Investigators of every stripe dream about getting smoking gun documents like the ones multiple media outlets obtained today. They not only show aides and appointees of Chris Christie conspiring to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., a Democrat who did not endorse Christie’s reelection bid in 2013, but they capture a tone and mentality that, well, you might find in the works of David Chase or David Simon. Jonathan Chait calls it an “almost comical venality bordering on outright sociopathy.”
“It will be a tough November for this little Serbian,” wrote David Wildstein, one of Christie’s appointees to the Port Authority, apparently referring to Mayor Mark Sokolich. Wildstein is at the center of the scandal and has been called to testify at a state legislative hearing on the matter Thursday.
Christie has repeatedly denied he played any role in the decision to shut the lanes, and nothing in the emails directly implicates him. Directly.
But Jonathan Chait thinks this means the end of Christie’s 2016 presidential bid:
Several things come together to make this scandal especially devastating to Christie. One is that it’s very easy for voters to understand: He punished a town because its mayor endorsed his rival. There are no complex financial transfers or legal maneuverings to parse. Second, it fits into a broader pattern of behavior, documented by the New York Times, of taking retribution against politicians who cross him in any way. There is, in all likelihood, much more. Mark Halperin and my colleague John Heilemann reported in their book about the 2012 campaign that Mitt Romney wanted to put Christie on his ticket, but his staff was “stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record”:
There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticized him for being “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and for offering “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official — and sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christie’s decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governor’s brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.
The investigations also “raised questions for the vetters about Christie’s relationship with a top female deputy who accompanied him on many of the trips.”
I’m not convinced. Yet.