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Posts tagged ‘Fort Lee’

Feds Step Up Probe Into Christie’s Aide in Bridge Scandal.


Two investigators have visited the home of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, as federal prosecutors appear to be actively investigating the role that the governor’s aides played in the bridge-gate scandal.

According to court documents, Stepien was not home at the time, and his lawyer Kevin Marino has declined a request by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to interview Stepien, according to NJ.com.

Marino admitted that Stepien is under federal investigation in the probe surrounding the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political payback for the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign.

The lawyer said Stepien was first contacted by an FBI agent in mid-January by phone seeking an interview. Stepien, who worked with Christie on both his campaigns for governor and had been his pick to lead the New Jersey Republican Party, turned down the request.

In mid-February, the court documents showed that the FBI agent and a criminal investigator from the U.S. Department of Justice visited Stepien’s home in Princeton.

The documents said, they “questioned his landlord about his conduct and his character —  was he was married, a rowdy tenant, did he pay his rent on time — and left behind their calling cards, which identified them as criminal investigators and left no doubt as to the nature of their investigation.”

The U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, confirmed last month that his office was looking into the lane closings, according to The New York Times.

Christie has cut ties with Stepien and fired his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who sent an email calling for traffic problems on the bridge last year.

Stepien’s lawyer claimed in the court documents that because his client is being investigated by federal authorities, he should not have to comply with a subpoena demanding that Stepien hand over documents to a state legislative committee also probing the traffic jam.

Stepien has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in declining to cooperate with the panel, which asked him to turn over calendars and electronic devices that might show communications regarding the closings.

Kelly is also refusing to comply with a subpoena on Fifth Amendment grounds. Both their cases will be heard in a Trenton courtroom next week, the Times reported.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Drew MacKenzie

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Giuliani: Let Gov. Christie Do His Job.


Until there is concrete evidence to prove that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did something wrong, he should be left to do his job, his friend and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani says.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying the following, ‘Until and unless there’s evidence that proves he did something wrong, we’re going to take the governor at his word. We’re going to let him do his job,'” Giuliani told “Face the Nation” host Major Garrett Sunday. “I believe it’s going to come out all right. If it doesn’t, there’s always time to take action then.”

Story continues below.

Giuliani has been standing behind Christie throughout the growing George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal. He reiterated that statements made by former Port Authority official David Wildstein’s attorney that Christie knew about the lane closures were no bombshell revelation.

“Here’s what it is,” Giuliani told Garrett. “It’s an offer from a guy who says he has evidence, hasn’t given the evidence yet. However, you have to take that into context. This is a lawyer who’s writing for a man who wants somebody else to pay his legal bills and he can’t get them paid unless the governor is responsible. And he’s a guy that’s seeking immunity.”

Giuliani said the recent disclosures and others that will likely come should be put into context.

“This is a long investigation,” said Giuliani. “It’s going to take a while. There’s going to be stuff like this that just jumps out and everybody’s going to exaggerate. They’re going to have to back off.”

If Christie is lying, Giuliani said, it’s a bad situation, but if the governor is telling the truth, “then something very unfair is being done to him. So let’s see what happens.”

Meanwhile, Giuliani said that he does not think Christie should step down from his leadership position at the Republican Governor’s Association.

Further, Giuliani agrees that the allegations that Christie was behind closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge in retribution for the Fort Lee mayor’s refusal to back his re-election campaign are “unfortunate and bad,” and the governor did apologize.

“But what I’m saying is, you take that real incident and now you’ve got pile on,” said Giuliani.

“You have a Democratic legislature with a guy who’d like to be governor, who very, very oddly announces at the beginning he doesn’t believe the governor. And no Democrat in the state sees that it’s odd that he should be running an investigation when he’s already announced that he knows the answer that none of us know the answer to.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Poll: Christie’s Support Drops as Bridge-Gate Scandal Unfolds.


Image: Poll: Christie's Support Drops as Bridge-Gate Scandal Unfolds

By Melanie Batley

 

The bridge-gate scandal engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears to be taking its toll, with more people now viewing the Republican negatively than positively for the first time, while increasing numbers believe he is lying about it, a new poll has found.

According to an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal survey conducted Jan. 22-25 of 800 Americans, 29 percent now view Christie negatively compared to 22 percent who view him positively. That’s a significant reversal from the poll taken in October when 33 percent of respondents had a positive view of him compared to 17 percent who held a negative opinion.

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Meanwhile, 44 percent of those surveyed doubt Christie was telling the truth when he denied any knowledge of the alleged plan by his staff to slow traffic on the George Washington Bridge at Fort Lee, N.J. as political retribution against the city’s Democratic mayor. Forty-two percent, however, say he’s mostly telling the truth about his knowledge of the incident. 

The results also mark a shift from an NBC/Marist poll taken earlier this month when 44 percent of those polled said he was mostly telling the truth, compared to 33 percent who said he wasn’t. 

A full 79 percent of Americans now say they are aware of the story.

“We’re in the midst of an incredibly difficult story,” Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who helped conduct the survey, told the Journal. “We don’t know yet if this overwhelms his national standing.”

But McInturff added, “It changes the starting point of a national campaign.” 

The largest erosion of support came from moderates. Just 22 percent view Christie favorably compared to 29 percent who view him negatively, a dramatic reversal from the October poll when 44 percent of moderates had a positive view of the governor, compared to just 13 percent who viewed him negatively.

His support among Democrats has also seen a reversal. In the current poll, just 15 percent view Christie favorably, compared to 37 percent who view him negatively. In October, 30 percent had a favorable view, compared to 17 percent who voiced a negative opinion.

While Christie has lost some ground with Republicans and self-identified conservatives, he has maintained a largely favorable image among them, though 20 percent of conservatives now view him in a negative light.

The results suggest that the controversies surrounding the governor have significantly damaged his broad appeal nationally and have already dented his 2016 presidential prospects. 

In a presidential match-up with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, support for Christie has slipped by 10 points since the NBC/ Marist poll. Clinton had just a three point lead then at 48 percent compared to Christie’s 45 percent support. In today’s poll, Clinton leads by a margin of 50 percent to 37 percent.

Christie is currently facing multiple state and federal inquiries related to both the bridge-gate controversy and the alleged misuse of superstorm Sandy funds.  

Urgent: Do You Like Chris Christie? Vote Now 

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Christie Blasts ‘Washington Attitude’ But Doesn’t Mention Scandals in Inaugural.


Image: Christie Blasts 'Washington Attitude' But Doesn't Mention Scandals in Inaugural

Governor Chris Christie didn’t mention the New Jersey controversies threatening a possible 2016 presidential run as he began his second term by blasting political gamesmanship and called for bipartisan compromises.

“We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington,” the 51-year-old Republican said in remarks prepared for his inaugural address in Trenton. “The attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong. The attitude that puts everyone into a box they are not permitted to leave. The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word.”

Challenges such as investigations of his office’s Hurricane Sandy spending and ties to politically motivated traffic jams come “out of nowhere, to test you,” Christie said last week. This weekend, another arose as a mayor accused his administration of threatening to withhold disaster aid unless she endorsed a redevelopment project. Today, with snow bearing down, the 51-year-old governor canceled an inaugural celebration at Ellis Island, a high-profile venue that had been taken as a sign that he might court a national electorate.

The governor and his family attended a prayer service today at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church. The pastor, the Rev. Joe A. Carter, reminded the audience that hardships are ever present.

“All of us, at one time or another, have to deal with times of testing and seasons of frustration,” Carter said.

Muted Tones

The governor, ordinarily a clear-voiced, high-energy speaker, has appeared tired since Jan. 9, the day he told reporters he was “a sad guy” during an almost two-hour news conference to address the jams on the George Washington Bridge.

“He knows he’s in trouble,” said Peter Woolley, a politics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey. “He’s concerned that long-time friends and associates are clearly in trouble.”

Christie’s calls for smaller government and lower taxes made him a national figure during his first term. He turned down calls to run for president in 2011, but hasn’t ruled out a 2016 bid. He became chairman of the Republican Governors Association in November.

“I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity,” he said today after taking the oath of office. “What New Jerseyans want is an unfettered opportunity to succeed in the way they define success. They want an equal chance at the starting; not a government guaranteed result.”

Broad Assessment

Last month, Christie was neck and neck with Democrat Hillary Clinton, 48 percent to 46 percent, in a CNN/ORC International poll based on a hypothetical 2016 presidential race. The edge was within the margin of error.

Now he is at the center of an inquiry unprecedented in the New Jersey governor’s office. Democrats, who control both houses of the legislature, are examining whether Christie or members of his administration had knowledge of the lane closings and whether they tried to cover it up.

Legislative committees on Jan. 16 issued 20 subpoenas to individuals and organizations.

Bridge Game

The administration’s ties to the traffic messes came to light in a cache of e-mails and text messages obtained on Jan. 8 by news outlets. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote on Aug. 13 to David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the George Washington Bridge. “Got it,” Wildstein replied.

For four days starting Sept. 9, two of three access lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge were closed. Typical half-hour delays on the New Jersey side stretched to four hours or more.

Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who hadn’t joined colleagues to cross party lines and endorse Christie for re- election, asked the governor’s appointees at the Port Authority whether he was being punished. He got no answer.

On Jan. 9, a day after the e-mail trail was published, Christie apologized and said he was “outraged” and “saddened” by lies within his administration. The governor said he had nothing to do with the tie-ups.

His troubles grew Jan. 13, when the independent inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it was auditing Christie’s expenditure of $25 million in federal Sandy disaster aid on a “Stronger Than The Storm” ad campaign featuring Christie, his wife and their four children.

New Accusation

Then, this weekend, Hoboken’s mayor accused Christie’s administration of muscling her over the redevelopment project.

Christie’s office immediately rebutted the claims by Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat. But Zimmer said in a statement that she met Jan. 19 with federal investigators.

Her allegations will be included in lawmakers’ probe, said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat co-leading the probe. The Assembly and Senate plan to conduct a joint investigation with help from Reid Schar, the lead prosecutor in the corruption trials of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Christie ran up record public approval in the wake of Sandy in October 2012. He beat his Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono, by 22 percentage points in November.

“It matters what the public believes,” said Woolley of Fairleigh Dickinson. “It’s the tide of public opinion that will stay with him or turn against him. Where that tide turns, or doesn’t, is not always on the facts of the case.”
© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Under Cloud of Scandal, Christie to Be Sworn In Again.


Tuesday’s celebrations to mark the start of Gov. Chris Christie’s second term could be tempered by multiple investigations into traffic tie-ups that appear to have been ordered by his staff for political retribution and an allegation that his administration tied Superstorm Sandy aid to approval for a real estate project.

But the 55th governor of New Jersey has a full schedule of inaugural events.

His day is scheduled to start with a service at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church before a swearing in and address in Trenton and an evening party on Ellis Island, a symbolic spot synonymous with the promise of the United States. The island where some 12 million immigrants first entered the U.S. is divided between New Jersey and New York, but his party is to be in a hall on the New York side.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who was drawn into the controversy surrounding Christie this weekend, is also to be sworn in for her second term.

Christie won re-election in November by a 22-point margin over state Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat.

The Republican governor built a national following as a blunt-talking and often funny politician who strived to show that he could find common ground with Democrats on some key issues, including overhauling the state’s public-worker pension program and making it easier to fire teachers who are found to be underperforming.

Christie became a fixture in speculation about who would seek the 2016 presidential nomination with his leadership after Superstorm Sandy slammed into his state in October 2012.

He worked with President Barack Obama and took on Republican members of Congress who were reluctant to approve aid for storm victims, receiving high marks from his constituents and plentiful national attention.

But his reputation has been battered somewhat since revelations this month that a staffer ordered two of three approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge from the town of Fort Lee shut down for four days in September apparently as political retribution against the mayor there, perhaps for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and two state legislative committees are now investigating.

Christie has apologized, denied any involvement with or knowledge of the plot and fired a deputy chief of staff at the center of the controversy. But questions have continued.

Christie’s administration also faces an allegation from the Democratic mayor of Hoboken that it tied the delivery of Superstorm Sandy aid to the low-lying city of 50,000 across from Manhattan to support for a prime real estate project.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that she was told by Guadagno that the ultimatum came directly from Christie. Guadagno strongly denied those claims Monday and described them as “false” and “illogical.”

“Any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false,” she said.

Also on Monday, nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis said Christie dropped a plan to appoint him the state’s first physical fitness ambassador when he launched a political campaign against a Christie friend. Christie’s administration hasn’t returned an email seeking comment.

In his re-election campaign, Christie did not make big new promises, but said he would continue to work on recovery from Sandy, seek tax cuts and push for other previous priorities with which the Democrat-controlled Legislature has not been willing to go along.

Christie has not ruled out a 2016 presidential run.

But last week in an event with storm victims in Manahawkin, he emphasized his New Jersey roots and the task before him as governor.

“Come next Tuesday, I’ve only got about 1,400 days to go as governor. We’ve got plenty of time to get this job done,” he said. “You asked me and I accepted the task of leading this state for eight years, not four years.”

The $500 tickets to the inaugural celebration and other contributions will be used to help support three charities: Save Ellis Island, The New Hope Baptist Church and New Jersey Heroes, which was founded by first lady Mary Pat Christie.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Giuliani on Bridge-gate: Christie ‘Pretty Darn Credible’.


Image: Giuliani on Bridge-gate: Christie 'Pretty Darn Credible'

By Greg Richter

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says “it’s pretty darn credible” that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was unaware his aides had purposely shut down most lanes of the George Washington Bridge as a form of political retaliation.

After all, Christie was in the middle of his re-election bid, Giuliani said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” and during “campaign mode” you miss a lot of things. He compared Christie’s situation to that of President Barack Obama, who initially denied terrorism was involved in the Benghazi attacks.

“This is what happens in political operations. People get wrong messages,” Giuliani said. “People in the IRS thought President Obama wanted them to do this. President Obama didn’t want them to do this,” he said of the IRS scandal in which conservative and tea party groups were targeted for added scrutiny.

In Christie’s case, aides ordered lane shutdowns for what most news organizations are reporting as political payback to Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing his re-election. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has theorized it was over a fight on state Supreme Court judicial nominees. 

Either way, Giuliani said he believes the issue will “just go away” because Christie addressed it fully in an exhaustive press conference on Thursday.

That is, unless facts come out to implicate the governor.

“If it turns out there’s some evidence that he knew about it, he’s taken the complete risk that his political career is over,” Giuliani said.

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Bridge Chief’s Email: Lane Closings Violate Federal Law
Speaker-Elect Calling NJ Assembly Into Special Session on Bridge-gate

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Report: Bridge-gate May Have Been Over Judicial Nominee.


Bridge-gate may not have been retaliation over a failed gubernatorial endorsement at all, but rather a fight over state Supreme Court nominees.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow first theorized the connection on her show on Thursday, noting that the email ordering “traffic problems in Fort Lee” came just 12 hours after an angry Gov. Chris Christie removed a Supreme Court justice’s name from re-election in a fight with Democratic state senators.

The issue began in 2010 when Christie refused to submit the name of Democratic Justice John Wallace for renomination – something that no governor had done since the state constitution was rewritten in the 1940s. Under the constitution, Supreme Court justices are nominated for initial seven-year terms, then can be re-nominated after serving the first term. If confirmed again, they can serve until age 70.

Urgent: Do You Like Chris Christie? Vote Now 

Republican Christie declined to renominate Wallace at the end of his initial seven years even though there had been no complaints about his service, Maddow said.

Democrats were furious, and fights ensued over the next two nominees. Then, when a Republican, Helen Hoens, came up for nomination in 2013, Democrats vowed to fight.

Christie held a press conference on Aug. 12, pulling Hoens off the bench because, he said, “I was not going to let her loose to the animals.” Democrats should have thought about the ramifications “before opening their mouths,” he added.

The next morning, Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly sent out an email saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Fort Lee is in the district of New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

Weinberg told the New York Post she believes there is more to the story. “The governor hasn’t come clean yet,” she said.

Most news organizations have been reporting that the closing of lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge leading into New York City from Fort Lee, N.J., was retaliation against Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse him in his re-election bid. But Maddow noted that both Sokolich and Christie had downplayed those theories, with Sokolich noting that the governor had never pressed him for an endorsement.

Urgent: Do You Like Chris Christie? Vote Now 

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NJ Assembly to Hold Special Session on Bridge-gate
Giuliani: Christie Holds People Accountable, Obama Doesn’t

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

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