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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Editorial: Chris Christie Should Resign If Bombshell Proves True


We have found it hard to believe that Governor Christie knew nothing of the lane closing political revenge scheme until after it was publicly revealed.  It was a scheme that created massive disruption and delays for thousands of motorists and one which had serious safety implications and may have threatened lives.  Senior staff to such political figures do not take such aggressive action against political opponents without the approval of the politician at whose pleasure they serve, or without being very certain that unethical and highly risky political action is implicitly sanctioned. 

As the media well-knows, Governor Christie has an "ethically challenged" history.  If he was involved in this story, as is likely, we believe the media may have done the GOP and the country a great favor in exposing him now.  We have no doubt that if Christie were the GOP presidential nominee in 2016, he would be yet another in a long line of "moderate" (RINO) Republican presidential nominees - Ford, Dole, McCain and Romney - and like them, would would be utterly unappealing to the GOP base and  unelectable.  It would be a campaign in which, one by one,  the many skeletons in Governor Christie's closet were revealed.  

Behind all the bombast and Jersey attitude, is just another RINO of the Nelson Rockefeller, Christie Whitman and John McCain stripe.  We will be far better off without Chris Christie in 2016.  Surely, New Jersey and the country can do better.



Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.

David Wildstein, the man who ordered the George Washington Bridge lane closures, is now pointing the finger directly at Gov. Chris Christie, saying the governor knew about the lane closures in September when they occurred.

That directly contradicts Christie account at his Jan. 13 press conference when he made this statement: "I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it... I first found out about it after it was over."

If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because
that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.

By the governor's own standard, lying is a firing offense. Here's what he said about his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelley, at the same press conference: "There's no justification for ever lying to a governor or a person in authority in this government. As a result, I've terminated Bridget's employment."

One hopes that he would consider lying to the people of New Jersey as an offense of equal magnitude.

So for now, set aside the other scandals. Forget about the charge of extortion in Hoboken. Forget about the growing evidence showing that Christie used Sandy aid as a political slush fund, leaving the real victims short. 

The lane closures in Fort Lee not only caused people to miss meetings, and lose out on business deals. It delayed ambulance responses in Fort Lee, and so put people's lives at risk. It was an abuse of government authority that was almost too reckless to believe at first. If the governor did know about it as it occurred, he should have put a stop to it.

The order to close those lanes came from Wildstein, and was triggered by an email from Kelly. That much is not in dispute. And that alone is damning evidence that Christie's administration is dangerously out of control. But if the governor himself was involved, this moves to a new level.

Is Wildstein telling the truth? He faces a criminal investigation himself, so he has a powerful incentive to give prosecutors damning information they can use against a bigger fish. That would give him leverage to negotiate a plea deal. So it is too early to know.

But Wildstein says he has documents that prove the governor was lying at his famous two-hour press conference, when Christie blamed the event on the "stupid" actions of his own staff. And certainly, Wildstein was in a position to know the roots of this conspiracy. A Christie acquaintance since high school, he was appointed to a senior position at the Port Authority, despite having no expertise in transit issues. He was the governor's eyes and ears at the authority.
 
The governor's office put a statement Friday evening saying that Christie had no "prior knowledge" of the lane closures. But Wildstein's has not made that charge. His claim is that Christie knew of the lane closure while they were underway. The governor's statement is an evasion.

Wildstein's staement means that others who have been implicated in this scandal will probably come forward now as well, hoping to strike deals with prosecutors before their testimony becomes redundant. And all this will happen as the administration answers dozens of subpoenas, and grapples with both criminal and legislative investigations.

When you layer on top of this the criminal investigation in Hoboken, and a separate investigation of Sandy spending by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, it becomes difficult to see how Christie can function. It should be clear even to him now that he should step down as head of the Republican Governors Association.

This is a shocking development. Christie is now damaged goods. If Wildstein's disclosures are as powerful as he claims, the governor must go.


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