Friday, June 20, 2014

Turning the Screws; Prosecutors Looking at Indicting Gov. Christie's Inner Circle

Esquire Magazine is reporting that the federal prosecutor in New Jersey, Paul Fishman, is preparing to indict four of Gov. Chris Christie's inner circle over their actions relating to Bridgegate.
The indictments are pending against Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, who were at the Port Authority, Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, who were in the governor's office.

You could see the writing on the wall now for months, but Fishman is actually looking at getting evidence of wrongdoing by Christie himself.
Fishman’s challenge is to nail down specific criminal charges on several fronts -- the diversion of Port Authority money to fund New Jersey road and bridge projects; the four-day rush-hour closures of George Washington Bridge lanes in Ft. Lee; and a web of real-estate deals spun by David Samson, long a Christie crony, when he chaired the PA’s Board of Commissioners as Christie’s appointee. (One such deal, a stalled office-tower development in Hoboken, New Jersey, is central to a claim that Christie’s lieutenant governor told the town’s mayor that the state would withhold Hurricane Sandy relief aid from Hoboken if the mayor didn’t sign off on the development project.)

Whatever Christie says or does -- and whatever potential donors or Jimmy Fallon and his viewers think -- the question that truly matters is whether Fishman’s pursuit leads to the governor himself. Christie’s Port appointees -- not only Samson, but former PA Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and his oddball sidekick David Wildstein -- all face near-certain indictment and are being pressed to hand up Christie, as is the governor’s former chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.

Wildstein, portrayed as the mastermind behind Ft. Lee’s traffic problems, has made proffers to Fishman’s investigators -- hoping to trade information to the prosecutor in exchange for gentler legal treatment -- but Fishman has cut no deals with anyone so far, and the looming indictments have encouraged Christie’s PA appointees to sing. “Don’t underestimate what Wildstein has on Christie,” says one source. “And Wildstein and Baroni have both turned on Samson. If Samson doesn't give Fishman Christie, Samson is toast.”
Bridgegate opened a window into the inner workings at the Port Authority and the New Jersey governor's office, and the back-room deals that exceeded the authority of the bistate agency to fund projects outside its scope.

In particular, I'm talking about the Pulaski Skyway reconstruction. It was a much needed project, but Gov. Christie didn't want to use state money (which would have required increasing taxes/fees in the state to cover the empty transportation trust fund). So, his office concocted a rationale for using the former ARC tunnel funds that the Port Authority had set aside to use on the skyway reconstruction.

So, the indictments are all pending, but the question is who will crack first. My bet is still on Bridget Kelly, who was the only one of the four to actually be fired. The rest were "retired" and allowed to resign with full benefits. That would lead to a whole lot of resentment against the Governor.

But there's an additional wrinkle, and that's David Samson, who was also at the Port Authority. Samson is the big fish that would lead to Christie himself. If Samson turn's on Christie, then that would likely lead to indictments against Christie himself.

Of course, it's rather ironic that Fishman is Christie's successor at the federal prosecutor's office, and that Christie used similar actions to indict corrupt politicians while federal prosecutor.

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