Will someone “rat” on Christie?

"A former mayor of Livingston who was known for his brashness and ambition, Wildstein morphed into a New Jersey political svengali. He operated in secrecy running an influential website, PolitickerNJ.com, where he chronicled state politics and saucy political gossip under the pen name Wally Edge. Wildstein was outed in June 2010, just after he was named the director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority. He quickly retreated back into the shadows, rarely attending the agency’s public events or speaking to the press. Critics claimed Wildstein was more interested in carrying out the agenda of his old GOP buddy rather than working to improve the oft-beleaguered bistate agency. "  NY Daily News


IMO Christie will be lucky if he survives this crisis in his political life.  Having watched prosecuters and legislative committees work on things like this I am pessimistic on the governor's chances.  There is a civil class action lawsuit for damages, but worst of all is the performance yesterday of Wildstein before the NJ legislature.  He refused to answer many questions while citing his right to do so under the 5th Amendment.  In my experiece someoone who does this is often constructing a negotiating position for a "deal" with some future prosecuter. 

My guess is that there are many people who can be pressured in one way or another into "dropping a dime" on Christie.  Rats do not "hang together" under fire.  pl


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44 Responses to Will someone “rat” on Christie?

  1. Charles says:

    Col Lang,
    When I was with the OIG I had the pleasure of visiting Ft Monmouth on several audits. On one visit I bought a tee shirt for my wife at the local mall. The words “New Jersey – Because Hell is Full” were emblazoned across the front. 🙂
    Actually the nearby seaside resort of Long Branch is quite nice. There are several excellent restaurants on the boardwalk.
    I rarely have much to contribute but I really enjoy reading your BLOG. Thank you.

  2. Medicine Man says:

    Col.: I think you are right about this. As I watched Christie shift the entirety of the blame onto his staffer (Bridget Kelly) and claim ignorance I realized that he has nothing to offer the 2-3 people who have been caught and can roll over on him.
    I don’t think we’re going to see your theory about how well the “Joisy” attitude sells outside of Christie’s state get tested in nation wide primaries; though I think you were probably right about that too.

  3. dan bradburd says:

    So sad the James Gandolfini is dead. It would be priceless to see him play Christie in, I can’t resist, “A Bridge Too Far.”

  4. optimax says:

    Bridget Kelley was “the governor’s liaison to other government agencies.” She was the two way pipeline between Christie and his agencies–he had to have known and at the least consented to this childish retribution. What might keep Kelley from ratting out Christie is his deceased step-uncles high-level placement in the Genovese crime family.

  5. JohnH says:

    It’s clear to me that Christie knew. The lane closures went on for four days, creating a traffic nightmare. And Christie didn’t even bother to ask: “What’s going on here?” Give me a break.

  6. toto says:

    Depressed enough yet? Well, chew on this: if Christie is out, it means that the next election is likely to turn into Yet Another Bush (Jeb) vs Clinton Contest.
    “Hereditary dynasties? In MY republic? It’s more likely than you think.”

  7. Edward Amame says:

    The local media is having a field day with this. It’s everywhere. My favorite story so far is about about how Christie stood up at a press conference in 2010 and announced the firing of his education commissioner for misleading him about giving missing info to the feds after a huge federal grant had been blown due to a clerical error. The next day the fired commissioner gave reporters e-mails directly contradicting Christie.
    It’s pretty apparent this guy has no allies in the press. Maybe he’s roughed them up a little too much over the years. Now they’re gleefully turning him into Nixon.

  8. Edward Amame says:

    In the press conference, Christie was specifically asked by a reporter if Bridget Kelly was allowed to make policy. His answer was no, that, as you said, she was a liaison. So she could not have initiated the closures. I believe her direct boss is Christie’s chief of staff, who BTW, was just nominated by the gov to be NJ’s attorney general.

  9. Mark Logan says:

    Clearly, Bridget The Bully thought the whole thing up. She has also apparently frightened Chris so deeply that he is “not interested” in her reasoning.
    Batteredboss Syndrome, or “BS” for short.

  10. VietnamVet says:

    This episode is just another indication of the indifference our leaders have for the voters. For four days his constituents were stuck for hours and hours in traffic jams on George Washington Bridge by orders of his staff. He didn’t know what was going on and didn’t try to find out. More likely, he did know and didn’t care.

  11. Stephanie says:

    Or “Bring Me the Head of Bridget Kelly.”
    Christie didn’t sound as if he cared much about his ex-aide’s bruised feelings. He just tossed her in a ditch and buried her.

  12. oofda says:

    Wildstein refused to answer ANY questions other than give his name. He asserted his rights under the Fifth Amendment for every question, even when asked about whether parts had been redacted.
    One fact that has not gotten much discussion is that the four-day traffic jam on the GWB took place during the 9/11 anniversary. USG and state officials are concerned about terrorist commenoration attacks, and the GWB, described is the busiest in the world, is one location cited as a potential target. To cause massive traffic jams in that location- and on that day- is unbelievably irresponsible. And criminal. And that is not even considering the 91-year old woman who died after emergency assistance was delayed in responding to her heart attack.
    And today’s release of several hundred emails has only raised further questions about Christie’s participation- as well has his veracity.

  13. Marco Naccio says:

    While the overall level of schadenfreude in the media is vastly entertaining, I suspect Christie may well survive. Think back, if you will, to the Clinton-Lewinsky contretemps. Many said Bubba was toast; but contrary to such expectations he made it through the gauntlet.
    Unless some truly incriminating emails emerge, or some other indictment-worthy evidence, Christie will stick around. In a perverse way, I’m almost hoping he does make it through, so that the voters in early primary states can deliver a truly punishing blow to his ego.

  14. Walrus says:

    Christies behaviour is entirely consistent with narcissism, they are great vengeful, haters with long memories.

  15. Walrus says:

    P.S. Christies behaviour is also entirely consistent with the Singaporean model of “democracy” – “unfortunate things” happen to geographic electorates who cross the ruling party.

  16. turcopolier says:

    Clinton was already president. pl

  17. turcopolier says:

    She is not dead. pl

  18. steve says:

    I agree with you concerning the media and its assuredness.
    What saved Bubba was that the public saw the scandal as a partisan-driven power grab and, frankly, it didnt care that much anyway about Bubba’s sex life as a political issue.
    The day he was impeached, his approval rating hit 70%.
    I think here, though, the media’s and the public’s views on Christie may be similar: extremely petty political vindictiveness.

  19. Alba Etie says:

    Ewwwww ~ may be time to look seriously at third party nationally

  20. Alba Etie says:

    Yep – it one thing having a girlfriend while in public office – quite another to have first responders not being able to get to an emergency scene.

  21. nick b says:

    The reason I have problems believing Christie was personally involved in this was it’s over the top ham-handedness. Christie knows petty paybacks. He stripped former Gov. Cody of his state police protection after a disagreement. I believe he also fired a relative of Cody’s in the PA the same day. He’s blocked pols from press conferences in their districts over disagreements, including former Republican Gov. Tom Kean. Payback is usually personally directed. That’s how the game is played.
    Messing with the traffic patterns of the George Washington Bridge and grid locking the boro of Ft Lee, for four days, and over the anniversary of 9/11 no less, just to get back at a mayor of town of 35,000 for lack of an endorsement just seems so far over the top, that it strains credulity. Christie may be petty, but he’s not stupid.
    Both Christie and Sokolich were pretty adamant that they didn’t know each other (though they did got to Seton Hall law school together, hmmm.) I’m willing to bet that Sokolich has more of a relation to Bill Baroni and/or David Wildstein than he is letting on. (Sokolich obviously had Baroni’s cell # as he was able to text him).
    Even though it’s hard for me to believe, it seems clear from reading through the emails and texts (posted on Mother Jones) that Sokolich really was the target of this mess. But why? No endorsement doesn’t seem to me to be much of a slight, but the payback seems like a reaction to an enormous betrayal, because of its breadth and visibility. Something else is going on here, and I think it’s between Sokolich and Bill Baroni. The only thing I can imagine is that Christie’s people in the PA and his staff felt that they had done something for Sokolich that demanded his loyalty. It must’ve been a heavy lift too, based on the reaction to the ‘betrayal’. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s more to this story than we know. Of this, I am highly confident.
    As for Christie, he’s a smart fellow and as a former US attorney and NJ state AG, he knows his way around an investigation. He also has many strings to pull to be sure he survives this. Wildstein and Baroni have already lawyered up in a big way. With Wildstein hiring Newark’s former Mayor Sharpe Jame’s lawyer, and Baroni hiring a former asst US attny from Christie’s old office. I don’t know if this is a good or bad portent for Christie, but if I had to guess, Baroni will stay in the fold and Wildstein will be sacrificed.
    Ultimately, Christie’s fate will be decided on whether or not he knew anything about this. I would suspect he either didn’t, or made it a point not to know, a la Sgt. Schultz. I don’t see this damaging him too badly in NJ. Horrible traffic around the GWB (and the lincoln and the holland and the tappan zee) is just a fact of life in north Jersey. The bridge could have just as easily clogged up for four day over a series of unlucky traffic accidents. People will forget, and if he wants, Christie can probably govern NJ for at least another term or longer.
    Being 51 years old, he doesn’t have to run for President in this cycle. He could easily wait it out, and continue building his brand and softening his edges.

  22. nick b says:

    A NJ governor can only be elected for 2 consecutive terms, though there is no limit to the amount of terms one can serve. Christie will not be able to run for governor in the next cycle. My apologies for the error.

  23. Tyler says:

    Jersey is such a basket case of a state, and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Christie try to position himself for a run. Because the last time we ran a ‘centrist’ from the Northeast worked out really well for us. Signed an amnesty too – f-cking disgusting in light of the unemployment issues all around.
    Good to see Christie getting a taste of the ol McCain treatment: They love him when he’s a ‘maverick’ and then turn on him when there’s blood in the water or he’s fighting against a beloved Democrat.
    Still, I’m amazed at the arrogance of the FedGov in pushing an “investigation” into this when STILL no one has been charged or indicted for the death of BPA Brian Terry due to Fast and Furious, or for stonewalling what happened during Benghazi, or any of the other scandals that have plagued this administration.
    But a traffic jam in Jersey? Better get the DOJ on the case immediately.

  24. Fred says:

    His staff didn’t give a damn either. Just wait till they get promotd or elected to office.

  25. Stephanie says:

    That’s how the game is played — by Christie. He did a good deal more than that to spite Codey:
    ” The series of petty actions against Codey began when about $800,000 — earmarked for a program to raise awareness about mental health problems for women — was removed from the state’s $30 billion annual budget.
    Codey’s wife, Mary Jo, helped launch the initiative — because she had suffered from postpartum depression.”
    Sure sounds like over-the-top hamhandedness to me. Even if no smoking gun emerges, Christie has the knave-or-fool choice in front of him. He’s clearly chosen the latter.

  26. Valissa says:

    As is often the case, snark from The Onion highlights what people are really thinking about this political mess 🙂
    Voters Shocked Christie Botched Such An Easy Political Cover-Up http://www.theonion.com/articles/voters-shocked-christie-botched-such-an-easy-polit,34909/

  27. Medicine Man says:

    That’s what it looks like, but in truth she is taking the fall for him voluntarily. If this blows over and Christie survives, Kelly will be rewarded after she gets out of prison. Look to Mayor Daley’s survival to see the parallels.
    The reason I find Col. Lang’s appraisal of Christie’s chances compelling is the fact that the state legislature likely has three people dead to rights. It is a buyer’s market for rats; a classic prisoner’s dilemma. Our host’s comment about rats not hanging together under fire was very precise.

  28. Mark Logan says:

    Walrus, I see vindictiveness as the line that separates benign from malignant narcissists. I suspect most of the benign can turn malignant too, when placed in an environment that encourages a sense of invulnerability, or perhaps allowing ends to justify means too easily.
    Chris Christie, displaying something very close to a sense of invulnerability:
    Would it be a huge surprise if this guy’s imps started hatching their own little schemes?

  29. robt willmann says:

    A question is, how and by whom was this story about the bridge obstruction and Chris Christie first revealed or leaked? I have not followed this situation closely, but I read that some of the inquiry was in the New Jersey legislature, which I think is largely Democrat. Is there any information that a Democrat or the Democratic party was involved in getting the relevations out into the public, which could include, by extension, Bill and Hillary Clinton?
    The whole thing does seem disconnected from reality. How is a “traffic study”, apparently ordered by a port authority and not the mayor of the small community, which snarled up traffic on the bridge, going to harm that Democratic mayor who did not endorse Christie? But because of the special privileges the organization known as a government has, politics can, and does, bring out the worst in people. I guess it is theoretically possible that Christie or an assistant thought that he or she would teach the Democratic mayor a lesson and retaliate by causing traffic congestion that the mayor could not have ordered, as human beings have an unlimited capacity to be petty and vindictive.
    Since Christie may be a presidential candidate, some political operators will want to knock him out before the 2016 election season begins. Remember what happened to Howard Dean? He was against the Iraq war, and both he and his wife are physicians. By the morning after the 2004 Democratic primary’s Iowa caucuses, the audio of his speech and rah-rah yell to his enthusiastic and noisy supporters had been filtered and enhanced so that he sounded as if he was screaming in a quiet room, and the “talking point” that his yell meant he was crazy and unbalanced was everywhere in the media, including on the Internet Drudge report, and repeated constantly from that day forward. Dean’s campaign never recovered. That political hit job was obviously coordinated through media organizations overnight.
    Speaking of Dean, a friend who had been involved in national Republican politics in the 1960’s through the 1970’s told me as the 2004 campaign began and before the Iowa primary that Howard Dean as he appeared at that time was a formidable presidential candidate.
    This bridge mess does not help Christie. Roger Stone, who has been a political operator for decades, and was close to Richard Nixon, worked in Reagan campaigns, and despised New York’s Eliot Spitzer, thinks that this situation is very damaging to Christie–

  30. turcopolier says:

    Story in the news today that the muscle was imposed in an effort to gain influence over the re-development acreage just south of the bridge in Ft. Lee. pl

  31. nick b says:

    I didn’t see the story, but if it’s redevelopment zone no. 5, sometimes called the ‘helmsley property’, it has a long history. http://www.bergen.com/History_A_Mayor_with_Moxie.html

  32. walrus says:

    “The reason I have problems believing Christie was personally involved in this was it’s over the top ham-handedness. …….
    Messing with the traffic patterns of the George Washington Bridge and grid locking the boro of Ft Lee, for four days, and over the anniversary of 9/11 no less, just to get back at a mayor of town of 35,000 for lack of an endorsement just seems so far over the top, that it strains credulity.”
    One of the reasons Narcissists are so damaging is that their actions on occasion are so unreasonable, ham handed and incredible that normal people have trouble believing what they are seeing.
    We struggle to invent rational explanations and fail every time. As a general rule, when you see a public figure performing a “for crying out loud, how could anyone be so dumb?” action, you are looking at a narcissist.

  33. nick b says:

    generally, I agree with you, though I still have a hunch there is a very specific reason for this “third rate traffic jam”.
    I would ask a chicken/egg question as we discuss cabbages and kings. Does narcissism come from power, or one must one possess it to obtain power?

  34. Alba Etie says:

    Supposed to be a billion dollar project

  35. Stephanie says:

    Mayor Sokolich has said that complaining callers told him that Port Authority police officers told them that the lane closures were the mayor’s fault. Highly unlikely they would tell people that without instructions from above.
    The story became a story largely due to the persisitence of reporter John Cichowski of The Record. Patrick Foye, a PA executive from the New York side, saw Cichowski’s repeated inquiries and eventually ordered the lanes re-opened and called for an investigation. He noted the lane closings were in violation of both federal and state law. The New Jersey legislature has a Democratic leadership and naturally they took an interest. State Senator Loretta Weinberg represents Fort Lee, the affected community, and in the past Christie has encouraged reporters to “take a bat on” her.
    It’ll continue to be a story because a) the news cycle remains slow; 2) it plays into Christie’s reputation for pettiness and bullying; 3) Christie’s presser raised more questions than it answered; and 4) Christie’s a potential Presidential candidate.
    If the whole thing ended tomorrow Christie might not be hurt in the long run. I don’t think it will go away, however.

  36. Margaret Steinfels says:

    Herewith the NYTimes take on Bridget Kelly. Sounds like the kind of life turmoil that might show up on Oprah (if she still exists!).

  37. Edward Amame says:

    The Abury Park Press reports that there’s a federal probe that’s now looking into into possible irregularities involving the post-Sandy NJ tourism spots that ran all this past summer (before the election) and that starred the governor and his family.
    The APP has been doing some reporting on this story itself and this one’s good:
    The local press is all over Christie.

  38. Fred says:

    Plenty of room and incentive in a billion dollar project. All the more reason for demanding integrity in elected officials and thier subordinate staffers.

  39. Mark Logan says:

    The “large project” theory seems to fit with the WSJ’s odd rage. Odd in that it is against one of their own favorites, Christie.
    If the bankers who have spent years crafting the funding of this project believed they were on the verge of collecting their fees think this stunt was intended to screw with it happening…

  40. Fred says:

    This is just one of many. Think of all the low level staffers and other carreer political science types who are being taught that not only are stunts like this okay, but that the proper method of sourcing projects is via political connections, not compettitve bidding.

  41. nick b says:

    Fred and Mark,
    The history of this property is long and tawdry. But consider a few things: The developers were chosen by mayor/council of Fort Lee, not the Governor’s office. Their reasons were public, and seem reasonable and businesslike, at least to me.
    The ‘the modern’ project is a SJP development, or Steven J Pozycki development. He is one of, if not the largest developer in the state of NJ. His developments in Hoboken have been very successful, and shortly after the traffic jam (9/16), he had a very public press conference with Christie and others to announce that the Panasonic corp would be moving into one of his developments in Newark. This was a fairly big deal for Newark. These projects, like the Fort Lee project, have been funded by SJP’s traditional banker: Prudential real estate.
    I also believe that Mr. Pozycki is the son of Harry Pozycki, a former politician turned anti corruption citizen activist who was the force behind NJ’s ‘pay to play’ laws.
    The other project: ‘Hudson lights’ is an amalgam of developers including out of state Tucker development, Kushner real estate(not Jared, his cousin) and Tishman construction from NYC. Their financing came from Santander (formerly Sovereign bank).
    None of these people are particularly big donors to any political party with the exception of Tishman. Though all seem to favor Democrats in what small bits of political donations they give.
    I keep looking for clues in these projects as to what could have prompted this scandal, but I keep coming up empty.
    Anyway, Fred, I think the process looked pretty clean and deliberate for this development. I’m guessing low level staffers and political science types are scratching their heads like the rest of us.
    Mark, is Christie really one of WSJ’s ‘own’? Or perhaps they have someone else in mind for 2016 and don’t mind publishing Christie’s problems?

  42. Mark Logan says:

    nick b,
    Thanks for the reply and the information. I considered him one of WSJ’s “own” purely on the letter behind his name.
    I believe the logic of the “big project” theory lays in the intended target still being the city itself.
    The only way this theory makes any sense (to me)is as a plot to spook the developers by making them worry that they would not be able to sell the units. At a critical time during the negotiations, leading them to suspect access to it was a nightmare for commuters might do that. All damage done to the bankers and developers themselves would be purely collateral.

  43. Jonathan says:

    Here we are, three weeks to the day after this was posted here and the answer is yes and the person is David Wildstein.
    New York Times:
    Ex-Port Authority Official Says ‘Evidence Exists’ Christie Knew About Lane Closings

  44. turcopolier says:

    Jonathan It was always just a rhetorical question. Wildstein must have made some sort of deal. There will now be a rush to inform on the fat guy. pl

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