Yesterday was a sad moment for New Jerseyans when the news of pettiness and vindictiveness of highly placed State political operatives rippled throughout the nation. BridgeGate had already resulted in two political appointees having to leave their positions at the Port Authority. With the release of inflammatory emails two more individuals who worked closely with Gov. Christie found themselves jobless. Christie, who on frequent occasions publicly insulted and belittled others, said, “the conduct in those emails is unacceptable to me.” He was referring to staff members who insulted and belittled residents of Fort Lee and its Mayor.
It was unpleasant yesterday watching David Wildstein, a political appointee of Christie to the Port Authority, repeatedly asserting his right to the fifth amendment. He carried out the lane closures, but now having lost his job and facing potential criminal charges, he refused to divulge what he knew about the matter. The Assembly Committee, to its credit, in a series of votes acted in a bipartisan manner culminating in Wildstein being declared in contempt of the Legislature and subject to a misdemeanor charge.
The firing yesterday of Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who told David Wildstein via email to commence traffic problems in Fort Lee, was the first clear indication that the matter was orchestrated within the Executive Office. Many do not believe, however, that she would have initiated the action without higher authorization. She reported directly to Kevin
O’Toole O’Dowd, Christie’s Chief of Staff. As the emails suggested, the Fort Lee lane closures were political retribution and its mayor was number two on some type of “Hit” list. The person running Christie’s campaign re-election was Bill Stepien whom Christie yesterday removed from consideration for key state and national jobs.
Christie is known to tightly control State activities within the Executive Office. In his press conference yesterday, filled with self-referential comments, he apologized and said he was “shocked, ” and “had no knowledge of the operation.” In typical obfuscatory language he admitted “mistakes were made.” With four people tied to his administration already out of their jobs, questions remain: are there not others who also made mistakes and who are they? Transportation Committee Chair John Wisniewski has promised to issue additional appearance subpoenas possibly starting with Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly. Other investigations have also been launched.
Today we hear that thousands of additional emails are expected to be released this morning. The Governor who said he would collaborate with the investigations could expedite a swift conclusion by asking his key staff to testify openly. Sadly that is unlikely to happen so BridgeGate will end up being a long drawn out tawdry affair.
Pinelands Commission: 9:30am, expected to vote on this resolution: “Authorizing the Executive Director to Enter into a Memorandum of Agreement Between the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Regarding Construction of Approximately 15 miles of a 22-Mile, 24-Inch Natural Gas Pipeline in the State Designated Pinelands Area. The meeting is in New Lisbon.”No. No. No.