MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Thursday speculated on a new reason the administration of Gov. Chris Christie would want to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee.
Her theory is that the Christie administration targeted Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), the state Senate Democratic leader, for political retribution — not, as has been alleged, the mayor of Fort Lee.
Here’s the gist of her theory:
- In 2010, Christie took the unprecedented step of declining to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court. He was the first governor to do so since the current State Constitution was adopted more than 60 years before. State Senate Democrats responded by rejecting every subsequent Christie nominee put forward.
- On Aug. 12, 2013, Christie made another rather stunning move. He decided not to nominate Justice Helen Hoens for a lifetime appointment, despite praising her judicial record. He did this, he said, because Democrats had promised to wage a war over her appointment. In a press conference that day, he reamed into state Senate Democrats, who he said were preparing to tarnish her good reputation. “I was not going to let her loose to the animals,” he said.
- On Aug. 13, 2013, Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff who he fired on Thursday, sent an email to former Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects David Wildstein, a Christie ally: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
- Weinberg, the Senate Democratic leader, represents the New Jersey district that encompasses Fort Lee.
But there are several problems with this theory.
There’s no evidence in any of 20-plus pages of documents leaked so far of anything linked to Weinberg. Kelly, Wildstein, and Bill Stepien — Christie’s former campaign manager — the three people whose emails and text messages are detailed in the documents, do not mention her.
Moreover, they often mention Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokovich, a Democrat who did not endorse Christie for re-election last year — unlike many other Democratic municipal officials. And they refer to him in very negative, personal terms.
Bill Baroni, the former deputy director of the Port Authority of New York and Jersey and Christie’s top official at the Port Authority, frequently referred to Sokovich as “Serbia.” When an early Wall Street Journal story came out about the lane closures, Stepien called Sokovich an “idiot.” Wildstein responded that it was going to be a “tough November for this little Serbian.” (Sokovich is actually Croatian, he told CNN.)
Weinberg has long been a political opponent of Christie — she was former Gov. Jon Corzine’s running mate in 2009.
Moreover, in that angry press conference during which he lambasted state Senate Democrats, Christie specifically pointed the finger at state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat from Union. Christie said that Lesniak had escalated the situation in the press by threatening to fight over Hoens’ appointment.
“Given everything they’ve done before, and the very bold and arrogant announcement by Senator Lesniak, I had to take them at their word,” Christie said then. “What the ramifications would be for that going forward, they should have thought about before opening their mouths.”
Here’s the full Maddow segment (the relevant theory doesn’t actually start until around the 11-minute mark):
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