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.

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This Is What You’ve Got, Gov?

Gov. Chris Christie put out an email today attacking David Wildstein, the guy for whom he created a $150,000 Port Authority job with no job description, for which Wildstein didn’t even have to submit a resume.

He offers some scandalous dirt on Wildstein, such as, “He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.”

Really, tough guy, that’s what you’ve got?  It is to laugh.

“The Governor Must Go”

From “Chris Christie should resign if bombshell proves true,” Editorial Board, New Jersey StarLedger:

“Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.

“David Wildstein, the man who ordered the George Washington Bridge lane closures, is now pointing the finger directly at Gov. Chris Christie, saying the governor knew about the lane closures in September when they occurred.

“That directly contradicts Christie account at his Jan. 13 press conference when he made this statement: “I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it… I first found out about it after it was over.”

“If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.

“By the governor’s own standard, lying is a firing offense. Here’s what he said about his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelley, at the same press conference: “There’s no justification for ever lying to a governor or a person in authority in this government. As a result, I’ve terminated Bridget’s employment.”

“One hopes that he would consider lying to the people of New Jersey as an offense of equal magnitude.

“Wildstein’s statement means that others who have been implicated in this scandal will probably come forward now as well, hoping to strike deals with prosecutors before their testimony becomes redundant.

“When you layer of top of this the criminal investigation in Hoboken, and a separate investigation of Sandy spending by the federal Departmentof Housing and Urban Development, it becomes difficult to see how Christie can function.

“This is a shocking development.  Christie is now damaged goods.  If Wildstein’s disclosures are as powerful as he claims, the governor must go.”

The Christie Countdown Clock

From “Introducing the Christie Countdown Clock,” Scott Raab, Esquire:

“Follow the money. Chris Christie has practiced that principle, always. He’s not so much a career politician – he served twenty years ago as a county commissioner in horsey Morris County, New Jersey — as he is a lobbyist and fundraiser. Christie’s reward for serving as state counsel — and helping to corral a half-million dollars — for the Bush campaign in 2000 was his appointment by W. to the U.S. Attorney’s post that Christie held until 2008. It didn’t hurt that Christie’s rabbi, Bill Palatucci, another lawyer-lobbyist, ran Bush’s daddy’s New Jersey campaign in ’88, nor that Palatucci got to know W. back then, nor that he made it his business to forward Christie’s resume to Karl Rove when it was W.’s turn to name a U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Palatucci in large part created Christie and remains his consigliere — and the ultimate payoff was meant to be the White House.

“There have been countless payoffs along the way. While serving as Christie’s senior adviser when he won the governorship in 2009, Palatucci also continued to serve as a senior vice president at Community Education Centers, which runs most of New Jersey’s “halfway houses” — essentially, privatized prisons. After the inauguration, which Palatucci chaired, CEC was also the winning bidder on a 450-bed “detention center” in Essex County, a deal worth around $10 million a year. CEC was also somehow the only bidder. Palatucci stayed at CEC until late 2012, as Christie’s 2016 hopes soared toward the sun.

“This morning’s follow-the-money tip comes courtesy of The Record, a very good newspaper in North Jersey currently committing exemplary journalism on the Christie saga. It seems that back in 2011, Christie’s brother Todd started flipping real-estate in Harrison, New Jersey — within walking distance of a commuter-rail station whose $256 million renovation was approved late last summer by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“And not for nothing: Since his election in 2010, Governor Christie has turned the Port Authority, which runs every major bridge, tunnel, seaport, and airport connecting the planet to New York City, plus the World Trade Center — not to mention the commuter railroad with the station in Harrison — from a patronage pit into something else entirely. In theory, Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo share power over the PA, but Christie’s crew owns that street corner so completely that his lieutenants had the world’s busiest bridge shut down for days — during the week that schools opened in Fort Lee and the city marked the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — before the Port’s executive director, Cuomo’s top PA dog, even caught wind of it.

“With Chris Christie, it’s always not for nothing: Right where the bridge lands in Fort Lee, New Jersey, a brand-new billion-dollar real-estate project was then in the funding stage. In Hoboken, likewise, there’s a stalled plan to develop a 40-story office-tower right across the Hudson River from New York City; Hoboken’s mayor says Christie’s capos told her that delivery of dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief depended on the mayor unstalling that little project.

“None of this is coincidence. This is where Chris Christie’s lust for power has come to die. When — and crucially, if — the New Jersey legislature and the U.S. Attorney untangle the webs that connect the governor, the Port Authority, and the billions of dollars generated by New York City real-estate development, Chris Christie’s political life is finished. One false step. One e-mail. One witness. He has lawyered up and hunkered down, but he knows it’s merely a matter of time now. That’s a dead man at the microphone.”   Emphasis added.

“Cut from the Same Corrupt Cloth”

From “A Hostage to Christie in Hoboken,” Amy Davidson, The New Yorker:

chris-christie-dawn-zimmer-580.jpg

“The bottom line is, it’s not fair for the Governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer told Steve Kornacki, of MSNBC, this weekend. By Sunday, she said she was meeting with the United States Attorney’s office, showing them diary entries and other notes she made last May. That was when, she says, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno pulled her aside in a ShopRite parking lot (why is so much New Jersey state business conducted in parking lots?) for a few words about large sums of money.

There were two pools of cash: what a developer called the Rockefeller Group and others might make from four acres of North Hoboken, and what the city might get from a quarter-billion-dollar Sandy relief fund that Chris Christie had a say in distributing. At ShopRite, according to Zimmer, “with no one else around,” the Lieutenant Governor

says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It is very important to the Governor. The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward, or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right—these things should not be connected—but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone I will deny it.

Christie officials have now denied it, though the protestations have been flustered and, at times, demonstrably disingenuous and off point.

“I don’t know what they were trying to get in the Bridgegate, but I do know what they’re trying to get in Hoboken. They’re holding our Sandy funds hostage in order to get pushed through and expedite the Rockefeller project,” Zimmer told CNN’s Candy Crowley.

The Rockefeller project involved a skyscraper and surrounding complex across from Manhattan, in a densely populated area a short PATH train ride from the city. … Nineteen blocks were candidates for redevelopment. Strangely, a study commissioned by the state found that only three blocks were appropriate—the very three owned by the Rockefeller Group. …[T]he other property owners went to the planning board and “asked why ‘a redevelopment plan for the exclusive benefit’ of the Rockefeller Group would ‘[favor] a single property owner to the detriment of all other property owners in the North End Area.’ ” The board then voted not to accept the study, holding up the project. This was the heart of the problem, Zimmer said, that she was told to make go away.

 

Incidentally or not, the Rockefeller Group had hired the law firm of David Samson, Christie’s top appointee to the Port Authority.

 

“I thought he was honest. I thought he was moral,” Zimmer wrote of Christie in a diary entry, last May, which she’s now given to prosecutors. “I thought he was something very different. This week, I found out he’s cut from the same corrupt cloth that I’ve been fighting for the last four years. I am so disappointed. It literally brings tears to my eyes.”

 

If Zimmer really felt that way—if he had really hurt her—why would she smile politely and say hello? They have pointed to a tweet: “To be clear I am very glad Governor Christie has been our Gov.” The reason she had to be clear was that she wasn’t endorsing him for governor, something that, as we’ve learned, the Governor really wanted mayors to do. Even in her interview with Kornacki, she talked about Christie policies she admired. Zimmer didn’t sound like someone with a grudge; she described herself as someone who just felt stuck. Zimmer’s explanation for her silence is the same one heard in a lot of middle schools: she thought that she and Hoboken would have a harder time if she didn’t, and the people she wanted as friends wouldn’t be on her side. “I was really concerned that, if I came forward, no one believed me, that we would really be cut out of the Sandy funding,” more of which was on the table, she told Crowley.

 

Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty

 

Dear Mr. Bezos…

When Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post last August, the former ombudsman for the paper, Patrick Pexton, did an open letter to the new owner about what he considered “the good, the bad, and the ugly” at the paper.  The ugly was reserved for WaPo’s conservative political blogger, Jennifer Rubin.  Some excerpts:

“Have Fred Hiatt, your editorial page editor…fire opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin.  Not because she’s conservative, but because she’s just plain bad.  She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards.  She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. …

“Rubin was the No. 1 source of complaint about any single Post staffer while I was ombudsman, and I’m leaving out the organized email campaigns against her by leftie groups like Media Matters.  Thinking conservatives didn’t like her, thinking moderates didn’t like her, government workers who knew her arguments to be unfair didn’t like her.  Dump her like a dull tome on the Amazon Bargain Books page.”

I too can’t stand the woman. During the 2012 campaign, Rubin was basically a Romney campaign staffer embedded at a major media outlet, writing gushing schoolgirl love letters to him.  She also focuses so much on Israel that she seems to think she works at the Jerusalem Post.

I’m citing the letter today because she has a post up at WaPo called “The scandal is MSNBC,” in which she says Chris Christie’s problems are all MSNBC’s fault.  She criticizes their allowing Hoboken’s mayor, Dawn Zimmer, to claim that her city was denied Sandy aid because she wasn’t playing ball on redevelopment for property belonging to Port Authority chairman David Samson’s law firm’s clients. 

The thing is, everyone is trying to figure out Chris Christie’s motivation for acts that seem punitive and retaliatory, like the Fort Lee lane closures.  That’s because the Governor himself isn’t offering an explanation beyond “mistakes were made.”  If he had wanted to come on the air before, during, or after Dawn Zimmer, or send a spokesman, MSNBC would have been delighted to have him.  Until he ‘splains in full, the non-Fox media are going to be searching for reasons.

In Rubin’s cock-eyed world, Watergate was the fault of her newspaper, not the Nixon administration.