Given all of our previous discussions about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal, it’s only fair to note, as Rachel did last night, new reporting that prosecutors have not yet tied the governor directly to the infamous misdeeds.
The U.S. Justice Department investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has thus far uncovered no evidence indicating that he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.The September 2013 closures – where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were shut down, causing a traffic nightmare for commuters – has been the subject of several federal and state investigations.Federal officials caution that the investigation that began nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that authorities haven’t uncovered anything that indicates that Christie knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes.
We don’t yet know the source of this leak or its veracity, but it may very well be entire true that prosecutors haven’t directly tied Christie personally to the bridge closings. Indeed, as of late yesterday, the governor seemed to be feeling pretty good about his standing, as if this WNBC report exonerated him.
But even if we assume the report is accurate, and we also assume that federal prosecutors never close in on Christie personally in the investigation into this scandal, the governor and his allies may still not fully appreciate the broader circumstances.
The Star Ledger’s editorial board, to its credit, hasn’t forgotten.
Before he finishes this victory lap, a few reminders: No one on the investigative committee has accused him of personally ordering these lane closures. It is hard to believe he would be that stupid.But what about the cover-up? What about the bogus claim that this was all part of a traffic study? That came from Bill Baroni, Christie’s appointee as deputy executive director at the Port Authority, after he was coached for several days by senior members of Christie’s staff. Was Christie so out of touch that he was oblivious to all that? Hard to believe he was that stupid, either.
Part of the problem for Christie from the very beginning is that the governor’s best case scenario – the version of events that are the most favorable to him personally – is that Christie was such an inept and incompetent leader that has no idea that some of the top members of his team conspired to abuse their power in his name.
Under the usual conditions, this might sound like scathing criticism, but in Christie’s case, it’s his best defense. The governor and his supporters eagerly hope the WNBC report is accurate, so they can say Christie’s team deliberately crippled a New Jersey community on purpose, but the governor was too clueless to know what was going on around him.
And to this day, Christie still can’t explain the basics of how and why his handpicked team members abused the power he gave them.
For that matter, let’s also not forget that this isn’t the only Christie scandal that remains ongoing.
So I suppose what we’re left with is a good news/bad news situation for the governor. The good news, he may not personally be charged in the “Bridgegate” scandal. The bad news, the scandal isn’t over, the controversy itself still raises important questions about his competence, and there are other lingering scandals that may do lasting damage to his administration.