Late Friday, this bombshell dropped:
The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, central to the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, said on Friday that “evidence exists” that the governor knew about the closings when they were happening. A lawyer for the former official, David Wildstein, wrote a letter describing the move to shut the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” …
The screenshot above is part of the response from Christie’s office. No, it’s not from a high school president trashing his old schoolyard friend. It just reads like that. Josh Marshall is gobsmacked:
It’s genuinely shocking that a sitting governor and presidential aspirant finds himself or his key defenders writing a sentence like this: “He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.” I mean, is that a joke?
It’s as petty as the alleged crime – and thereby makes it seem more plausible. Josh thinks Christie is toast:
Put it all together: the horrible press, the dipping polls, the political sword of damocles people have to sign on hoping won’t fall and the inherent difficulties of getting a tonally northeastern, relative moderate through the GOP primary process, it’s just too heavy a lift. It won’t happen. And that’s all assuming he’s either innocent or that smoking gun evidence never comes out.
Everything here is circumstantial. Christie definitely comes off as the kind of politician who would order a stunt like this. Possibly he didn’t do it. Possibly he did, but it will never be proven. His best-case scenario now appears to be an absence of a smoking gun, and convincing voters not to believe the subordinate pointing a finger at him. It doesn’t look good.
Allahpundit is in the same ballpark:
Even if he says something gassy like, “I have no hard evidence but, knowing how the governor’s office operated and knowing the governor personally for many years, I’m sure he knew,” that’ll be enough for Christie’s enemies. There are so many people, left and right, who want him out of the 2016 field that the accusation alone from someone at the heart of the scandal is seriously damaging. If Bridget Kelly comes out and agrees with Wildstein, I don’t know what happens to the rest of Christie’s term.
MacGillis puts this in perspective:
[A]bove all, there is this: we now know that the man at the center of this whole operation has decided to flip against Christie instead of taking the fall. This should not be surprising – Wildstein signaled his willingness to cause trouble when he responded to a legislative subpoena by providing so many damning e-mails and text messages (including one that referred tantalizingly to a meeting between Christie and Port Authority Chairman David Samson just before the “time for some traffic problems” order was issued); and he got a lawyer without ties to Christie, unlike Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who sent the “traffic problems” order and has secured as her lawyer Michael Critchley, a top attorney with longstanding links to Christie. Wildstein is, quite simply, the ultimate wildcard – someone who seemingly left politics after a brief stint as mayor of his hometown but kept his hand in the game for years as an anonymous and exceedingly well-sourced political blogger, “Wally Edge.”
Larison sticks a fork in Christie:
Assuming that this former official can back up his claims, Christie is not only finished as a national candidate, but he will probably be forced from office early, and he should be. It is somehow fitting that he should be undone by such petty punitive tactics when he owed his reputation as a national political figure in no small measure to his willingness to browbeat and harangue. Even if Christie hangs on in office for the rest of his term, he will make no headway in getting anything through the legislature, and his second term is effectively over. The main question that will remain at that point is whether any laws were broken and to what extent Christie may be culpable.
But Cassidy isn’t ready to write off Christie:
Last month, when the scandal took off, I said Christie was one story away from oblivion. At least for now, and despite its deadly timing, I’m not convinced the Wildstein letter is that story. With Wisniewski, I am reserving judgement until we hear from Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff. She’s the potential John Dean of this story. She has the power to destroy her former boss, but also to exculpate him, at least partly. Until we know what she’s got to say, Christie will remain in limbo. He’s not quite dead yet.
Raab watches as the governor’s allies vanish:
Christie, and only Christie, is even attempting to defend Christie at this point. Not his allies in South Jersey, including Democrats with whom he cut deals to become Governor in the first place; nor any national Republicans, all of whom have added ‘if’ clauses to every statement of support since the beginning of his crash; and certainly not the hard-right, left muttering sour nothings about liberal media conspiracies and Benghazi.
Amy Davidson’s two cents:
We’ll have to see the evidence to know if or how Christie lied. But expecting the truth because it would so clearly be foolish for Christie to lie, or for any politician to, is a misguided notion. There have been too many times that it just hasn’t worked out that way. The dumb, disprovable lies often have to do with sex. But there are other disorienting impulses, too, like pride and money and Republican primaries.
Update from a reader:
Let’s say Christie is correct and there is no evidence linking him to the bridge scandal. But look at the petty things he said about Wildstein, who worked for Christie and whom Christie appointed to the Port Authority. Doesn’t it say something about Christie as a manager, that he would hire someone he thought so little of, who has been involved in shady (according to Christie’s point of view) things for so many years?