Christie comes full circle
By Jennifer Rubin, September 19, 2016
A Republican colleague and former admirer of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie emails, “He goes from U.S. attorney to being outed by the U.S. attorney in court. What a fall.” Christie began his climb to national prominence as a U.S. Attorney appointed by George W. Bush, and was for a time a favorite in both the 2012 and 2016 races. Now it’s all a distant memory.
My GOP colleague is referring to the proceedings of the Bridgegate criminal trial:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal while it was taking place, according to federal prosecutors making their opening statements Monday morning in the trial of two former allies of the governor accused of creating gridlock in Fort Lee to punish the town’s mayor for not endorsing Christie’s 2013 re-election.Both sides agree Christie knew of the gambit at the time, meaning, if true, he repeatedly lied to the media and public when he claimed he was entirely in the dark about his aides payback effort to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for declining to endorse Christie for governor.
The governor, who has denied any knowledge of the scandal until months later, was told about the lane closures at a Sept. 11 memorial service at the World Trade Center in 2013, three days into the closures, prosecutor Vikas Khanna told jurors.
Christie was not found to have committed any crime, but if he directly and repeatedly misled voters he needs to resign. Right now.
What about his role as senior adviser to Donald Trump and head of Trump’s transition team? Trump calls himself the “law and order” candidate, a moniker that is becoming a punch line in light of revelations about his foundation’s payment of a $2,500 fine. Having Christie at the helm only cements the image of two big-city bullies who cut corners and conceal the truth to serve their voracious ambitions.
Trump, if he desires, can stick by Christie. However, Trump then will re-open the issue of his judgment and the people whom he selects to have around him. Far from the “best people,” his chooses those unqualified for their spots and/or plagued by ethical or temperamental flaws.
A glance at the roster of those currently or previously part of his inner circle (e.g., Retired general and Vladimir Putin sycophant Mike Flynn; alt-right website mogul Stephen K. Bannon; lobbyist to the human-rights violators and enabler of Russia against U.S. ally Ukraine Paul Manafort; bizarrely uninformed and unhinged spokesperson Katrina Pierson) reveals a hodgepodge of bullies, know-nothings and shady characters. Trump found Manafort — and before him — Corey Lewandowski (another fellow with a bully-boy reputation) disposable. It remains to be seen whether Christie, whom he openly has shown disdain (e.g. making him an errand boy, taunting Christie over his weight despite Trump’s near-obesity), will be kept on or discarded in the final run up to the election as an unnecessary distraction.
Meanwhile, the people of New Jersey and their elected representatives have every reason to demand answers. Were they lied to? What did Christie know and when did he know it? Whatever the final resolution, the latest revelation caps one of the most stunning political falls from grace in the past decade or so.