Thursday, December 19, 2013

What did Chris Christie know, and when did he know it?

By now you've heard of Bridgegate, the New Jersey scandal in which a Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed down several lanes to the George Washington Bridge, ostensibly as a "traffic study," but obviously – let's face it – to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for reelection to governor. The lane closings resulted in 4-hour traffic jams. So the mayor of Fort Lee was not the only one being punished.

The guy who ordered the lane closings, David Wildstein, was a childhood friend of Christie's, but still ...  it is hard to believe that Christie himself would be involved in something so stupid.

Unfortunately, it's becoming less and less hard to believe as time goes by. This can't be good for Christie.

Imagine you are governor of New Jersey. Before you slash your wrists, think about what your reaction would be to learning – after the fact – that one of your political appointees had done something this stupid, punishing your own constituents. What would you do? Would you fire him? Would you demand full disclosure? I would. In a New Jersey minute.

Now compare that to Christie's reaction.

Mark Kleiman has this take on it:
The Wall Street Journal reports that both David Wildstein and Bill Baroni [another Christie appointee to Port Authority] have now “lawyered up.” If you’re Christie, that’s bad. The Journal also reports that they’ve both hired criminal defense lawyers. If you’re Christie, that’s worse.
Wildstein’s lawyer’s previous clients include Sharpe James, the appallingly corrupt Mayor of Newark replaced by Cory Booker, who wound up spending 18 months in a federal penitentiary. If you’re Christie, that’s just awful; Wildstein didn’t hire a top corruption-defense lawyer just to advise him on how to respond to subpoenas. He clearly thinks he’s in deep doo-doo, and probably in deep Federal doo-doo at that.
But the worst news – if you’re Christie – is that Baroni’s lawyer is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey named Michael Himmel.
In 2009, Mr. Himmel also represented Solomon Dwek, a former real estate investor who pleaded guilty to bank fraud and money laundering charges. Mr. Dwek became an FBI informant in a case brought by Mr. Christie that implicated dozens of elected officials in a widespread corruption investigation.
So not only does Baroni think he needs serious criminal defense, he’s hired someone with a history of making deals in which his client gets a break in return for implicating everyone else in sight. (The technical term is “cooperation.”) And the only person above Baroni in the pecking order – the only one Baroni can hope to save himself by snitching on – is Gov. Soprano himself.
 So it's time to pull out the "Watergate Warning" for Governor Christie, a former U.S. Attorney:

It's not the crime they get you for; it's the cover-up. Be careful.

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