Surprise! Christie’s Investigation Clears Christie

So Chris Christie hired Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher at $650 an hour, paid for by New Jersey’s taxpayers, to investigate Bridgegate.

After spending about $1 million, but being unable to interview central figures Bridget Ann Kelly or David Wildstein or Bill Stepien, the investigation has cleared Christie of “plotting or directing” the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September of 2012, according to the NYT*.

But what about “knowing” before it happened or while it was going on?  He didn’t have to plot or direct the ridiculous stunt — that’s why he has minions — but simple awareness should be damning.  If he knew and didn’t stop it, he should be in as much trouble as anybody else involved.

For their $1 million, the people of Jersey should find out, “What did he know and when did he know it?”

* “Inquiry Is Said to Clear Christie, but That’s His Lawyers’ Verdict,” Michael Barbaro

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.

A Total Panic Move

“This is a total panic move. This is what defense counsel does to destroy the credibility of a witness at the criminal trial. To me the attention they are giving him and the rapidity and strength of the reaction signal desperation, fear that Wildstein is either credible or likely to be believed, and a concern that this scandal is approaching a point of being beyond salvage. I am shocked. When you are in the right, when you are comfortable with your facts, you can be quiet and composed. The official reaction is anything but calm.”

New York attorney Eric Dixon, speaking about Chris Christie’s attack on David Wildstein on Saturday, in an interview with Bob Jordan and Michael Symons of the Asbury Park Press.

“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.