Thursday, March 12, 2015

Say it ain't so! It begins to look as if NJ Guv Kris "The Athlete" Krispy may (gasp!) have fibbed about Bridgegate!


Governor Krispy is flanked by two members of the crackerjack Krispyteam he installed as New Jersey's half of the leadership team of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey: now-former Deputy Exec Director Bill Baroni (left) and the Krispyman's high school chum David Wildstein, uh, some other fat guy who just went to the same high school at the same time as the governor.

"Let me just clear something up, okay? About my 'childhood friend' David Wildstein. We didn't travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president, and an athlete. I don't know what David was doing."
-- NJ Guv Kris "The Athlete" Krispy, at the famous January
2014 "Lies! Lies! And more lies!" press conference

WNYC's Andrea Bernstein reports on the team's findings today on Morning Edition.

by Ken

It was almost like Camelot, the dynamic, visionary team that NJ Guv Kris Krispy sent to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is staffed half and half by the governors of New York and New Jersey. Of course the Krispyteam is all gone now, its shining lights having one by one hastily packed their stuff and vamoosed a step ahead of the law.

It was a bold gamble the Krispyman took that day in January 2014 when he held the marathon press conference at which he laid to rest all those scurrilous things vicious people (like "the press") had been saying about his presumed knowledge of and participation in the punitive closing off of crucial Fort Lee access to the George Washington Bridge -- aka Bridgegate. His Krispiness was gambling that, even with all the incriminating e-mails that had already surfaced to and from members of his inner circles showing them to be up to their ears in the payback against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for failing to endorse the Krispyman's reelection bid. nobody could disprove the bold lies he decided to tell.

One piece of business was obviously crucial to the scheme: distancing his rotund self from that low-down weasel David Wildstein, whom the Fatman had appointed as PANYNJ's $150K "director of Interstate capital projects" because of . . . well, just because. Certainly not because this guy7 what's-his-name was an old school crony of the governor.

Incredibly, the brazen Krispyscheme sort of worked. While it's possible that some residue of the Bridgegate mess, not to mention the plague of scandals also attached to the Krispy admnistration, had something to do with the deflating of the Krispyblimp the governor hoped would float to the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, that's hard to pin down. Certainly all of the scandals, along with the guy's basic lordly-punk demeanor, had something to do with it. And the governor's tanking poll numbers in his own state suggest that the jig, while perhaps not quite up, isn't up and dancing.

Still, Krispy has yet to be unmasked as the liar, bully, and extortionist he clearly is. And let us not forget Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's utterly plausible accusation of a gangland-style hit by the governor's team, threatening to withhold the Sandy relief funds passing through their sticky fingers en route to beleaguered Hobokenites. After all, if you take away the Krispy bluster and bullying, what do you have left? Ladies and germs, I give you Gov.Kris "The Athlete" Krispy.

For a bluff of this magnitude, I'd say that's pretty darned good -- say, maybe, 8 on a scale of 10. Not bad at all for a guy who should have had to resign in his job in disgrace, the way all his PANYNJ appointees did, and then sweat out the wait for the appropriate state and federal indictments.

Given the general silence surrounding the ongoing investigations, it's not hard to forget that there are ongoing investigations. In a way it's a shame the presidential Krispyblimp has deflated. It would have been more fun if the fallout to come fell out on a GOP presidential front-runner or even actual nominee.

I don't begin to suggest that the Krispyman is ever going to be held to account for more than a tiny fraction of even his illegal activities, and forget the merely unethical ones. Still, there's still a chance that some of the more egregious lies will unravel. I'm sure, for example, that it hasn't been lost in the Krispy Inner Circle, either the pre- or post-Bridgegate version, that what's-his-name, the $150K PANYNJ guy -- that's right, Wildstein -- is singing to the federal prosecutors in an effort to save some of his oversize carcass.

And now a team of Public Radio reporters from New York's WNYC and New Jersey Public Radio have had the effrontery to go rummaging around among, you know, the facts. Right-wingers, as we know, hate facts, which are merely left-wing conspiracies against honest patriots. And based on "examination of calendars maintained by David Wildstein during his four years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with a review of more than 1,000 photographs provided by the Port Authority and thousands of pages of documents released by the governor’s own legal team and the New Jersey Legislature," NJPR's Matt Katz and WNYC'S Andrea Bernstein are claiming: "The political operative who helped mastermind the notorious lane closures at the George Washington Bridge -- and is now cooperating with a federal investigation of the Bridgegate scandal -- had more extensive contact with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's inner circle than the governor has acknowledged."

It can't be!

No direct link yet to the Krispyman himself, except insofar as reasonable observers might be led to conclude that he has been, er, fibbing pretty steadily in his indignant public denails of involvement. And the larger danger to Krispyworld is that once prosecutors and voters accept the pattern -- that Governor Krispy lies freely, baldy, and remorselessly whenever it suits him -- all sorts of other dark alleyways of his administration may be up for review with considerable prejudice.

Here's just an upfront chunk of Matt Katz and Andrea Bernstein's report. The kind of vast sifting operation undertaken here yields up tiny bits of incriminating detail scattered across the tainted landscape, so by all means check out the rest.
Christie has insisted he had little to do with Wildstein, his former $150,000-a-year appointee at the Port Authority with whom he attended Livingston High School in the 1970s.

“I don’t even remember in the last four years even having a meeting in my office with David Wildstein,” Christie said at his marathon two-hour press conference in January 2014, after the legislature released Bridgegate records including the now infamous email to Wildstein declaring, “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Christie told reporters:  “I may have, but I don’t remember it.”

But the documents, corroborated by current and former Port Authority and Trenton staffers who requested anonymity because of the ongoing federal investigation, paint a new picture of Wildstein’s role in the Christie Administration. That view chips away at Christie’s and his lawyers’ portrayal of Wildstein as a rogue employee largely isolated from the governor who acted with one staffer in closing lanes and causing epic traffic jams on the roadways of Fort Lee for four morning commutes in September 2013.

The records and interviews indicate that during his tenure at the Port Authority, Wildstein met at least twice with Christie and others in the governor's office, joined Christie at seven public events and had regular meetings with Christie's closest confidantes. On the day after a news report revealed that Wildstein was involved in the mysterious lane closures, his calendar had one 14-hour entry: Trenton.

Wildstein’s schedules list seven meetings at the statehouse, but his calendars are sometimes inconsistent with records maintained by the Christie Administration, and WNYC was not able to independently confirm the five other meetings took place.

The digital calendar entries were posted on an obscure section of the Port Authority’s website. Wildstein did not return repeated emails and his attorney, Alan Zegas, would not comment.

The difficulty of corroborating events in the calendars can be shown by examining one entry on a Sunday in November 2013 as the Bridgegate scandal was unfolding. Wildstein listed a 1 p.m. meeting with “CC” —the governor’s initials — at the Black Horse Tavern in Mendham, down the road from the governor’s house and across the street from his family’s church. "There was no meeting with the governor," said Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman.

Many governors make their meeting schedules public. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo posts his on the internet. But when WNYC requested Christie’s own meeting schedules under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, the request was denied. WNYC sued to obtain the documents; a judge ruled against the request.

WNYC’s reporting shows extensive contact between Wildstein and Christie’s top staff, notably the people involved with the governor's political career. Wildstein’s schedules – in entries verified by interviews — show almost monthly meetings with Bill Stepien, Christie’s top political aide at the statehouse and the manager of Christie’s two campaigns. Through his attorney, Stepien has said that he had nothing to do with the lane closures. Stepien and Wildstein had been friends since working together on a campaign in 2000.

“I was well aware he was going down to Trenton and briefing Stepien regularly,” said one former official who didn’t want his name used for fear of reprisals. The official said Wildstein spoke of traveling to “Trenton to deal with the politics” of Port Authority decisions.

The calendars also show lunches and dinners with Christie’s top outside strategist, Mike DuHaime of Mercury Public Affairs.

WNYC’s reexamination of Wildstein’s role in the Christie Administration comes as the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, Paul Fishman, enters the 15th month of his Bridgegate probe. The federal investigation began after the legislature released an email showing a Christie deputy chief of staff telling Wildstein: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”  When the email became public, Christie distanced himself from Wildstein.

“I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I had with David Wildstein since he worked at the Port Authority,” the governor said during a news conference at the statehouse.

Yet official photos released by the Port Authority show Wildstein among an inner circle of agency officials who attended five public events with the governor. Photos show Wildstein speaking with Christie during at least two of them: A June 2013 ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the raising of the Bayonne Bridge and at the World Trade Center memorial ceremony on Sept. 11, 2013, which took place during the lane closures. . . .

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