Weigel calls yesterday’s Bridgegate report, written by lawyers hired by Christie, “a classic example of shamparency, or sham transparency—an official-looking document that reveals basically nothing yet must be discussed.” Regardless, Alec MacGillis read through it. Among the takeaways:
The retribution really was motivated at least partly by the Fort Lee Mayor’s refusal to endorse. All along, it’s seemed hard for many people to believe that the Christie aides’ retribution against Mayor Mark Sokolich could have been grounded in his refusal to endorse Christie. Yes, Christie had been trying very hard to get as many Democratic officials as he could to endorse him to add to his bipartisan veneer, but would failure to endorse really come at such a cost?
Well, the report sure makes it sound as if it did. While Sokolich had made clear in the spring that he did not plan to endorse Christie, the report states that Christie’s then-deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, made a final check with a colleague about the status of Sokolich’s non-endorsement on August 12, the night before she sent her infamous “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” e-mail to David Wildstein, Christie’s political liaison at the Port Authority. “Kelly asked whether Mayor Sokolich was going to endorse Governor Christie, and [her colleague] responded that he was not. Kelly responded, in sum or substance, that that was all she needed to know.”
Philip Bump notes how the report lays blame at Kelly’s feet:
The portrayal of Kelly as unstable and in an emotionally vulnerable place might have been intended to help rebut one of the main questions Christie has been trying to curtail: that his natural tendency towards aggression and bullying prompted Kelly and Wildstein to act. In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired on Thursday night, Christie assured viewers that he had “spent a lot of time the last 11 weeks thinking about what did I do if I did anything to contribute to this,” ultimately deciding that, “I don’t believe that I did.” At another point in the interview, he circled back to the other big lurking question. No, he doesn’t think this affects whether or not he’ll run for president in 2016.
The central political question is this: Can everything change back if the feds exonerate him? To an extent, but I think only to an extent—because if he is exonerated, it will happen only because no one found a smoking gun. So you’ll still have, in others words, other officials like Wildstein saying Christie knew something, and Christie saying he didn’t know, so it will just be an unresolved he said/he said situation. In all likelihood, the clouds will linger. And as long as clouds linger, the big GOP establishment money doesn’t flow like it might have.
Eric Lach thinks Thursday was a good day for Christie – but that Bridgegate isn’t over yet:
Christie isn’t off the hook yet. The release of the internal review comes as state lawmakers and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey continue to investigate the lane closures. For months, many have suggested that the lanes were closed for political reasons, and documents released in January showed that close aides to Christie were involved in discussions of the closures both before and after they took place. Federal prosecutors have also looked into allegations made by the Democratic mayor of Hoboken, N.J., Dawn Zimmer, who in January publicly accused the Christie administration of threatening to withhold Hurricane Sandy relief aid if she did not support a development project in her city.
If you haven’t read MacGillis’ terrific takedown of Christie’s rise in New Jersey, it’s here.