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The problem for Christie isn’t what his aides did. It’s what they thought he wanted them to do.

Chris Christie's problem was never that some of his closest aides thought it would be a good idea to punish a mayor by closing lanes on a bridge. Christie's problem was that some of his closest aides thought he would think it was a good idea to punish a mayor by closing lanes on a bridge. And now the press is going to start finding out why his top aides thought that.

MSNBC's Steve Kornacki just found one reason:

The story here is devastating for the New Jersey governor: Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken and a Christie ally, says the governor's office refused to release badly needed hurricane relief funds unless she approved a development project from a Christie-connected firm. Zimmer showed Kornacki a diary entry she wrote after spending a day with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno:

At the end of a big tour of ShopRite and meeting, [Guadagno] pulls me aside with no one else around and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It is very important to the governor. The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right — these things should not be connected — but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it.

Zimmer said in another journal entry that the message was reiterated by Richard Constable, Christie's director of community affairs:

“We are mic’ed up with other panelists all around us and probably the sound team is listening. And he says “I hear you are against the Rockefeller project”. I reply “I am not against the Rockefeller project; in fact I want more commercial development in Hoboken.” “Oh really? Everyone in the State House believes you are against it — the buzz is that you are against it. If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you” he tells me.

Christie's office says Zimmer is lying. They point to supportive tweets she sent out about Christie. But those tweets undermine their case. Zimmer liked Christie! She was awed by him, even. “I was emotional about governor Christie,” she wrote in a May 17 diary entry. “I thought he was honest. I thought he was moral. I thought he was something very different. This week I found out he’s cut from the same corrupt cloth that I have been fighting for the last four years.”

It would be easier to dismiss Zimmer if not for the bridge closure. And it would be easier to explain away the bridge closure if not for Zimmer. That's the problem for Christie: These stories are beginning to build. Each new revelation makes the past scandals more believable — and more damaging. And each new story intensifies the media's efforts to find more.

The problem for Christie isn't what his aides did. It's what they thought he wanted them to do.

Related: Chris Christie's problem is that he's really, truly a bully.



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Sarah Kliff · January 17, 2014

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