New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been loyal to Trump. Will it go both ways?
NEW YORK – Testimony in the New Jersey “Bridgegate” trial began this past week in the United States District Court for the State of New Jersey. This trial involves charges of conspiracy among three top former aides of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The objective of the conspiracy was to deliberately create in Fort Lee New Jersey a four-day traffic jam in September, 2013 at two access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
According to the indictments, the traffic jam was created as a retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich on account of his refusal to endorse the Republican Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign for governor. The traffic jam was generated under the guise of a phony traffic study and resulted in a serious public endangerment. Christie was not indicted, evidently because the federal prosecutors felt that there was not sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Yet it is quite clear from the prosecutor’s opening statement that the U.S. Attorney, Paul Fishman believes that Christie inspired these closures and knew about them while they were taking place, making him a party to the cover-up. In effect, the prosecutors in this case are asserting that at the very least, Chris Christie obstructed justice. And there is little doubt that the defendants will claim that their actions were implemented at the implicit, if not the explicit, direction of Governor Christie.
In essence, Christie is being implicated by both the prosecution and defense in the Bridgegate trial. There are reports in the media that top New Jersey legislative leaders are considering using the evidence presented at trial as a basis for impeachment of Christie and removing him from office.
Normally, Bridgegate would have no impact beyond New Jersey. Because of Chris Christie’s position as chair of the Donald Trump transition team, however, Bridgegate is now another Trump scandal of the highest magnitude.
If The Donald is elected president, Chris Christie will have supervisory authority over all high level appointments in a forthcoming Trump administration.
It amazes me that Trump ever appointed Christie as transition chief in the first place. Christie has been an egregiously incompetent governor. Both the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund and the Teachers and State Employees Trust Funds have moved closer to bankruptcy during his tenure. Unlike his Republican predecessors as governor, Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, Chris Christie has been an abject failure at generating economic development. As a result of Bridgegate, the American public now knows Chris Christie to be a person of no integrity and repugnant character as well.
Yet Chris Christie is not the only reason Donald Trump is swimming in the swamp of Bridgegate. The Donald has hired as his campaign ground game chief Bill Stepien, Christie’s campaign manager during that disreputable 2013 campaign.
Emails show that Stepien knew about the Bridgegate conspiracy and, in fact, encouraged it. It is no wonder that the Bridgegate scandal now clings to the Trump campaign like Velcro.
Donald Trump has pledged to hire for his administration people of the highest ethics and competency. His appointment of Chris Christie as his transition chair gives the lie to all that. This blunder of Trump threatens to undermine his campaign during its final month.
The only way Trump can remove the albatross of the Bridgegate scandal from his campaign is to fire Chris Christie immediately. If Trump does not do so, expect the Chris Christie scandals to become an increasingly looming obstacle on Trump’s road to the Oval Office.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.
Alan Steinberg talks in-depth about Bridgegate on The Politically Incorrect Podcast than can be heard below.