posted at 5:01 pm on September 19, 2016 by John Sexton
The never-ending scandal known as bridgegate had a new development today as prosecutors involved in the case stated that Governor Chris Christie was aware of the lane closings as they happened. From the NY Times:
The prosecutors made the assertion during opening statements in the trial of two former Christie administration officials charged with closing the lanes in 2013 and then covering it up.
Mr. Christie has insisted that he had no knowledge of the plot to close the lanes, and said that he did not recall being told about the closings while they were happening.
Defense lawyers have also said that Mr. Christie knew. But the statement on Monday was striking in that it was prosecutors confirming that assertion.
This is all a reference to a conversation in which two individuals involved in closing the bridge lanes say they brought this up during a 9/11 ceremony when they spoke to Gov. Christie. Politico reports the prosecutor suggested this should have been enough to alert Christie to what was happening:
“The evidence will show that Baroni and Wildstein were so committed to their plan that, during the precious moments they had alone with the governor, they bragged about the fact that there were traffic problems in Fort Lee and that Mayor Sokolich was not getting his calls returned,” [Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas] Khanna told jurors during his opening remarks Monday morning.
Khanna did not elaborate on what was allegedly said during the conversation with Christie, but he told jurors that “evidence in this case may show that others could have, should have, perhaps knew certain aspects of what was going on.”
I don’t have a complete transcript of Khanna’s remarks, but if that all he said then it’s a lot less cut and dry than what some of the headlines are suggesting. The conversation at the 9/11 event is not a new revelation. It’s a story that has been discussed for at least two years. As Politico points out, it was mentioned and discounted by an investigation carried out by a law firm in 2014:
[T]hat 2014 report by the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher — commissioned by Christie and paid for with millions in taxpayer funds — not only denied evidence of a “substantive” discussion, but also said, “It seems incredible that, in a public setting leading up to a 9/11 Memorial event, surrounded by other government officials and scores of constituents seeking photographs and handshakes, anything substantive or inculpatory would have been discussed.”
The report went on to say that “even if credited, any passing reference by Wildstein made in a social, public setting at the time of a public 9/11 Memorial event to traffic issue in Fort Lee would not have been meaningful or memorable to the Governor” and that Christie “recalls no such exchange.”
So the question here isn’t whether it was ever mentioned in some form, that has been alleged for some time. The question is whether or not Christie understood what was being done from this brief conversation with Wildstein and Baroni at a public event. Christie says no. Today the prosecutor says he “could have, should have, perhaps knew certain aspects of what was going on.”
All Christie has to say is that he didn’t recognize the
highly classified lane closure information when he heard it. That excuse worked for Hillary Clinton and no one on the left seems to be the least bit bothered by it.