Friday, March 28, 2014

Christie #Bridgegate Report: Time for some Slut-Shaming in New Jersey

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So Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey paid his attorneys one million dollars of taxpayer money to come up with a report that scapegoats his minions in the Bridgegate Scandal. It names David Wildstein as a major player - and recall that he has been slammed previously by the Governor as the nerdy kid in high school whom Christie didn't know very well in spite of the well-paying post at the Port Authority where Christie himself placed him.

Read the Governor's Report Here

But Attorney Randy Mastro mainly focuses on the women involved in Bridgegate, especially Bridget Kelly, who is hinted to be some kind of "woman scorned" over a relationship with another staff member, Bill Stepien, Christie's campaign manager. Their relationship, break-up and supposedly emotional fall-out for Kelly seems to be the key, according to the report, and that somehow vindicates Governor Chris Christie.

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And what about the allegations of withholding Sandy funds from Hoboken by another woman, Mayor Dawn Zimmer? Well, she's obviously lying because they have a picture of her yawning during a meeting, and another picture of her smiling - both included in the report. Body language, people! Obviously, case closed. Nothing to see here. Move along, right? But first, blame the women!


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We found that Governor Christie had no knowledge beforehand of this George Washington Bridge re-allignment idea.
. . . We further found that no one in the Governor's Office besides Bridget Kelly knew of this idea in advance, played any role in the decision or the implementaion of it.
. . . There was some personal or political animus that Wildstein must have had that Kelly joined him in approving that. She was covering up from her colleagues, like the chief of staff and the governor, who didn’t know what she did.
. . . Mayor Zimmer's perceptions do not match the objective reality reflected in the hard evidence that we uncovered in our investigation.
~ Randy Mastro of Gibson Dunn

The Woman-Scorned Theory

The word "emotional" was used five times in the report. Three times, the word described the Jan. 8, 2014, session in which Kelly was fired. Those instances highlight Christie's sensitivity, noting he was "welling up with tears." A fourth time, the word was used to describe the "heartfelt" manner in which Christie begged his staff to come forward with information on the lane closings.
The fifth time, "emotional" was ascribed to Kelly. Of the four individuals classified as "involved in the lane realignment" -- Wildstein, Stepien, Kelly and then-Port Authority official Bill Baroni -- Kelly was the only one described as "emotional."
~ Huffington Post

Randy Mastro’s report put the blame squarely on two fired staffers, David Wildstein and deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly. But its treatment of Kelly was mind-blowingly mean, describing her as “emotional,” “erratic” and as a liar; confirming Trenton gossip that she was “personally involved” with chief of staff Bill Stepien, and that Stepien apparently dumped her; alleging that she asked an aide to delete an incriminating email when the investigation began, thus implicating her not only in the plot’s execution but its coverup.
. . . Bridgegate is turning into Bridgetgate, another story about Christie’s bullying sexism.
~ Joan Walsh on Salon

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Mayor Zimmer Yawning During a Meeting - Evidence?

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Randy Mastro could have written his report the day he was hired and saved the taxpayers the million dollars in fees he billed in generating this one-sided whitewash.
~ Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer

The idea that Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein by themselves concocted the lane closure is frankly hard to believe. Lawyers hired and paid for by the Christie administration will not be the final word on this matter.
~ State Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski


Sometimes people do inexplicably stupid things.
~ Governor Chris Christie on ABC

Diane Sawyer: The taxpayers of New Jersey just paid for your lawyers to find you blameless. Why should the taxpayers be paying for this report?

Chris Christie: Well a few things - first off, these are not my lawyers.

Diane Sawyer: But it's a law firm you've been affiliated with in the past. You know one of the partners. It's chosen by the office.

Chris Christie: Sure. But there's hardly a law firm in this area that I haven't had some action with after being the United States Attorney. But the bottom line is that these people have their own personal and professional reputations. Six of them are former Federal Prosecutors. They're not going to whitewash anything for me.

Diane Sawyer: If Bridget Kelly talks, will she blow this report out of the water?

Chris Christie: Not credibly, no. (shakes head) Absolutely not.

Diane Sawyer: You think she'll come after you?

Chris Christie: I don't see any reason why she would.

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Diane Sawyer: David Wildstein has said that at a 9-11 event he talked to you about traffic - it's a little ambiguous. Did he?

Chris Christie: I don't have any recollection of that, Diane. David was one of hundreds of people that I spoke to that day. We stood around and spoke briefly that day. I don't have any recollection of him saying anything, but I'll tell you this - I'll tell you what he didn't say - he didn't say "By the way, Governor, I'm closing down some lanes on the George Washington Bridge to stick it to the mayor. Is that okay?" Uh, that I'd remember.

. . . I don't think that this is something I've inspired in that any of them thought this was acceptable conduct....I think that in the end I obviously didn't make it clear enough to these folks that this kinda stuff was unacceptable. This is an abuse of the trust, of the authority that was granted to you. And that's unacceptable. And to the extent that anyone didn't understand that? Believe me, from this day forward anyone who works for me will understand that.

From the New York Times
At a heated televised news conference, the former federal prosecutor who led the internal inquiry, Randy M. Mastro, frequently sounded like a defense lawyer making his case to a jury. He referred to Ms. Kelly as a liar, cast doubt on the credibility of the mayor of Hoboken, who accused the Christie administration of political intimidation, and slipped into lawyerly exhortations to the “ladies and gentlemen” sitting before him.
Mr. Mastro, and his report, went so far as to describe a romantic relationship between Ms. Kelly and a top adviser to Mr. Christie who has been caught up in the imbroglio, seemingly insinuating — without providing specific evidence — that its breakup may have colored her judgment.
The report seemed to anticipate a looming showdown between Mr. Christie and the person who may become the most menacing witness against him: Mr. Wildstein, who, Mr. Mastro said, harbored “bizarre personal and political animus.”

New York Daily News
The 344-page review compiled by the governor’s hand-picked counsel blamed the punitive traffic jam solely on Christie’s ex-deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former Port Authority executive David Wildstein.
In addition to sparing any other administration or PA officials, the report flatly dismissed Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claim of a Hurricane Sandy relief shakedown by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
And it included bizarre details about an alleged romance between Kelly and Christie’s former campaign manager — and how a teary-eyed governor met with his staff in January as the scandal mushroomed.
“It reads more like a novel than a work of fact,” sniffed Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chair of the New Jersey legislative panel investigating the Sept. 2013 lane closures.

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First of all, how do they know that Bill Stepien was the one who "cooled" this relationship? That is so gratuitous and so inappropriate. And the kindest thing I can say about this report is that it's pretty premature. They draw certain conclusions without ever having a discussion with any of the main characters in this drama: David Wildstein, Bridget Kelly, Bill Stepien. And how about David Samson and Bill Baroni? Bill Baroni, who was sent out to do the "cover-up" which wasn't a very good cover-up.
And Mr. Mastro, with his high hourly salary didn't do a very good report. He issues a report without knowing the motive, unable to speak to any of the main people in this. And then throwing in the gratuitous remarks about the so-called personal relationship is really - they describe David Wildstein as the man with the "crazy ideas," but that man with the "crazy ideas" was hired to be the Governor's eyes and ears at the Port Authority.
And how are they depicting Bridget Kelly here? That she's this "woman-scorned" therefore gone off kind of wild on herself? That's a woman that he hired in his office.
~ New Jersey State Sen. Loretta Weinberg on Hardball

Wildstein has said that he told the Governor about this when it was happening. Now this report that cost all this money, what, $600,000, whatever, doesn't even say whether the Governor had a conversation with Wildstein or not during the course of these bridge closures. It does however, . . . characterizes as saying well, obviously it left NO impression on the Governor. How can they NOT know there was a conversation, these lawyers, but at the same time characterize it as not being "provocative" enough to have grabbed the attention of the Governor? One thing or the other happened.
. . . They just dismiss it. Whether it happened or didn't happen, doesn't matter. That's the sort of conclusion they draw on the possibility that that guy, the Governor, knew what was going on.
~ Chris Matthews on Hardball

Complete Statement from Bill Stepien's Attorney
“One will search the 360-page Mastro report in vain for a jot of evidence to support the governor’s decision to sever ties with Bill Stepien. The investigation, in which Mr. Stepien did not cooperate, found that he had no involvement in the origination, planning, execution, or concealment of the lane closures and that he did not lie to or deceive anyone at any time about his limited knowledge of the subject, including the governor. Indeed, the report makes clear that Mr. Stepien truthfully advised the governor that Mr. Wildstein had raised the specter of a traffic study at the GWB with him — one of many ‘small ball’ ideas Mr. Wildstein conceived during his tenure at the Port Authority — and that Mr. Stepien had appropriately referred Mr. Wildstein to the authorities in Trenton responsible for such matters. There is simply no support for the notion, implied by his summary banishment, that Mr. Stepien was somehow blameworthy in this incident. He was not.
“The report’s inclusion of a gratuitous reference to Mr. Stepien’s brief dating relationship with Bridget Anne Kelly — which began after he left the Governor’s Office, ended before the lane closure debacle began, at took place at a time when both he and Ms. Kelly were single — is a regrettable distraction that has no place in this report. Predictably, that has become a tabloid headline, masking the injustice done to Stepien and distracting the public from those aspects of the report that would otherwise have commanded its attention.
“Finally, the report’s statement that it is permissible to draw an adverse inference from Mr. Stepien’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment right in the face of a criminal investigation, rather than in the context of civil litigation, is dead wrong as a matter of law. Mr. Stepien is an innocent man who will continue to avail himself of the rights assured him under the constitution and laws of the United States and the state of New Jersey. It is simply not right for a seasoned and talented team of former federal prosecutors to suggest that the public should read his reliance on those rights as evidence of wrongdoing. It is not.”

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