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Bridgegate Crumbling

Today United States attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, announced that two of Chris Christie’s aides have been indicted (Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni) and a third (David Wildstein) admitted his guilt in the infamous “Bridgegate” fiasco. For those who may have forgotten or were asleep back in September, 2013, two (of three) major approach lanes through Fort Lee, New Jersey leading onto the George Washington Bridge were shut down for four days strangling traffic, clogging the streets of Fort Lee, compromising first responders, disrupting school transportation, interfering with local businesses and leading, at least indirectly, to one death. It was so bad that commuters, normally faced with a half-hour trip, took upwards of four hours to reach their destinations.

Kelly, who was Christie’s deputy chief of staff at the time, and Baroni, then deputy executive director of the Port Authority, were both close advisors of Governor Christie. Wildstein, then an executive at the Authority, was a long-standing member of Christie’s political team and a high-school friend.

The Port Authority is the independent agency that runs the bridges, tunnels, airports and other elements of the transportation nexus that includes New Jersey and New York. The Governors of the two states get to appoint the executives and managers of the Authority giving them considerable influence over its operations.

The first hints that the Authority and Christie’s office were involved was a series of emails between them, the most infamous of which was the one Kelly sent to Wildstein in August, saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein, not needing any additional information about what such a cryptic message might mean, fired back, “Got it.”

When the papers got a hold of the story and started digging all manner of nastiness came out. The shit, figuratively, hit the fan with accusations flying back and forth, pathetic efforts at a cover up, a virtual blizzard of lying and dissembling and a whole lot of scurrying around by aides and advisors trying to protect Christie — particularly when it was revealed that the closings were ordered to punish Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, for refusing to endorse Christie for governor. The full chronology makes fascinating reading.

The interesting thing about this story which was covered nicely in today’s NY Times, is that it clearly puts Christie in any of several uncomfortable spots.

a. He ordered the bridge closings and should resign.

b. He knew about the bridge closings back when they were being planned but did nothing to stop them and should resign.

c. He knew about the bridge closing on the first day (everyone else did) but didn’t act and should resign.

d. He used advisors who would do such a childish and vindictive thing and should resign.

e. He created a culture of vengeance and bullying that is wholly inappropriate and should resign.

When the first details came out a key question was asked: Is it possible that people who were either in Christie’s inner circle of advisors (Kelly) or part of his election teams (Baroni and Wildstein) would do something like this without first clearing it with Christie or, hmm …, without his ordering it? So far there has been no answer but we will see what gets revealed during the trial of Kelly and Baroni.

Of course Christie won’t resign. But he also won’t be president. He won’t win the Republican party’s nomination and he won’t ever win another election in New Jersey.

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