The other day Barbara Morrill at Daily Kos gloated (justifiably) at the headlines following release of an "investigation" led by a lawyer closely connected with Chris Christie. They included
Chris Christie Cleared of Bridge Traffic Role by Attorney He Hired; Official said he told Christie of Lane Closure in Bridge Scandal Review... Governor Doesn't Remember Conversation: Report: Christie Informed of Lane Closures in Septmeber: Chris Christie's Lawyer Says Chris Christie Did Nothing Wrong; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Lawyer Says Governor not Involved in Traffic Jam Plot; Christie's Lawyer: Governor Not Involved in Bridgegate Plot; Christie's Lawyers Clear Governor, Expand Bridge Scandal Blame; Christie 'played no role whatsoever' in Bridge Lane Closures, Says Christie's Investigator.
But the report may have been more revealing than generally suspected. As part of her commentary (video below) Thursday evening, Rachel Maddow explained
First, during the cover-up, while the legislature was being told the cover story that was designed to cover up what really happened when they closed the lanes on that bridge, literally during that testimony, an e-mail was sent to the governor`s office, to the governor`s spokesman exclaiming how great and important it was that the governor`s office had not been blamed. That had not come up in the testimony. An e-mail during that testimony from David Wildstein to Governor Christie`s spokesman, quote, "Most importantly, Governor Christie was not brought into this."
They were already worried about governor Christie potentially being implicated in this in late November while they were trying to sell the cover story.
Also, new information, we also know whose handwriting this is. This is a draft of that cover-up testimony that was delivered to the legislature back in November. We had previously seen this draft and could tell it was all marked up by someone, but we didn`t know whose handwritten notations these were, editing that testimony, obviously trying to shine it up a little bit. We now know whose handwriting it is. We know it`s the handwriting of the governor`s current chief of staff, Regina Egea, and a staffer named Nicole Crifo, she`s another senior staffer in the governor`s office at the time.
In today`s report from the governor`s lawyers, footnote 549 helpfully notes that those two staffers are the two senior Chris Christie staffers who admit that those are their handwritten comments on the testimony about the cover story. So they helped edit it. We now know that.
We also learned that the governor`s chief counsel, Charlie McKenna, also advised Bill Baroni on that cover-up testimony and also learned it was Governor Christie`s personal direction that Bill Baroni should give that testimony, that he should appear before the legislature and give that testimony which, again, was a fake cover story.
We also learned from this report today that Governor Christie was told at least three times including by his political adviser Mike DuHaime, that people involved with the lane closures had claimed that the governor senior staff was in on it, and that there was e-mails reflecting the fact that someone on the governor`s senior staff was in on what happened on that bridge. He was notified of that three times before he ever admitted to that publicly.
We also know that even though the governor said publicly on December 19th that he wasn`t asking any questions about the bridge issue, he wasn`t looking it, he said if you`re asking me if I`ve done independent investigation, the answer is no. When he said that on December 19th, the governor was not telling the truth. A week earlier he had, in fact, started investigating. Independently. What his staff knew and when they knew it.
Whoa! Let's go back to the beginning of the excerpt (in video below, beginning at approximately 11:40):
an e-mail was sent to the governor`s office, to the governor`s spokesman exclaiming how great and important it was that the governor`s office had not been blamed. That had not come up in the testimony. An e-mail during that testimony from David Wildstein to Governor Christie`s spokesman, quote, "Most importantly, Governor Christie was not brought into this."
Bill Baroni, an appointee of to the Port Authority who resigned effective January 1 over the bridge scandal, was scrupulously loyal to the Governor, even fashioning false (unsworn) testimony before the NJ state legislature, and taking part in a scheme to bilk Port Authority commuters to enhance the popular image of Governor Christie (and of New York Governor Cuomo). So he would not lightly have "brought into this" Governor Christie and would have avoided it unless the latter at least had known about the lane closure.
Most importantly, Governor Christie was not brought into this. Why would he- why could he possibly have been- were he not actually involved somehow? David Wildstein might have been making it up, simply throwing in the line for posterity, anticipating that one day the scheme would be uncovered and turned into a scandal, and the e-mail would be one piece of the bargaining chip his lawyer could use to get him immunity. But he gave a Christie loyalist, the governor's spokesman, a line she could have repudiated, had there been any reason to.
Apparently, though, she didn't, or Randy Mastro certainly would have noted, even highlighted, it. That he did not suggests that Wildstein's e-mail, if not a smoking gun, is at least incriminating.