Chris Christie knew nothing about orders from his office to close entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge to exact political retribution, a charge that if not true could end his chances for the presidency and perhaps his time in Trenton as well. If he is lying now, the prevarication would be worse than the action. What else to conclude from the governor’s reaction to a report he commissioned exonerating him? His swagger was back last week at press appearances and at the gathering of Republican supplicants at Shelly Adelson’s Las Vegas audition. No one would have the temerity to celebrate if there are more shoes to drop, would they? After all, the U.S. Attorney is investigating too, and he has the power to loosen lips through plea deals. Christie seems to be a man without fear.
First, the report was done by a law firm hand-picked by the governor. It took Chuck Todd, a guest host on Meet the Press, all of twenty seconds to destroy it. On the show yesterday, he asked Christie’s chief defense witness, Rudy Giuliani, how he would have reacted to a report when he was a federal prosecutor that didn’t (couldn’t, in fact) interview the leading participants in the controversy. Mr. Giuliani could only smile and say, “I would not accept this as a complete investigation.” No further questions. The witness may step down.
At least this Christie ally maintained his credibility. But the report strains that of its author, Randy Mastro, a lawyer with the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. To minimize not interviewing key participants in the scandal, the report, in a rather remarkable passage, says that key witnesses “have asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, from which adverse inferences can be appropriately drawn.” Presuming guilt on the basis of asserting constitutional rights may be a common perception, but we might expect better from a less-biased legal reviewer.
But on to the matters of Bridget Kelly and Chris Christie’s reaction to the report. The report doesn’t just speculate about Kelly’s guilt; it basically concludes that she and she alone is responsible for the decision to order the access lane closures and cover it up. As others have noted, the report is sharply personal in its depiction of Kelly’s supposed emotional state and its contribution to her actions. It describes her as having been dumped by one of the other figures in the scandal, Bill Stepien, and reacting by “crying” and “looking upset.” Many commentators have described the report’s language as sexist, but what’s more important is what Kelly thinks about it. Christie’s reaction indicates he doesn’t care what she thinks; the case is closed. Whatever professional or personal reasons Kelly had to remain loyal to the governor are gone. And, to use a metaphor that Mr. Mastro might understand, the U.S. Attorney is a strong shoulder for Kelly to cry on if she has any tears left.