Trying To Wiggle Out
In his news conference of Thursday, Chris Christie deftly mixed truth, falsehoods, and the word "apology," all intended to assure his audience (GOP base, mainstream media, and Wall Street donors, in reverse order of importance) that he was truly sorry for an incident he didn't know about until getting off his treadmill the previous morning.
He also said that he had experienced sleeplessness the two previous nights- that, although he had learned of the nature of the George Washington Bridge fiasco only one day before. The governor demonstrated an impressive adroitness in language as when, preceding the questions posed him, Christie's opening statement included
This morning I've terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly, effective immediately. I've terminated her employment because she lied to me. I brought my senior staff together I think about four weeks ago tomorrow. And I put to all of them one simple challenge: If there is any information that you know about the decision to close these lanes in Fort Lee, you have one hour to tell either my chief of staff, Kevin O'Dowd, or my chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.
And I told them that in an hour I was going to go out in a press conference. And if no one gave me other information to the contrary that I was going to say that no one on my staff was involved in this matter.
Over the course of the next hour, Kevin and Charlie interviewed each member of my senior staff, came back and reported to me that they all reported that there was no information other than what we already knew that had been testified to by Senator Baroni regarding this incident. I then questioned Kevin O'Dowd and Charlie McKenna directly, since they are the only two who report directly to me, and they assured me that they had no information that would change my ability to be able to say that no one, in response in Angie's (sp) question, on my staff was involved in this matter.
The New Jersey governor appears to confront his staff members. He states "I put to all of them one simple challenge: If there is any information that you know." "You," he reportedly told them, "have one hour." He asserts additionally that he questioned two staff members "directly." No passive verbs there- only the macho language which the media and conservatives have come to know and love.
But a closer examination reveals that Christie interviewed only two individuals. He avoided talking to the three persons who now have been either fired or tendered their resignations, thereby maintaining an ability to express self-serving ignorance while testifying under oath in response to any future subpoena.
Christie's effort was enhanced by the instructions he contends he gave his senior personnel. He apparently told them that if they kept quiet in the following 60 minutes, "I was going to say that no one on my staff was involved in this matter." If they stayed mum, he would tell the media what he- their boss- wanted to be able to report. Alternatively, they could have told the Governor what he didn't want to know and, at best, decide whether they wanted to be fired before or after the leading GOP presidential aspirant embarrassed himself publicly.
So Chris Christie goes before the media and makes a joke about the lane closures. Four days later David Wildstein resigns, writing Bill Baroni "My plan was to leave the agency at some point next year, but the fort Lee issue has been a distraction, and I think it's better to move on earlier. I am grateful to you and Governor Christie for the opportunity to serve." Josh Barro notes
The governor says Kelly lied to him and said she had no involvement in the bridge lane closures. But Kelly wasn't the only person who knew Kelly was involved. In August, she emailed David Wildstein, Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Wouldn't Wildstein have told the governor, in the process of tendering his resignation, that Kelly had told him to do it? Bill Baroni, Christie's top appointee at the Port Authority, was also checking in with Wildstein about whether "Trenton" was happy with the handling of the closures. Why didn't Baroni tell the governor his staff had known?
Nor did it pique the Governor's interest when three days after Wildstein resigned, three Port Authority officials testified that there was no traffic study being conducted when the access lanes to the bridge were closed three months earlier. Nor was the Governor curious when the bridge officials testified also that they had been instructed by Wildstein not to tell Fort Lee officials or Executive Director Patrick Foye (a New York State appointee). Nothing to see here- move on (video below, of Assemblyman Wisniewski, chairperson of Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee and of State Senator Loretta Weinberg, who represents Fort Lee).
But Christie has plenty of motive to delay and deny. Steve Kornacki Thursday evening explained that the (Democratic) Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly
is there because of this coalition of pro-Chris Christie Democrats and Chris Christie. Until yesterday, he was not expected to renew the subpoena power of the state Assembly. This all guess- me just spitballing here but a plausible scenario is he put two and two together, didn't want to ask questions and didn't ask questions and hoped we could get to next Tuesday, when the state session would expire and subpoena power would expire and almost got there. If this story had not come out yesterday and not been directly linked to the governor's office, we wouldn't be having the conversation we're having right now.
Once known as the "tough-as-nails Garden Stater," Christopher J. Christie, as he tries to run out the clock and claims he never really has been the hands-on manager he successfully portrayed himself as, is still the same old Chris Christie, devoted to nothing other than himself.