A lot happened while I was hunkered down writing my last post, so I’m just catching up to some of the events of late last week. Specifically, that ridiculous report exonerating Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) from any involvement in or knowledge of the lane closures that are at the heart of “Bridgegate.” As Carter Eskew points out today, Christie’s defense is a fallacy.
Key participants in the scandal — David Wildstein, Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien — were not interviewed for the report. The 360-page document makes “adverse inferences” from their assertion of Fifth Amendment rights. And then there were the nasty and gratuitous mentions of personal business between Kelly and Stepien. And the law firm that conducted the “investigation” that exonerated the governor was handpicked by the governor.
That last point is everything I need to know to completely dismiss all this exoneration talk of Christie. The lead investigator is Randy Mastro, a former federal prosecutor and partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Mastro was once chief of staff to and then the deputy mayor for operations for then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And Mastro is not the only connection between Christie and Giuliani.
Michael DuHaime, a senior Christie strategist who helped him get elected and reelected, was Giuliani’s ill-fated 2008 quest for the Republican presidential nomination. Maria Comella, currently Christie’s deputy chief of staff for communications and planning, was Giuliani’s press secretary during his 2008 run. Kelly worked with them on that campaign, too. The Chicago Tribune lists a few more former staffers shared by Christie and Giuliani.
Look, I cut my teeth as an opinion writer at the New York Daily News in Rudy Giuliani’s New York. That’s why I suffered significant whiplash watching Mastro and Giuliani defend something that hizzoner and his lieutenants would have blasted as worthless. Chuck Todd zeroed in on this on “Meet The Press” yesterday.
Todd: You’re a former U.S. attorney. If somebody came to you with an investigation that came to a conclusion like the one that Christie’s investigation did but it did not interview the five most important players in the investigation including Bridget Kelly, Bill Stepien, David Wildstein, David Samson, Bill Baroni, all these people all involved in it, would you accept that as a complete investigation as a former U.S. attorney?
Giuliani: No, no, I wouldn’t. I would not accept it as a complete investigation but I would accept it for what it’s worth. In other words, I would go through it in great detail because it can give you a tremendous amount of information. So far, no one has gotten to interview those people including the Joint Committee.
Giuliani: So this report has gone as far par as anybody can go. And it can give you some very valuable information. For example, what Kelly, Stepien, and these people were saying at the time to other witnesses, all of which is in the report–I happen to have read the report–…
Giuliani: …can be extremely important evidence. Actually, I found sometimes the things they say back then, that witnesses say back at the time the event is going on…
Giuliani: …are far more credible than what they might say to investigators later when they’re looking for immunity or they’re looking for indemnification. So no, it’s not a final or complete report. But nor should it be tossed aside as not having extremely valuable information. This is valuable stuff even to a prosecutor.
We all need to keep something in mind that Andrea Bernstein said on MSNBC’s “UP with Steve Kornacki” when we were Christie defenders trying to use the Mastro report as a blast shield. None of the 70 people talked to by Mastro and his investigators were under oath. Until folks start speaking under oath about any of this, it’s all theater. More for the court of public opinion than a court of law.
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