Sunday, January 12, 2014

Republicans Weigh in On Bridge-Gate - Was Loretta Weinberg the Real Target of Christie's Wrath?

NJ State Senator Loretta Weinberg (Photo by Ed Murray/Star Ledger)
After weeks of relative silence on governor Chris Christie's growing Bridge-Gate scandal, leading figures in the Republican hierarchy have started to chime in on the issue.

On Fox News earlier today, GOP strategist Karl Rove had nothing but praise for Christie's handling of the scandal, noting with optimism,
“I think he did himself a lot of good,”, he even suggested it proves the NJ governor has what it takes to be president.

If nothing else you have to admire Rove for thinking outside the box. Clearly Rove has never been in a car stuck in traffic headed east-bound on the George Washington Bridge on a sunny Friday afternoon in the summer when the Yankees have a 7:05pm start time in the Bronx.

Not surprisingly the morally upright and pious former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum as well as RNC chair Reince Priebus (best-name-ever) also towed the party line.

Instead of commenting on Christie's misuse of political power, they used the opportunity to instead criticize President Obama for Benghazi (which both a recent book and a New York Times investigation called a "scandal" concocted by right-wing media) and the IRS brouhaha when Republicans cried foul after the IRS investigated conservative non-profits using funds for political purposes in violation of US law.

There's a new theory gaining traction too. On Friday Trevor LaFauci posted a very interesting piece on the PoliticusUSA Website regarding some of the detailed research and analysis on the Bridge-Gate scandal conducted by Rachel Maddow and her staff.  

Maddow is a tenacious journalist and she was really the first to break this story; and she suggests it goes much deeper. According to LaFauci's article, Maddow has floated the theory that Christie's retribution was not aimed at Fort Lee governor Mark Sokolich, rather it was intended for NJ Democratic Senate leader Loretta Weinberg (pictured above) whose district is in Fort Lee.

Please click the link above and read the article, but here's how the "Maddow theory" works:

After an initial seven year term NJ State Supreme Court judges must be renominated by the governor and approved by the state senate for a life-time term. In 2010 Justice John Wallace, Jr., the only African-American on the State Supreme Court, was NOT renominated by governor Christie - this was the first time since 1947 that a State Supreme Court judge was not renominated for a life term and it apparently infuriated the NJ Democratic legislative establishment.

So in retribution, Democratic senators opposed three subsequent Christie appointees to fill Wallace's position on the court; including most recently, Judge Helen Hoens. Here's where it gets interesting.

According to Maddow, Hoens' husband was tight with Chris Christie and worked in his administration. On August 12th of this year, Christie, knowing Democrats would oppose her renomination to the court for a lifetime tenure in a political process that would possibly tarnish her reputation, decided not to renominate her.

According to LaFauci's politicususa article, Maddow suggests Christie was so irate about having to withdraw Hoens' nomination, that he then ordered the lane closure on the GW Bridge.

As records now clearly show, the e-mail sent from Christie's staff to David Wildstein (Christie's ex-high school classmate and the former director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority) ordering the Port Authority to close the access lanes that snarled traffic for three days was sent on August 13th, one day after Christie's angry press conference announcing the withdrawal of Hoens' name.

It's a pretty fascinating theory, one that would alter the scope of the scandal significantly. It suggests the whole 'revenge against Sokolich' story was a smokescreen.

If it's proved that Christie did order the bridge closures as retribution for the State Supreme Court nomination - then the story not only leads back to Christie refusing to renominate the only African-American judge on the court back in 2010; it's also clear his former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly would never have been responsible for calling up the port authority on her own to order retribution on a close personal friend of Christie's.

If Maddow's theory does turn out to be true, she deserves serious journalistic accolades for uncovering a truth Christie is desperate to keep hidden. If David Wildstein or Bridet Kelly decide to lawyer up and cop a plea to avoid jail time, the truth won't stay hidden for long.

Regardless of how it all turns out, Maddow and her staff have done some excellent investigative work - work that could end up altering the 2016 Republican nominee for president.

Perhaps we should all start calling her "Tenacious R".   

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