Chris Christie may not be on trial over the Bridgegate scandal, but he may pay a steep price for it after all. Prosecutors have produced testimony in their court case against Christie’s aides that strongly suggest that the governor knew more than he admitted about the vindictive bridge closure. NBC’s New York affiliate reports that the testimony has state legislators angry again over the scandal, and this time they may be looking for a conclusion to it:
Key members of the New Jersey Assembly have begun researching whether or not to bring articles of impeachment against Gov. Chris Christie, NBC 4 New York has learned.
This follows early testimony in the George Washington Bridge scandal trial, which some Assembly members believe shows the Republican governor had more knowledge of the lane closures in Fort Lee during and after that week in 2013 then he has led the public to believe.
One committee chairman who did not want to be named said “clearly obstruction of justice” would be an obvious charge against the governor.
The legislator told NBC 4 New York the chances are probably 50-50 that the assembly would pursue impeachment.
Well, an obstruction of justice charge would put a dent in Christie’s confirmation as Donald Trump’s Attorney General, no? In fact, Christie has already been keeping a mighty low profile as a Trump surrogate, even before the start of the trial. Perhaps the Trump campaign figured out that the trial would make Christie a liability, at least temporarily. An impeachment would make him persona non grata.
Christie has another year-plus on his term, so the legislature has reason to take action rather than let it ride. If they do decide to act, it’s almost certain to succeed. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature, so getting the needed majority for impeachment would be relatively easy. To remove Christie from office, they’ll need at least three Republican state senators to go along. Christie might be fortunate to end up like Bill Clinton — impeached, but left to serve out his term.
Did Christie obstruct justice, though, or just minimize his involvement publicly? It might not matter much, because impeachment is a political rather than criminal process. But at least one witness has testified that Christie blocked access to his key aide David Wildstein from investigators, which would certainly be in the obstruction-of-justice ballpark:
Testimony on Thursday morning by Patrick J. Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority, which operates the bridge, described a frenzied effort to cover up the punitive purpose of the closings in the three months afterward. Mr. Christie won a broad re-election that fall, becoming a front-runner for the Republican nomination for the presidency and prompting more interest, and more questions from reporters, about the events.
Mr. Foye testified that he conducted an internal review of the closings, talking to just three people at the Port Authority. But he could not ask Mr. Wildstein, a top official at the agency and a close ally of Mr. Christie’s, even a single question, he testified.
“Because you couldn’t?” asked Michael Critchley, a lawyer for one of the defendants, Bridget Anne Kelly, who was a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie. “He was protected by Chris Christie, correct?”
“Yes,” Mr. Foye said.
A Port Authority board member appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Democrat of New York, had wanted to fire Mr. Wildstein for a year, Mr. Foye testified. Mr. Wildstein was “abusive and untrustworthy,” he said, and “hated by hundreds, thousands of people at the Port Authority.” But Mr. Wildstein could not be terminated, Mr. Foye said, because it was “complicated.”
Wildstein appears to be the fall guy for Christie in this telling. As NBC News reports in the video below, he also appears to have been Christie’s hatchet man, and might still be. He’s the prosecution’s star witness in the trial, but he’s not pointing upward. If he was, Christie would presumably be sitting in the dock with the other defendants. The legislature might still put him there yet.