New Jersey Governor and longshot Republican presidential candidate spent most his time at the last kid’s table debate ripping on Hillary Clinton, raising the specter of the fabricated “email server” scandal to hide his inability to provide answers to a question about raising interest rates, but distracting the audience with tales of how his abrasive and crude personality would somehow defeat the Democratic front-runner and former Secretary of State: “She doesn’t want one minute on that stage with me next September when I’m debating her and prosecuting her for her vision for America.”
Which is all very ironic since it is now Chris Christie who is in hot water – for some very real crimes. You may recall the “Bridgegate” scandal of a few years ago, where Chris Christie used his powers as governor to shut down the busiest bridge in the world in order to punish his constituents for voting against him. Shortly afterward, the Department of Justice opened an investigation to prosecute Christie for his vision of governance, which includes embezzling taxpayer funds and awarding no-bid contracts to family members. The icing on the cake is the fact that just hours after the debate, prosecuting lawyers filed briefs accusing Christie and his cronies of “inappropriately” hiding documents:
Among the hidden documents, the lawyers say, are emails to and from the governor’s personal and work email accounts and a calendar entry from the week when an order was delivered to close lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013. All told, Christie’s taxpayer-funded attorneys at the Gibson Dunn law firm have withheld or redacted 9,428 emails and other documents.
At least 16 of those emails were sent from top Christie aides to former Port Authority appointee David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty in May to felony corruption charges for the politically-motivated lane closures, and Bill Baroni, the former top Port official who has pleaded not guilty in the case.
While it has been proven again and again that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server did not constitute any wrongdoing, the case is very different for Mr. Christie. The improper closure of the bridge resulted in massive traffic gridlock, causing the death of a 91-year-old woman (cardiac arrest) in an ambulance and forcing “ambulance attendants to leave their vehicles and respond to an emergency on foot because traffic was so bad.” On top of all this, a recent ethics and integrity study gave the state of New Jersey a grade of D+ and found a plethora of “journalists, advocates and academics [who] have accused the Christie administration of fighting and delaying potentially damaging public records requests and meddling in the affairs of the State Ethics Commission.”
It’s very clear that the corruption in New Jersey stems from the Governor’s office. Chris Christie has no grounds to be accusing anyone of unethical conduct, since his entire governorship has come to be defined by shady practices and politically motivated retribution. Justice is finally coming for Mr. Christie and his associates. His comeuppance is long overdue.
*David Wildstein removed Bill Baroni’s (former top Port Authority official) hard drive from the Port Authority offices and took it home with him after he was fired in December 2013, though he left his own family photos at his desk.
*Christie’s former campaign manager, Stepien, passed along at least two emails to Christie from [former Port Authority appointee David Wildstein, who has plead guilty], one concerning the meetings with Fulop, the other regarding the New Jersey Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s decision not to endorse Christie for re-election.
*Federal prosecutors have turned over 1.7 million documents in a form that isn’t searchable. The lawyers estimate it would take three attorneys three years to read all the documents in that form.
*Citing the case’s intense media coverage and potentially tainted jury pool, Baroni wants a federal judge to move the trial to another venue. It’s scheduled to begin in April in Newark.
*Critchley, [sacrificial lamb and former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly]’s attorney, alleges that Christie’s lawyers at the Gibson Dunn firm tried to “destroy” notes of interviews their lawyers did with Christie and other administration officials.
*A lawyer for Phil Kwon, a Port Authority lawyer and one-time Christie nominee to the state Supreme Court, has told federal authorities that he has information related to Bridgegate, according to Critchley.
*Wildstein was apparently cooperating with federal authorities early on in the case in 2014, getting interviewed by investigators at least four times.
*Unlike governors in other states, Christie keeps his meeting calendars secret. But Baroni’s attorney revealed a redacted copy of the governor’s calendar from the week in August 2013 when the “time for some traffic problems” email was sent. It shows a meeting with lobbyist Jeff Michaels, whose brother was a police lieutenant at the Port Authority who allegedly helped Wildstein execute the lane closures. It also shows phone calls with Neil Bush, brother of Jeb and George W. Bush, and Michelle Rhee, the controversial school reform leader.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.