Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.

The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants…

“The bottom line is, it’s not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer,” she said Saturday on UP w/ Steve Kornacki. “… I know it’s very complicated for the public to really understand all of this, but I have a legal obligation to follow the law, to bring balanced development to Hoboken.”…

“I’d be more than willing to testify under oath and – and answer any questions and provide any documents, take a lie detector test,” Zimmer said, referring to the Christie administration’s denials. “And, you know, my question back to them is, ‘Would all of you? Would all of you be willing do that same thing, to testify under oath, to take a lie detector test?’”

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A former Port Authority employee told CNN that agency officials were told in 2010 they had to find a place for [David] Wildstein at the executive level and the directive was coming from Christie’s office. Soon after, the position was created specifically for WIldstein. When Wildstein started, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, Christie’s top appointee at the agency, introduced him to people as a good friend of the governor.

CNN examined documents from the Port Authority showing the names, titles and salaries of nearly 7,000 employees. The reports show that prior to Christie’s first term in office there were four people working in the deputy executive director’s office, the highest position on the New Jersey side of the agency. When Christie came into office the number increased to six. The documents show that Wildstein’s position was created in May 2010.

Sources, including several current and former employees at various levels of the Port Authority who did not want their names used, told CNN it was assumed that when David Wildstein was involved in any discussions at the agency, the information was being passed back to Christie’s office.

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Christie’s team will face new scrutiny in coming days. On Thursday, the state legislature in Trenton approved two special committees to investigate the September lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The burgeoning scandal has ensnared several of the governor’s closest aides, who have quit or been fired.

State Democrats said Bill Stepien and Bridget Anne Kelly — two advisers who were cut loose by Christie last week — would soon be called to testify about their roles in the controversy.

And Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D), who is chairing one of the investigative panels, said more Christie associates should expect to be called as the inquiries continue. His committee issued subpoenas to 17 individuals and three organizations Thursday afternoon. It declined to disclose the names until the subpoenas are served.

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Rom-denfreude (noun) — The pleasure Mitt Romney loyalists are taking in the struggles of Chris Christie.

The condition is prevalent, stemming from a range of perceived Christie slights towards Romney during the 2012 campaign, which several Romney loyalists ticked off quickly — and with still-evident bitterness…

The sniping is not insignificant. Christie is not well-liked among tea party activists and leaders, where he is seen as a big-government moderate. So, in order to build a coalition that could give him a chance at the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, he’ll most likely need strong support from Republican establishment types, like those who formed the core of Romney’s formidable operation. And as the party’s last presidential nominee, his alumni network remains influential in the GOP professional and donor classes…

“There is a concern that where there is smoke there is fire,” [a Romney] operative said. “And this isn’t just one plume of smoke, this is several.”

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“The guy, as a person, is horrific,” said Ballard, a top lobbyist and finance chair of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney…

“Charlie Crist got a lot of grief for what was called a hug of Obama. But what Christie did to Obama isn’t suitable to say in a family newspaper,” Ballard said. “I firmly believe he helped swing that election in Obama’s favor just to help himself. I busted my ass for two years raising money and supporting Romney and this guy Christie just wiped his hands of us when we were no longer useful to him.”

Ballard said “90 percent” of other major Romney fundraisers outside of the New Jersey-New York metro area “wouldn’t touch Christie with a 10-foot pole right now.”

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Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney strongly defended New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the bridge traffic scandal engulfing his administration, saying the governor’s presidential campaign prospects are “not hurt by the controversy.”…

“I think Chris has handled this in a very effective way,” Romney said. “A member of his administration did something that he was unaware of and that he found reprehensible. He faced the American people for two hours, took their questions. He dismissed people who were responsible. He took personal responsibility. That’s what a leader does.”

Romney continued, “I think he’s handled this kind of setting in a way very different than people who are not leaders, and I think the American people are pining for leaders who will take responsibility, who will answer questions openly, who will make sure that there’s accountability for the individuals who’ve done something wrong and speak in a blunt, straightforward manner. I think Chris is not hurt by the controversy. I think as time goes on, he’ll be seen as a strong leader.”

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“Christie should still be Christie,” Madden said. “I believe it has less to do with changing his style entirely and more to do with picking his spots or his battles wisely. There will be times where his no-nonsense, confrontational approach will still fit perfectly with an electorate that is tired of the status quo and tired of what Christie himself called ‘the blow-dried approach’ of today’s conventional politicians.”…

Dante Scala, a New Jersey native and professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, explained a key reason why this is so: “As others have pointed out, Christie’s combativeness is supposed to compensate for his moderation on certain issues important to the Republican primary electorate. If his assertiveness gave way to humble bipartisanship on the campaign trail, he becomes the Northeastern Republican version of Jon Huntsman ’12. And the trajectory for that type of candidate is at best flat, even in New Hampshire.”

Indeed, Christie’s reputation as an authentic, straight shooter is so central to his overall appeal in the media and among the general public, that if he were to lose that edge, all bets could be off.

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Bridgegate inarguably hurts Christie. It blunts the momentum from his crushing reelection victory. It opens him up to intense investigative scrutiny. It makes his political persona problematic — it will now be harder for him to strike back against hecklers in classic Christie style without validating the “bully” charge.

But over? Assuming Christie isn’t exposed as a liar, that’s silly. If the Fort Lee caucuses were a key event in the Republican nomination fight and took place next month, the governor might have an insuperable problem. Fortunately for Christie, Manchester, N.H., is a couple of hundred miles away, and the First in the Nation primary won’t be held for two years.

The idea that Christie is over depends on people caring about the scandal more rather than less over time, and on core Republican voters nationally caring more about it than random people in New Jersey.

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The other problem is that too many Americans have quickly jumped to the wrong conclusion. No, not about whether Christie knew about the prank and conspired to inconvenience scores of New Jersey residents in order to bully a political opponent. I’m talking about the other conclusion — the one about how being a bully is a negative trait in an elected official, and perhaps even enough to end a political career.

Is that so? Who made that determination? Think back to the great leaders who helped define the last century — from Teddy Roosevelt to Winston Churchill to Franklin D. Roosevelt to Harry Truman to Margaret Thatcher to Ronald Reagan. You had better believe that those people had moments when they acted like bullies. That’s part of politics…

America could use more strength on the world stage. We needn’t push around other countries, but — whether we’re talking about China or Libya or North Korea — we also need a president who won’t let our country be pushed around either.

Who’s afraid of big, bad bullies? Voters aren’t. They keep voting them into office — perhaps in the hopes that they’ll use their strength for good.

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But as Tony Soprano (played so memorably by the late Jersey native James Gandolfini), could tell you, the same forces that spur ambition and success also carry within them their own demise. It quickly becomes difficult to know when serious lines are being crossed or the wrong messages are being sent to the people around you.

It’s telling that in his rise to national prominence, Gov. Christie captured headlines less for what he did than how he did it. Where other Republican governors have implemented major structural changes to collective bargaining (Wisconsin’s Scott Walker) or educational policy (Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal), Christie has essentially governed as a big-government conservative, spending more money each year he’s been in office and doling out conventional corporate welfare to favored constituents. The State of the State address he delivered yesterday didn’t change any of that…

Even if he’s ultimately fully exonerated in these and any other scandals, a question about his temperament will remain. Ironically, the same 100 percent Jersey temperament that got him noticed may disqualify him for life outside of Trenton. New Jersey exports tons of fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, and above all, smart people. What it hasn’t done in a very long time — and probably for very good reason — is export a president.

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Christie had three unique assets going for him: Mainstream media adoration (at least compared to the likes of Mitt Romney); a readiness to brawl with political opponents (unlike John McCain); and the perception of not being like a typical politician (unlike both Romney and McCain).

In the wake of “Bridgegate,” however, all three of Christie’s strengths crumbled and, potentially, so did his viability as a serious 2016 contender. The sooner Christie and the Republican Party recognize this grim reality, the better off they will both be in the long run.

Of course many could argue it’s still too early to stick a fork in Christie and declare him done, and that he has time to restore his credibility. However, even if Christie rides the media roller coaster back towards the apex of popularity, this ordeal revealed not just how little value it is being a Republican liked by journalists (such flirtations always prove to be like a summer camp crush never meant to last), but also that the idea of Christie as some bipartisan role-model was a media myth buoyed by a simple picture of Christie hugging Obama after Hurricane Sandy…

It’s probably a long-shot to happen, yes, but what better way for Christie to reclaim and truly earn the designation of being a unique and principled leader then to announce he will not run for president in 2016? Not because he lacks the desire (he clearly wants to be president), but because it is so vital for Republicans to win that election, and the governor’s misjudgment in surrounding himself with unprofessional aides capable of such intolerable behavior suggests maybe he should step aside so that an untainted Republican candidate can emerge.

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