New Jersey USA kicks up the heat on Bridgegate Krispykronies, and we learn some nasty new stuff
It remains to be seen how badly David Wildstein, who pled guilty today to a menu of federal charges, can hurt his old high school pal, Governor Krispy.
It wasn't a happy day for His Eminence the Rat Bastard Satrap of New Jersey Kris Krispy, which by itself is cause for celebration among decent folk everywhere. Now it wasn't all that bad a day for the Krispyman, since nothing that happened was unexpected, so maybe it's not time for tumultuous singing and dancing in the streets.
Still, it can't be a source of comfort for NJ Fats that that altar boy of conventional political wisdom washingtonpost.com's "Fix"-master, Chris Cillizza, is spreading the word that "Bridgegate is still a BIG problem for Chris Christie," because even if the governor can never be tied conclusively to what seemingly every one of his staffers is now known to have been implicated in, "If the first or second thing every voter in Iowa or New Hampshire thinks when meeting him is "Oh, that's the bridge guy," he's doomed."
So what happened today? First, this morning, David "The Wild Man" Wildstein was indicted and pled guilty to a menu of counts that finger him as the one who ordered the closure of the access to the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, the Krispykronies' scheme for punishing Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for declining to endorse the Krispyman for reelection.
Which means that we got our first look at the actual indictment(s) against Wildstein. You'll recall that the Wild Man was -- depending on whose account you credit -- either a high school buddy of the governor or (the governor's version) some weird guy who was a student at the same school at the same time as the governor but who was some kind of loner far removed from the circle of that star athlete, Young Kris Krispy. In most accounts from people familiar with the way the Krispy administration works, though, the Wild Man was a gung-ho, take-no-prisoners hatchet man and enforcer for the administration.
The other shoe that dropped was the announcement by USA Attorney Paul Fishman of indictments against two unquestionedly close aides of the governor, former deputy chief of staff Bridget Ann Kelly and intimate political confidant Bill Baroni (Governor Krispy's appointee as deputy executive director of his beloved cash cow and personal enforcement agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey). What's not clear yet is how much singing the Wild Man did in the course of his plea negotiations, though it certainly appears that, while both Kellyl and Baroni were heavily implicated in Bridgegate in subpoenaed e-mails, their indictments were based in part on information from the Wild Man.
Whether the Wild Man can implicate his Big Boss remains to be seen. You'll recall that he told state officials among others that the governor knew all about Bridgegate. And even "Fix"-Master Cillizza says, "Obviously, if Wildstein managed to produce unimpeachable evidence backing up his claims, Christie's career -- not just as a presidential candidate but as a public figure of any sort -- is over." But the Rat Bastard Governor's jubilant tweets of vindication today are way premature, with lots of investigating still to be done -- and still many opportunities for Krispykronies who find themselves targeted by prosecutors to roll over.
And of course Bridgegate is just one of many scandals percolating, connected to the governor's autocratic-bullying style of government, as in the case of the charge of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that she was strong-armed to support sleazy development schemes supported by the sleazebag governor or face the los off her city's Superstorm Sandy federal relief funds.
For more on the ins and outs of the indictments, check out the NYT's Kate Zernike and Marc Santora's report.
What I thought I'd share is the Newark Star-Ledger's Kelly Heyboer's pronouncement of "5 things we learned from the indictment," including that the bridge lane closing scam, far from being a sudden improvisation, was a scheme that had been developed years before and that Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich wasn't the only mayor who was being punished. Here's Kelly:
NEWARK — More than a year and half after lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were mysteriously closed, the U.S. Attorney unveiled charges in the case Friday.I like that last one -- that there was in fact a Port Authority traffic study. But far from vindicating the Krispykronies' lies about having been participating in such a study, this merely tells us where the lugs got the idea to pretend that this was the case. We should have known they didn't invent that fable on their own.
The indictment outlined the "Bridge Scheme" – an alleged plan to close the local access lanes to the bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for failing to endorse Gov. Chris Christie's re-election bid.'
David Wildstein, a former Christie ally and executive with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, pleaded guilty Friday to his role in the closures.
Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, were indicted on nine counts of fraud, conspiracy and related charges. Both denied the charges.
Much of the story behind the lane closures was disclosed last year when the emails from Wildstein, Baroni, Kelly and others related to the incident were released.
But the indictment and other court documents revealed Friday included several new details:
1. The lane closures were planned to coincide with the first day of school to allegedly maximize gridlock in Fort Lee.
Baroni recommended against shutting down the bridge access lanes in August because traffic was light, according to the indictment.
Instead, Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein settled on starting the shut down at 6 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2013 – the first day of school in Fort Lee – which they knew "would intensify Mayor Sokolich's punishment."
They also allegedly decided any inquiries from Sokolich or other Fort Lee officials about the closures would be directed to Baroni, who would deliberately ignore the questions.
They called it "radio silence," the court papers said.
2. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop was also allegedly punished for failing to endorse Christie's re-election campaign.
Wildstein, Kelly and Baroni refused to "communicate with, meet, or respond" to Fulop because they believed the mayor was not endorsing Christie, the court papers said.
The indictment also refers to a text message to Wildstein from Baroni that suggests they schedule a meeting with reporters to talk about the lane closures, then "pull a faps."
"Pull a faps" was code for scheduling meeting they planned to cancel all along, according to the indictment. It referred to a meeting they had scheduled with FAPS, Inc., an import/ export firm and Port Authority tenant Fulop had worked for as a consultant before his election.
Baroni and Wildstein had scheduled a meeting with FAPS representatives, then canceled at the last minute, to punish Fulop, the court papers said.
3. The idea to shut down the George Washington Bridge lanes for political retribution was allegedly hatched years earlier.
Wildstein had separate discussions with Baroni and Kelly "about how they could use the Local Access Lanes as leverage against Mayor Sokolich" as early as March 2011, according to the indictment.
But the group did not move forward with the plan until Kelly confirmed Sokolich did not plan to endorse Christie for re-election in 2013, according to the court papers.
4. Baroni and Wildstein allegedly continued the lane closures despite being told the traffic delayed police and emergency crews.
On the first day of the lane closures, Baroni and Wildstein received an email from a Port Authority employee who got a call from the Fort Lee borough administrator. The email said the traffic related to the lane closures caused Fort Lee police and EMS crews to have difficulty responding to reports of "a missing child (later found) and a cardiac arrest," the court papers said.
Baroni and Wildstein stuck with their plan of not responding to questions about the lane closures and continued to keep the lanes closed for three more days, the indictment said.
5. The closure of the George Washington Bridge lanes interrupted a real traffic study.
While Baroni, Wildstein and Kelly were allegedly conspiring to make up a fake traffic study to justify closing the Fort Lee lanes to the bridge, they interrupted a real traffic study, the court papers said.
"The congestion resulting from the reductions also spoiled a legitimate Port Authority traffic study at Center and Lemoine Avenue in Fort Lee, which caused the Port Authority to repeat the study," the court documents said.