Today in the Daily Record, US Attorney for the NJ District Chris “Christie said he was told in December that he was on the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired, but in January was told his name had been taken off the list.”
On May 18th, Star Ledger columnist Tom Moran (article behind firewall, but same timeline given in WaPo) quoted Christie with an entirely different timeline.
Chris Christie was in Florida watching his children splash around a pool two months ago when he received an urgent e-mail from a senior official at the Justice Department telling him to call.
It was from John Elston, a man he had known for years. Christie stepped into his hotel room, dialed Elston’s number, and got the shock of his life.
Elston had a warning for him. The growing scandal over the firing of eight United States attorneys was about to come his way.
Christie, in fact, had only narrowly escaped being fired. His name was on one of the original kill lists. It was removed only a few weeks before the decisions were made final. This one was a close call.
Two months before May 18th would be the middle of March, about three months after he just told the Daily Record he learned of his place on the list. And how did he react in March?
“I was speechless,” Christie says. “I just could not believe I was someone who was being actively considered for being fired. It makes you search yourself and ask: `Was I doing my job well?'”
Strange reaction if he’d known for a couple months that he was in the clear.
|Tom Moran 5/28||Daily Record 8/3|
|What: Learned in the same phone call that he had been on the list of US Attorneys to be fired, but was now off the list. Also learned that it was about to become public.||What: Learned in first phone call that he was on the list of US Attorneys to be fired. Learned in second phone call the next month that he was off the list. No word on when it would become public.|
|When: Single day, March 2007||When:First call in December 2006, second call in January 2007|
|Where: On vacation with his family in Florida Christie received an e-mail by the pool to call DC, and then went into his room to take the call.||Where: All we can surmise is he was in New Jersey for both calls.|
|Reaction: “I was speechless,” Christie says. “I just could not believe I was someone who was being actively considered for being fired.”||Reaction: Did not provide any info.|
The contradiction is not easy to parse, because he was quite clear about getting making the call in his Florida hotel room after getting an e-mail at the pool while playing with his kids. And he was speechless, not believing what he heard that he was on the list, but also safe — all in one phone call!
But the story he told today was totally different. Now he is in New Jersey in December (there was no vacation or pool) when he heard he was on the list. He then had to wait an entire month until January 2007 — after the scandal broke — to learn that his job was safe.
Now, both these situations are pretty memorable. If I found out at the Christmas (Christie is Catholic) holidays that my job was in jeopardy, and then had to go through New Years thinking about getting fired it would stick in my head.
There’s no way that this is a simple misconception or the famous Republican, “I can’t recall.” One of these stories is an outright lie.
Why is this important? For one, Christie is portraying himself as some sort of ethical crusader who is above reproach, the self-appointed scourge of corruption. He and his supporters are outraged when his integrity is questioned over the Menendez subpoena right in the heat of the campaign, or when he inserts himself in the middle of a State Supreme Court nomination, or when his bi-partisan record is not as robust as it seemed, or when he tapes highly political “news” pieces with political mentors.
And yet when he gets caught up in a national scandal related to his job, his boss (AG Gonzales) and his political benefactor (President Bush) he chooses to lie about it.
And that brings us to the bigger point, and more important one. The US Attorney scandal would have been a small ripple on a larger pond had the lies not piled up. Most folks in the media and on main street would have let it go since the President can fire or keep US Attorney at his pleasure.
But first the political appointees at Justice lied about why the prosecutors were fired, and the prosecutors fought back with facts and accusations of political interference in their jobs.
Then the politicians like Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) started lying about their roles in the firings.
Then the AG and his staff went in front of Congress and they started contradicting each other’s sworn testimony, and people started resigning in disgrace.
The Congress continues to try to get straight answers and determine exactly what happened, but the White House claims executive privilege and then the staff who does testify either don’t recall anything that happened two months ago or give conflicting accounts.
The entity charged with overseeing the executive branch is being bamboozled and confused and lied to in order to keep it from making a determination whether the law was broken. Whether intentional or not, whether illegal or not, it amounts to a major obstruction of justice.
And Christie is a part of the story. He was put on the list before he dropped a subpoena that affected the Menendez/Kean Jr. race, and then after the election was taken off the list. That’s suspicious in and of itself.
And now Christie is lying, just like the rest of the Bush administration involved in this case, about when, how and where he found out that he was on and then on the list of US Attorneys to be fired. It was either all at once in Florida on vacation with the family in March, or it was over a month or more in New Jersey over the Christmas and New Years holiday.
Lies either serve a purpose, or they are an indication of an ethically challenged person. When there is no reason for a lie, nothing to gain from the lie, generally the person is just a liar.
So the media, and I think in particular Tom Moran who has written some almost hagiographic pieces about Christie and transcribed one of his stories quite dramatically, needs to find out what this is.
UPDATE: We got an e-mail suggesting that the reason for the change in story may be direction from on-high. They suggested, though I don’t recall, that the AG said all US Attorneys were told in the fall of their status. Christie’s comment that he didn’t know until March would contradict that. Does anyone have a link to that claim by the AG?