Tag Archive: Michael Drewniak

Drewniak’s Soft Landing

Via NJ.com:

Michael Drewniak, the long-time spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, is heading to NJ Transit in a new position that will have him heading up policy and planning for the state agency.

He stays in gubmint work. It’s a salary bump – from $134,000 at Christie’s side to $147,400 in the new gig. Policy and planning – what could go wrong?

They always land on their feet. Or someone else’s.

Are the wheels coming off over there in the inner sanctum?

Michael Drewniak, draconian front man for Gov. Chris Christie, is outta here.

Michael Drewniak, the ultimate insider in Chris Christie’s political rise – the Christie Whisperer is leaving the Governor’s employ after 13 years. It’s a very hasty exit.

Drewniak, a former reporter at the Star-Ledger joined the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1998 with Christie’s predecessor. He became a close confidante of Christie’s when Christie became U.S. Attorney, remaining there long enough to help announce the Operation Bid Rig arrests which hauled in 29 public servants and political operatives, and 5 orthodox rabbis and one organ trafficker. The arrests, which came after Christie had already begun his 2009 gubernatorial campaign, mainly targeted Democrats, made national news and was a significant driver of his win. Drewniak joined the Governor’s staff when he was inaugurated.

More recently, Drewniak’s name came up in ongoing investigations of the Bridgegate coverup. He testified before the joint legislative panel investigating the lane closures last May, and a federal grand jury the month before. Drewniak has never been charged.

What’s stunning about Drewniak’s exit is the speed. News broke today. His last day is Friday.  

Wait. What?

This is how Michael Drewniak, flack for Governor Christie, responded to a judge saying that the decision not to make pension payments for public workers was illegal.

“Once again liberal judicial activism rears its head with the court trying to replace its own judgment for the judgment of the people who were elected to make these decisions,” Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement.

“This budget was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor with a pension payment,” he said. “

So Drewniak states that the legislature and Governor enacted a law that required a pension payment, and that the courts requiring that the pension payment in the law be made is … replacing the judgement of the legislature and Governor?

Bridgegate Testimony Of Governor Christie’s Press Chief Raises More Questions

promoted by Rosi

Yesterday Governor Chris Christie’s Press Secretary, Michael Drewniak, testified before the New Jersey Legislature’s Special Investigative Committee on his role in handling the fallout from illegal lane closures on the George Washington Bridge aka Bridgegate.

Unlike other witnesses called before the committee Drewniak did not take the Fifth Amendment though did often confer with an attorney who accompanied him to the hearing and regularly declined to answer questions per his attorney’s advice. The typically stated rationale for declining to answer questions was a refusal to speculate or veer outside personal experience, though Drewniak also recurrently claimed to be unable to recall seemingly noteworthy personal events.

Video – Drewniak Testimony

Longtime Christie mouthpiece Michael Drewniak, the consummate insider who followed Chris Christie from the US Attorney’s office, to his campaign, and then served him as one of the most visible members of Christie’s inner sanctum, testified before the joint legislative panel investigating the sudden GWB lane closures. Among things that stood out: Drewniak was so carefully monitored by his counsel that the counsel often addressed the panel himself. Drewniak particularly parsed the timeline of what was known, by whom, and when, sometimes being so specific in language that the effect was to evade the question, or not to answer it, instead redirecting his answer to give another unrelated piece of information.

Drewniak on the hot seat in Bridgegate hearing

The Legislative SCI, jointly chaired by John Wisniewski and Loretta Weinberg is underway now in Committee Room 11 at the statehouse.

NJTV is broadcasting live.

Watch live online via NJ Legislature.

New Jersey News 12 is also live-streaming.

I’m under the weather so not sure how much of this I’ll be live-Tweeting. But live-Tweeting right now and worth following are:

@mattkatz00 of WYNC

The Record’s @MichaelLinhorst

WSJ’s @HeatherHaddon.

Drewniak, Renna, Schuber and Foye – latest 4 subpoenaed by legislative SCI

The legislative joint committee investigating the swirl of scandal around the 5-day North Jersey traffic snarl intentionally created by top Christie flunkies in both his inner office and at the Port Authority, has readied its next 4 subpoenas. It is calling:

Christina Genovese Renna – May 6 at 10 a.m.

William “Pat” Schuber – May 6 at 2 p.m.

Michael Drewniak – May 13 at 10 a.m.

Patrick Foye – May 13 at 2 p.m.

 

NJ’s Whodunit Procedural: Part IV

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

This commonly quoted line from Walter Scott could serve as the epigram on a front page of this whodunit tale. Through Part IV of our series we have written about 11 key characters caught up in the web of Bridgegate. The biggest, of course, is Gov. Christie whose reputation has been severely damaged but whose involvement and ultimate fate remain unclear. Five high-ranking characters have resigned or been fired – Wildstein, Kelly, Stepien, Baroni, and Samson. There are other individuals lurking in the background who may take on importance.

In this installment, Part IV, below the fold we look at the “Press Spokesman from Hell,” the “Holder of the Keys,” and of course no crime procedural would omit the “bumbling or duplicitous police officers.”  

New Jersey’s Whodunit Crime Procedural

The investigation of Bridgegate/Hoboken/Port Authority/Christie’s Executive Office has all the elements of a great mystery story, except it’s not fiction. It fits into the genre of procedural crime where it is believed there might be criminal activity which could include corruption at the top. The FBI and prosecutors use subpoenas, issue search warrants, interrogate witnesses, gather evidence, invoke a grand jury, grant immunity to a few, and then indict and take the case to court. In some stories the suspect at the very top although tarnished is not indicted. There is satisfaction when most guilty parties are meted out punishment, and there is a lingering suspicion that anyone who escaped justice will later suffer consequences.

Recent news tells us that this procedural is well underway in New Jersey. ABC News reported that Christie Spokesperson Michael Drewniak, whose lawyer says he is not a target, answered questions before the Newark Grand jury. Another source, Main Justice, says that Christie Port Authority appointee David Wildstein, was “camped at the U. S. Attorney’s office” last week. Also Main Justice states, “Charles McKenna, Chief Counsel to Christie, met secretly in mid-January with investigators working for U. S. Attorney Fishman.” Other news sources have reported that the FBI have questioned people connected with Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and former Campaign Manager Bill Stepien.

Ohers entwined in this mystery story include Christie Port Authority appointees David Samson (former Chair), Bill Baroni (former Deputy Director) and Philip Kwon (P. A. Legal Department and former Christie nominee to the Supreme Court), and Christie Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd.

Although it is not yet clear what exactly the crimes may be, this tale has a large cast of interesting and diverse characters – some who definitely were involved in the lane closings and others who may have known early about it, masterminded it or covered it up. The story is complex as it may also involve extortion in Hoboken, illegal conflicts of interest on the Port Authority Board, and unlawful use of federal Sandy funds.  

In forthcoming posts there will be an examination of the individual cast members and what we have learned about them from the Legislative Select Committee documents, the Mastro Report and other sources. Some with significant information can be granted immunity from the U. S. Attorney to testify. The legislative committee is also in a position to develop new information. It becomes increasingly likely that this procedural will continue to unfold, and lead us closer to “who done it” and why. At the conclusion this story might well become a book – a fascinating and tawdry tale.  

The Dark Cloud Over Christie’s Administration Will Not Soon Disappear

Yesterday’s exclusive report from ABC News that Governor Christie spokesperson Michael Drewniak testified before a Grand Jury in Newark is a further indication that the U. S. Attorney Paul Fishman is ramping up an investigation into the Governor’s office and possibly the governor himself, as well as other matters related to Sandy funds and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claim of Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno offering her Sandy aid in return for Zimmer’s support of a local development project. This new development is somewhat shrouded in secrecy – a standard procedure with Grand Juries. Nonetheless what is happening is not uncommon and it raises questions regarding its impact on the Legislature’s Select Committee on Investigations and the role of both federal and state laws.