At this point, despite some proclamations to the contrary, it is much too soon to declare New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential aspirations dead because of a burgeoning George Washington Bridge scandal.
On Wednesday, new documents revealed that his administration’s involvement in bridge lane closures was far deeper than he had previously let on.
The biggest bombshell was an email from Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, to former Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects David Wildstein, a Christie ally. It said, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Some Democrats have already said that is evidence of political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D), who had declined to endorse Christie for re-election.
What the new documents do is explode “Bridgegate” from a minor issue to a big problem. It is now a full-blown national story, and it will lead to further investigation of Christie from other angles as he prepares to mount a presidential run in 2016.
The recent Mark Halperin and John Heilemann book, “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” suggests that there could be plenty of dirt on Christie to uncover. One of the things that most concerned Mitt Romney’s staff about the nomination of Christie as vice president in 2012 was that they were “stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record.”
Here’s the key paragraph:
The vetters were stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record. There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticised him for being “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and for offering “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official — and sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christie’s decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governor’s brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.” (Todd also oversaw a family foundation whose activities and purpose raised eyebrows among the vetters.) And all that was on top of a litany of glaring matters that sparked concern on Myers’ team: Christie’s other lobbying clients, his investments overseas, the YouTube clips that helped make him a star but might call into doubt his presidential temperament, and the status of his health.
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