The dominoes are starting to fall in the image of Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, bipartisan 2016 GOP presidential hopeful.
After Mayor Dawn Zimmer made stunning allegations on MSNBC last weekend that the Christie administration threatened to withhold Sandy Aid funds from her New Jersey town of Hoboken, U.S. Attorneys requested a Sunday meeting with her. The fact that this took place on a Sunday signified the seriousness of her allegations.
Thursday morning, NBC
reported that three sources with direct knowledge of the probe told them that the FBI has begun questioning witnesses about Zimmer’s allegations. They are investigating whether or not Christie’s Lt Governor and key aides threatened to only release the funds upon the Mayor’s approval of a development project for a Christie donor with close ties to a very influential Christie appointee. This is a separate investigation from Bridgegate.
Their sources told NBC that federal agents have already questioned Zimmer’s chief of staff, Dan Bryan, and her communications director Juan Melli, who “are among at least five witnesses who Zimmer told the FBI could confirm that she had previously told them about the conversation she says she had with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno last May.”
The New York Times reports yet another witness who can verify that these accusations aren’t new:
A Hoboken city councilman, David Mello, said in an interview that Ms. Zimmer had also told him about the threat by Ms. Guadagno, a Republican. Mr. Mello, a Democrat, said he had been upset to hear about what he called “this quid pro quo ultimatum by the lieutenant governor.”
Ms. Guadagno had denied the allegations made by Mayor Zimmer, claiming they are illogical.
“Mayor Zimmer’s version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false, but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined.”
But even as she denied Zimmer’s allegations, evidence was already mounting to support Zimmer’s accusations, and the close ties between the developer and Christie, along with the corresponding failure to deliver but 1% of the requested Sandy Aid to a town flooded by 80% really doesn’t bode well. Furthermore, the developer in question, the Rockefeller Group, has been battling the residents who objected to what they seem to think is the developer’s attempts to get special treatment in a development project.
Remember, while Republicans try to convince the media that there’s nothing to see here because there’s no proof that Christie benefited personally or financially. Certainly some federal prosecutors agree with that assessment, as well, so there’s a lot of sound bites making the rounds this morning on that front. However, Chicago Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted for asking about a possible Cabinet post while discussing a Senate successor to Obama.
The two attorneys who both represented and prosecuted Blagojevich disagree with the assessment that this isn’t illegal, according to the North Jersey.com Ironically, the former assistant U. S. Attorney who prosecuted Blagojevich is also assisting in the NH state Legislature’s bridge investigation.
North Jersey reported:
Chicago defense attorney Sam Adam Jr., who represented former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in a corruption trial, disagreed with Hanly’s assessment.
Adam said aggressive prosecutors do not need an explicit benefit to bring a case, noting Blagojevich was convicted for asking about a possible Cabinet post in President Obama’s administration during discussions over appointing a successor to Obama in the U.S. Senate. The attorney assisting in the state Legislature’s bridge investigation, Reid Schar, is a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Blagojevich.
“It does not have to be explicit any longer,” Adam said. “You don’t have to have a conversation where someone says, we’ll give you one if you do the other.”
Illegal or not, it is definitely an abuse of power and a most egregious one at that, given the circumstances of a town full of people desperate for aid after a huge super storm. It also completely destroys any notion of Chris Christie the bipartisan Sandy Aid man of the people. Here he is, looking like a petty bully who put people’s lives at risk in the politically motivated lane closure and again, turned his back on the people suffering after Sandy hit, in order to assist a donor and high level appointee.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.