Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Media Still Unwilling To Say What Everyone Already Knows-- That Christie Ordered Bridge Closure And Coverup


I don't know if politics attracts inherently corrupt individuals or if politics turns weak individuals corrupt, but I'd one of those explanations or the other covers most of the American political establishment. My informed guess is that by the time Chris Christie-- an anti-regulations lobbyist (on behalf of corrupt banksters, the energy industry and for-profit higher education), a former Morris County freeholder and then a Bush appointee to the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey job-- he was already a rotting, stinking cesspool of corruption. All of his early campaigns resulted in lawsuits based on misconduct. As State Attorney, he went after his political foes and get Big Business off again and again. But the media cover Christie as though he was born, immaculately, in the Governor's chair and, at worst, was the victim of nefarious staffers.

Yesterday's NYTimes, in covering two of the country's most egregiously corrupt governors-- Christe and his pal Andrew Cuomo-- was quick to point out that of the 2 criminal masterminds who should be sharing a prison cell, "neither governor is accused of breaking the law" and that the two gang leaders claim "to have been blind to alleged acts of petty revenge and bribery at the highest levels of state government seems bad enough." The Times doesn't point out that the claims are ludicrous.
Each man had cultivated a small group of trusted advisers who, driven by unshakable tribal loyalty and a hunger to see their bosses taste the White House one day, enforced the governor’s will, punished his enemies and rewarded his friends.

For Mr. Christie, they included Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, the two former officials currently on trial, and Bill Stepien, his former top lieutenant, an old friend and political operative who left ears ringing across New Jersey on the governor’s behalf.

They met for strategy sessions around Mr. Christie’s kitchen table in Mendham and mingled at N.F.L. games. They worked together to single out local officials who supported the governor’s 2013 re-election bid for perks and to mete out revenge to those who did not-- including Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, N.J., a Democrat who, having declined to endorse the governor, got a catastrophic traffic jam in return, prosecutors say.

Their equivalents in Albany were a group of stalwarts who had marched at Mr. Cuomo’s side, in some cases as far back as the administration of Mr. Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who became governor in 1983. The men, and they were all men, even had a “term of endearment” for one another, according to the federal criminal complaint released on Thursday: “Herb.” (It remains unclear why.)

Chief among them was Joseph Percoco, who had started working for the elder Mr. Cuomo when he was 19. So high was his place in the family firmament that during Mr. Cuomo’s eulogy for his father in January 2015, he called Mr. Percoco “my father’s third son, who I sometimes think he loved the most.”

It was Mr. Percoco who, everyone in New York’s political establishment understood, woke Mr. Cuomo up in the morning, dispensed threats for him during the day and put him to bed at night.

It was also Mr. Percoco, working with another “Herb” and former Cuomo aide, Todd R. Howe, who shook down a developer and an energy company for at least $315,000 in bribes in exchange for putting his considerable power at their service, prosecutors say.

There was the legal opinion that Mr. Percoco got reversed. The energy policy decisions, made by state experts, that he overrode. The $5,700 raise, the criminal complaint says, that he berated human-resources staff at the governor’s office into approving for the son of an executive who had paid him off.

And there was the fact, apparent from the complaint, that no one in state government questioned his authority to do so.

These days, there is no avoiding the central question: How could the governors not have known?

Mr. Christie has said that while he took ultimate responsibility for the lane closings, it was impossible for him to keep tabs on 65,000 state employees. He was “disturbed,” he said, by Mr. Stepien’s behavior, while Ms. Kelly was “stupid” and “a liar.”

Mr. Cuomo, too, has been moved to muse on personal betrayal.

“The central plank of my administration has always been about public integrity and zero tolerance for any waste, fraud or abuse. If anything, I hold a friend to a higher standard,” he said in Buffalo on Friday. “It’s the first time since we lost my father that I didn’t miss him being here yesterday, because it would’ve broken his heart.”
Precook didn't blink without Cuomo's OK-- and the whole menagerie of crooks in Christie's orbit, Sapien, Wildstein, Baroni and Kelly were less likely to do anything that hadn't been ordered by Christie than his own hands were. The Wall Street Journal story on Monday's trial events referred to Kelly and Baroni as "two former associates of Mr. Christie," as though there were something other than his closely directed operatives.
On trial are Mr. Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Ms. Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie. Prosecutors say the defendants were part of a scheme to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J. to punish the borough’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Mr. Christie, a Republican.

Mr. Christie hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.

On Monday, the government projected what has become the most well-known exchange of the scandal. On the morning of August 13, 2013, Ms. Kelly emailed Mr. Wildstein, writing “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Mr. Wildstein replied, “Got it.”

Mr. Wildstein said he understood from that email it was time to change the lane configurations on the George Washington Bridge.

“Did you think Ms. Kelly was joking?” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes.

“No sir, I did not,” Mr. Wildstein replied.

Shortly after receiving the email, Mr. Wildstein said he called Mr. Baroni.

Prosecutors projected a list of more than a dozen phone calls that took place that day. Most were between Messrs. Wildstein and Baroni. At 5:48 p.m., for 16 minutes and 30 seconds, Ms. Kelly and Mr. Wildstein spoke on the phone, the list showed.

Mr. Cortes, the prosecutor, asked if Ms. Kelly explained why she wanted traffic problems.

She wanted to send a message, Mr. Wildstein replied. “Mayor Sokolich needed to fully understand life would be more difficult in the second Christie term than it had been in the first,” he added.

During August, the three planned their traffic jam, with Mr. Wildstein communicating separately with both of his alleged co-conspirators. Mr. Wildstein came up with the idea of using a traffic study as a cover story, he said, and said he would create a file of documents that would support it. Both Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly approved this cover story, Mr. Wildstein said. They also discussed “radio silence,” or the policy of not responding to inquiries about the traffic from local officials.

They planned to not give Fort Lee any advance notice because that would have allowed commuters to change their driving patterns. “The purpose was to create as big a traffic jam as possible,” Mr. Wildstein said.

Another detail was timing. August was considered a little too sleepy, since people tend to go out of town. They considered the week after Labor Day, but nixed that idea, too. Then Mr. Baroni asked when school began. Mr. Wildstein said he looked it up online, then told his boss that the first day of Fort Lee schools was Sept. 9.

Mr. Cortes, the prosecutor, asked how Mr. Baroni responded.

“He smiled and said, ‘Fantastic’,” Mr. Wildstein said.
And this morning-- day 3 of testimony-- Wildstein admitted that he and Baroni spoke with Christie as the traffic on the George Washington Bridge was being blocked... in real time. He also confessed that he had texted Kelly with reports from the clogged bridge on day 2 of the jam they had created and that Kelly texted back, "Is it wrong that I'm smiling?" They ignored repeated pleas from Ft Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for state assistance. Although the egregiously corrupt Christie Administration was happy to lavish plenty of cash on crooked Democratic Party boss Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, it also came out today that the Christie Administration was looking for a way to bring Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop-- and his constituents-- some pain for his refusal to back Christie's reelection. I'm not suggesting that Christie was told how many cones blocked each lane. But I am asserting that this could never have happened had Christie not completely approved it in every strategic-- if not tactical-- detail. It will be a great miscarriage of Justice if Christie doesn't wind up in a prison cell.

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At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And can you imagine the extent of Christie's other shenanigans? Bridge gate must be just one little incident in a long history of criminal activities. Revenge, payback and rewards behind the scenes drive politics all over the planet. The USA continues to sink lower and lower in this kind of behavior. And if Trump gets into office., all ethics ill be thrown out of the window...

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