It has been a very tough few years for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He has gone from the hottest thing in Republican politics (circa 2012) to, well, not. From his never-really-got-started presidential campaign in 2016 to his decidedly odd surrogate work for Donald Trump, Christie has watched his relevance as a major figure within the GOP ebb away.
And through it all has been Bridgegate, the scandal caused by two of Christie's top gubernatorial aides exacting retribution on a Democratic politician by shutting down several lanes of traffic in Fort Lee, N.J.
Those two aides — Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly — were last week found guilty of all nine charges brought against them, another black mark on Christie's time in office. But the biggest takeaway from the seven-week trial was this: Everyone involved believed Christie should have been charged as well.
Baroni attorney Michael Baldassare said the trial was a “disgrace," adding: “One of the things the U.S. Attorney's Office should be ashamed of is where it decided to draw the line on who to charge and who not to charge.... They should have had belief in their own case to charge powerful people, and they did not."
“Yes, the system worked, and the rule of law has been vindicated," wrote Tom Moran, a member of the Star Ledger editorial board. “Both Kelly and Bill Baroni are now felons. But the big guy got away. Gov. Chris Christie was smart enough to hide his tracks, guided no doubt by his years as a federal prosecutor. He is the firefighter who knows the tricks well enough to get away with arson."
Three of Christie's top staffers admitted under oath during the trial that, contrary to Christie's continued assertions, he was very much aware of the plan to exact revenge on Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for his refusal to endorse the governor's walk-over 2013 reelection race. (Editor's note: This isn't entirely correct. What the staffers said was that Christie was made aware of the lane closures but not of the revenge plot behind it.) Kelly, in particular, painted an image of Christie behind closed doors that was decidedly unappealing; in one instance that she recounted, he allegedly threw a water bottle at her.
Christie's political career was probably over the second he endorsed Trump. Or maybe when he decided to go fully into Trump world as a transparent attempt to curry favor for a potential cabinet post. But the Bridgegate trial seals it: Christie has no future in Republican Party politics. Unless, of course, Trump wins on Tuesday — a possible but far from likely prospect.
Chris Christie, for watching your political career get caught in a traffic snarl, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.