Fishman Seeks Big Fish (Whale?) Chris Christie

Esquire reports* that some of Chris Christie’s people will be indicted as soon as next month for Bridgegate — his Port Authority appointees, David Samson, Bill Baroni, and David Wildstein as well as his former chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.

Key quotes:

“Don’t underestimate what Wildstein has on Christie.  And Wildstein and Baroni have both turned on Samson.  If Samson doesn’t give Fishman Christie, Samson is toast.

“They’ve got him cold.  He got sloppy, arrogant, and greedy.  Samson will want a deal.  This way, he’d get one or two years.  He’d have a future on the other side.  He won’t want to die in jail. [Samson is 74.]

“But Fishman is really focused on Christie.  Ultimately, he believes he’ll get to the governor.”

* “Exclusive:  Prosecutor Is Closing In on Gov. Christie,” Scott Raab and Lisa Brennan

Jebbie is smiling.

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Christie the Clueless

“The entire thing, from hiring politically connected Christie-allied lawyers to paying for the pricey investigation with public funds to crowing about the transparent snow job like it will actually convince anyone, looks like a stupid unforced error by Christie.  Even the ‘objective’ press is highlighting the attorneys’ links to Christie and the fact that New Jersey taxpayers are on the hook for $1 million spent solely to help their governor recover from a scandal. Starting with the New York Times’ initial story on the review, nearly every news organization has (appropriately) treated the report as an unconvincing attempt to venerate Christie and pin everything on a few obvious scapegoats who, conveniently, didn’t cooperate with the investigation.  No one is buying it, and in thinking he could get the political press to play along, Christie just insulted a class of people who were formerly among his most valuable allies.

“Perhaps the single dumbest aspect of the report and its unveiling is how it invites a backlash from the people the report blames for the scandal, especially the already pissed-off David Wildstein and former top Christie aide Bridget Kelly, who is subject to shockingly sexist treatment in the review.  Painting your once fiercely loyal aide as an unhinged emotional wreck is probably a good way to get her to start opening up to the press and the less friendly investigators at the U. S. attorney’s office.  Kelly’s lawyer has already all-but-declared that Kelly will cooperate with the U. S. attorney in exchange for immunity.  Chris Christie’s stunt probably helped her make that decision.

“If this is the best Christie can do, he doesn’t deserve to get anywhere near the presidency. And the sorts of Republican elders who were once his biggest fans probably feel the same way. Christie would’ve been better off shutting up and waiting it out instead of trying to exonerate himself on an accelerated schedule. Once he decided to hire some lawyers to issue a report, he should’ve made sure that the lawyers put forth a better show of independence and objectivity. Better stage management — a report that took longer to prepare and that assigned some sort of responsibility to Christie, for appearance’s sake — could’ve salvaged Christie’s future. Instead, he just showed the country how lousy a politician he actually is.”

Alex Pareene,  “Chris Christie flunks Scandal Response 101:  Why he’s handling it disastrously,”Salon

Nutty and Slutty

In seeking to exonerate Chris Christie of Bridgegate, Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn goes back to the playbook used to discredit Anita Hill when she testified against Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court in 1991.  Hill was disparaged and dismissed as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.”

In his Bridgegate report, Mastro dismisses Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who claims she was threatened with denial of Sandy relief funds unless she approved a development project Christie wanted, as nutty.  Mastro provides photos of Zimmer yawning and smiling and argues — really — that people who feel threatened don’t yawn or smile.

As for slutty, Mastro offers us Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, who had an affair with Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, that ended just before Kelly ordered the lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge.  While Mastro doesn’t establish a  motive for closing the lanes, he thinks it has something to do with Bridget getting dumped by Bill:

“Like the others in the lane realignments, events in Kelly’s personal life may have had some bearing on her subjective motivations and state of mind. … Her first known communication to [David] Wildstein about the lane realignment in mid-August 2013, for example, occurred around the time that her personal relationship with Stepien had cooled, apparently at Stepien’s behest and Stepien and Kelly had largely stopped speaking.”   So Kelly may not have a face that launched a thousand ships, but she has a temperament that stopped a thousand cars.

Mastro blames the whole thing on Kelly and Wildstein:  “Mayor Sokolich also appears to have been targeted for some reason yet to be determined.  Whether Kelly had her own ulterior motive for doing so or was simply supporting her friend, Wildstein, is also yet to be determined.”

Fortunately, we have real investigations being conducted by the New Jersey legislature and federal prosecutors to figure out all this “yet to be determined” stuff, which will have a major impact on the “yet to be determined” 2016 GOP presidential nominee, who, I promise you, won’t be Chris Christie.

It’s easy for me, sitting in California, to laugh at this piece-of-crap report because, unlike the poor taxpayers of New Jersey, I didn’t help pay $1 million for it.  Although as a federal taxpayer, I did help Christie use Sandy funds to pay for ads he starred in to help his re-election.  Christie clearly loves to promote himself using other people’s money.

Christie may have lost 100 pounds since his obesity surgery, but he’s still full of shit.  Christie claimed at the outset of the scandal that he didn’t know about the lane closures before or during their occurrence.  But Mastro’s report notes that David Wildstein claims he told Christie at a 9/11 event while the lanes were still closed.  Mastro swats away this claim as no biggie, saying Christie doesn’t remember such a conversation, and he was very busy with people wanting their pictures taken with him.

I expect as the real investigations proceed, we’ll hear a lot more about Christie’s relationship with Wildstein and a lot less about Kelly’s relationship with Stepien.

Mastro pathetically tries to lift Christie up by kicking Kelly when she’s down.  But smearing Bridget Anne Kelly won’t make Bridgegate go away, and it sure as hell won’t make the GOP’s problems with women voters go away.

Christie Employees Loving Them Some Fifth Amendment Rights

Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, has refused to respond to the New Jersey Legislature’s subpoena about Bridgegate, instead asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  She was the one who sent the “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email to David Wildstein, who replied, “Got it,” and has himself taken the Fifth in a live appearance before the New Jersey Assembly.

Bill Stepien, who ran both of Christie’s gubernatorial campaigns and served as a deputy Chief of Staff in between, has also pleaded the Fifth.  Stepien had been on track to become head of the New Jersey GOP and probably Christie’s 2016 campaign manager, because, you know, he did such a bang up job on President Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 campaign.  His rising star has now been sucked into the black hole that is Team Christie.

These folks are happy to tell what they know, they just want immunity from prosecution before they do it.  And when the fat lady sings, it will be all over for the fat boy.

Christie Got the “Enforcer” He Wanted

“In his office’s statement from last night and his subsequent email tonight, Governor Christie alleges that the lane closures were David Wildstein’s idea – tonight he called them ‘David Wildstein’s scheme.’

“That may be true. Perhaps David Wildstein is the guy who came up with the idea of closing lanes one day and then filed it away as an off-the-shelf plan to execute if and when necessary to accomplish a political end.

“Yet there’s a reason David Wildstein is seeking legal immunity and reimbursement for his legal bills: the order to close those lanes – the motive – seems to have come from Trenton.

“And here we get to the heart of the matter. David Wildstein was put in the Port Authority by Chris Christie, in a job Christie invented, to be the governor’s eyes and ears – his enforcer. Wildstein was put at the Port so Christie could more effectively use the Port as an extension of his political operation (as Steve [Kornacki from MSNBC] and I are documenting, more and more, with each passing week).

“So spare us the shock that Wildstein is ‘a political animal.’ Christie knew who Wildstein was before he appointed him to this job. There is no sense in distancing yourself from one of your own appointees who was given a job specifically because his skills matched what you were looking to accomplish with that appointment.”

Brian Murphy (who worked as a reporter for David Wildstein when he ran PoliticsNJ.com under the nom de plume Wally Edge), “Well, That Escalated Quickly,” TPM Cafe at Talking Points Memo

Quote of the Day

“One person said we should see the release of this email as a message to funders.  If so, the message seems to be ‘I’m desperate and losing my mind.’

“If I’m a Republican power player reading this to a get a read on what’s actually happening, what’s likely to happen next week or next month, I think I come away thinking things are considerably worse than I realized.”

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo on Chris Christie’s bizarre email attacking David Wildstein.