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GOP takes out hatchets to defend Christie

Chris Christie
Chris Christie
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Chris Chrstie’s GOP apologists took out their hatchets to attack the messengers delivering bad news about the so-called “Bridgegate” affair where Christie claims a rogue group of staff and appointees closed down lanes on the GW Bridge. Using former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as his attack dog on Sunday morning talk shows, the former U.S. attorney attacked the credibility of the first-and-only witness to come forward with any information about “Bridgegate,” 51-year-old Port Authority appointee David Wildstein. Guiliani indicts Wildstein’s testimony suggesting he only wants New Jersey to pay his legal bills, now that he offers the first glimpse on any real facts on what happened. Giuliani and other Republicans are perfectly content with Christie’s Jan. 9 press conference when he denied knowing anything about the George Washington Bridge closing before the occurred Sept. 9-13, 2013.

Joining Giuliani’s attack on Wildstein on national TV were Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, both defending Christie without, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said, any facts. Now that the blackout on eyewitnesses has been broken by Wildstein, the GOP pounces on anyone offering any explanation other than Christie’s. Wildstein “wants somebody else to pay his legal bills and he can’t get them paid unless the governor is responsible,” said Giuliani on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” not mentioning the obvious that New Jersey currently pays Christie’s pricey criminal defense attorney Randy Mastro from Washington, D.C.’s Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLC. Christie’s hatchet men don’t ask why not a single witness connected with the GW Bridge lane closings has come forward, including Christie’s 41-year-old former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly.

Trying Christie’s case on Sunday morning talk shows, the GOP hopes to get their boy off the hook, when there’s a blackout on anyone remotely connected with “Bridgegate.” Christie insisted at his Jan. 9 press conference that he hadn’t talked with Kelly, not a peep, because he knows she lied to him. But Christie’s explanation of a “rogue” staff from otherwise diehard loyal employees lacks plausible deniability. Firing everyone connected with the scandal doesn’t meet the smell test, smacking of a cover-up from Day 1, when the New York Times published Jan. 8, Kelly’s incriminating email to Wildstein, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” wrote Kelly to Wildstein, to which he responded, “Got it.” Giuliani wants anyone connected with the Bridgegate investigation discredited, especially Democrat Rep. John Wisniewski who heads the New Jersey investigative committee.

Saying Wisniewski would like to be governor, Giuliani concocts the most lame excuse why no one should believe the New Jersey Assembly’s investigative committee. “What I’ve said is I have skepticism about the governor’s statement,” said Wisniewski, referring to Christie’s explanation that his loyal staff went rogue, ordering the GW Bridge lane closings without his approval. Christie’s defenders don’t want to hear from any witnesses connected with Bridgegate. They’d like the whole mess to disappear, believing Christie’s Jan. 9 denials in his press conference where he insisted he didn’t learn of the lane closing until after they occurred. What Christine didn’t deny—and no one asked him—was whether he ordered Kelly to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting his reelection bid. Without any real facts, defending Christie carries political risks to the GOP.

When more witnesses come forward, the GOP can’t continue to say that everyone contradicting Christie is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to discredit the New Jersey governor. No one’s heard a peep from his former Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly who Christie tossed under the buss. In a bad sign for Chrsitie, Kelly hasn’t come forward to admit guilt and corroborate Christie’s story that she went “rogue” without Christie’s knowledge or approval. Describing Wildstein’s recent allegations as “one person’s word against the other,” 44-year-old former VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) might regret defending Christie when the facts come out. Rushing to his defense carries certain risks when only Wildstein has come forward. “Nothing has been proven and you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kinds of situations,” said Ryan, knowing no other witnesses have spoken.

In shades of Watergate, when the GOP hierarchy defended Nixon and were forced to eat crow when the facts came out, rushing to Christie’s defense could damage budding political careers. For has-beens like Giuliani, he’s got nothing to lose since his political aspirations have been dashed in recent years. GOP hopefuls like Ryan need to consider the risks of defending a man currently under investigation by New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. Instead of attacking Democrats in the legislature like Wisniewsky, Giuliani mentioned nothing about the U.S. Attorney’s probe. Firing his long-time political strategist and campaign manager Bill Stepien, Christie shows the extremes to which he’ll go to save his hide. If there were really no truth to Christie’s payback of Sokolich, why would he fire Stepien for simply making disparaging public remarks about the Fort Lee Mayor?

About the Author.

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.