Governor Christie would dearly love for Bridgegate to go away, but that’s not happening any time soon. If you haven’t been following the story lately, the scandal is unfolding quietly, mostly behind the scenes, and it’s gaining momentum.
Perhaps most importantly, the US attorney Paul Fishman—who, unlike his predecessor, Chris Christie, doesn’t hold constant news conferences and leak information to any and all—has expanded his inquiry beyond its initial focus, which was an investigation of charges by Hoboken’s mayor, Dawn Zimmer, that New Jersey’s lieutenant governor had threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy recovery aid unless Zimmer backed a development project in her city that was supported by Christie. Now, according to Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, the US attorney’s office in Newark reached out to Sokolich for a meeting, and the mayor did indeed go down to Newark to talk to the federal prosecutors.
So, not only is the joint legislative committee expanding its investigation beyond Bridgegate to include a wider look at Christie’s role in unrelated actions, such as the decision in 2011 to shut down a multibillion-dollar Hudson River transit tunnel project and Christie’s involvement with the Port Authority’s vast patronage machine. Now the federal prosecutors are looking beyond Hoboken to the George Washington Bridge lane closing issue, too. As Bill Clinton found out with the Kenneth Starr investigation—which started with Whitewater but ended up with Monica Lewinsky—once the feds start looking into your affairs, they don’t stop.
Christie, appearing on New Jersey’s 101.5 radio program, Ask the Governor, last night, downplayed the whole thing:
“You folks [the media] are the only people at the moment who are asking me about this. … We’re going through an internal investigation [and] I’m not going to give into the hysteria. I am no longer going to speculate on things I don’t know about.”
Christie got some support from an unusual ally, namely, Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas and Tea Party icon who’s a rival for the 2016 presidential nomination:
“I think the whole Bridgegate thing is nonsense. I think it’s an example of the media piling on. Apparently the most important thing in the country is that there was some traffic in New Jersey.”
But it’s not just the media piling on. So is the US attorney, it appears, and the state legislature—despite Republican opposition—is continuing its probe. Today they released more, unredacted e-mails from David Wildstein of the Port Authority and Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, which—though they shed no new light on whether Christie knew or didn’t know about the lane closures—make for some interesting reading. (You can read the e-mails, in full, at the committee’s web site.)
Meanwhile, on the Port Authority front, it’s beginning to look worse and worse for David Samson, the PA chairman and one of Christie’s key allies. (You can read earlier installments from Christie Watch on the PA issue here and here.) Calls have come from various quarters for Samson to resign, not just because of his possible involvement in Bridgegate but because he’s used the PA as a piggybank for his law firm’s involvement in PA projects. Now, in an interview with the New York Daily News, the PA’s executive director, Patrick Foye, said in so many words that it’s time for Samson to go. Asked by the News whether Samson “has the moral authority to run the Port Authority” Foye said, “No.” He added: “I am not going to elaborate, but that’s my view.” Foye also called the lane closures last September “aberrational and immoral.”