaliation. A United States senator has also expressed interest in having his committee investigate.
Documents provided in response to subpoenas from the Assembly transportation committee, which Wisniewski chaired, show that a top aide to the governor was directly involved in the plan to close the lanes in September. That act caused hours-long delays on local streets in Bergen County.
A new session of the state Legislature began today. The Assembly plans to meet on Thursday to create a new committee, to be led by Wisniewski and aided by a special outside counsel, that will be focused solely on looking into the lane closures and an apparent cover up that followed. The Senate also has plans to create its own committee.
Wisniewski said today subpoenas will likely be sent to current and former members of Christie’s senior staff as early as Thursday, and almost certainly by the end of the day Friday. The Assemblyman said he does not have plans of making informal requests for information from the administration.
Wisniewski said he will take the governor at his word that he is willing to cooperate, but again expressed serious doubts that no one else in the Christie administration — aside from Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, whom the governor fired last week — was involved in the lane closures.
“Hard to believe that Bridget Kelly came up with the idea by herself to close the lanes on the George Washington Bridge,” Wisniewski said. “So we need to know who else on the governor’s staff — or campaign — started that process that gave her the belief or feeling that she could issue that.”


Before Bridgegate Punished an Enemy, Christie's Office Rewarded Friends

As U.S. Attorney, he was accused of using deferred prosecution agreements to steer no-bid contracts worth millions of dollars to his attorney buddies.
It doesn’t take much more than watching Chris Christie berate a teacher to realize that his claim that he “isn’t a bully” is a lie. Bridegate isn’t really about bullying though. It is about a far more disturbing aspect of Christie’s career. 
Dating back to his time as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Christie has been willing to utilize his public office to reward allies and punish enemies. While Bridgegate has focused attention on his capacity for punishing his enemies, his no-bid contracts allegedly doled out to friends as U.S. Attorney illustrate Christie’s seeming willingness to use public office to reward his friends. These are two sides of the same coin.
As U.S. Attorney, Christie faced scrutiny for a number of allleged ethical lapses. While the stays at plush hotels earned him a spot in an Inspector General’s report, the way he awarded huge no-bid contracts is the most troubling part of his tenure there. What the Romney vetters probably found in 2012, which helped keep him off the ticket, was that Christie had a habit of using controversial deferred prosecution agreements to award friends’ legal shops with millions in business. 
In this arrangement, the prosecutor tells a company that they can either agree to a payment decided on by the prosecutor or face prosecution. It’s an offer you can’t refuse, as one congressman said when Christie was forced to testify about his work at the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 2009. As part of the deferred prosecution agreements, Christie was allowed to select which attorney the company would be forced to pay to oversee the arrangement.
It’s an offer you can’t refuse, as one congressman said.
Of the many attorneys that Christie could have selected to oversee these agreements, he evidently turned to friends and those who could help him out. John Ashcroft was Christie’s boss in the Justice Department, and Christie doled out a contract worth up to $52 million to Ashcroft’s nascent company for monitoring a deal with a medical device company. In another case, Christie selected former U.S. prosecutor David Kelley, who had declined to prosecute Christie’s brother, Todd Christie, for financial crimes. In other cases, Christie appointed former colleagues from the Justice Department and Republican fundraisers. Christie even awarded a $10 million contract to his longtime mentor, Herbert Stern, who repaid the favor with hefty donations to Christie’s gubernatorial campaigns. When the contracts were raised as an ethical lapse in his 2009 race for governor, Christie called this a “personal” attack and said he did not act improperly.
Today, there are a lot of lingering questions about who in Christie’s orbit was involved in turning Fort Lee into a parking lot. We know that conservatives will try to defend Christie by blaming this on a few errant aides, but this is a case where the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Christie seems to run his offices like political operations; his friends get rewarded and enemies get punished. It’s no surprise that in such an environment, staffers would feel that they are fulfilling the boss’s wishes in punishing a political enemy, even if it meant shutting down part of a bridge. 
Bridegate, like Watergate was for Richard Nixon, is a scandal that will focus on what Christie knew and when he knew it. What is likely to become clear over time is that regardless of whether Christie signed off on this precise operation, he was running an office where there is a pervasive culture of abusing the public trust for political gain: other New Jersey politicians who made the mistake of crossing Christie say they were threatened with retribution.
Nixon never needed help from the Watergate break-in to win the 1972 race, in which he only lost one state. Christie didn’t need an endorsement from the mayor of Fort Lee to win the 2013 race, in which he only lost one county. But when you view your public office as a political post where you should reward friends and punish enemies, it's only a matter of time before such an abuse happens. We may never know what Christie knew and when he knew it but we already know, as Christie has admitted, that he is responsible for this. It's just that he may be more responsible than he wants to admit.