It took three years, gallons of newspaper ink and endless reports on cable TV news but there’s finally been a legal decision in Bridgegate. Guilty! Two former aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie created what the Associated Press called an “epic traffic jam” on the George Washington Bridge. According to the prosecutors, the whole incident was an act of political revenge that, allegedly, went all the way to the top and landed on Christie’s desk.
Prosecutors knew not to reach that high. They would never get Christie with any smoking gun. Not only does he have a tight grip on New Jersey politics, but he’s running around with Donald Trump, and no one volunteers to face that legal team. But New Jersey residents and countless journalists were calling for blood, so someone had to be sacrificed.
Cue the former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and Port Authority worker, Bill Baroni. Both were found guilty, a move Christie actually applauded. The governor said the verdict supported his decision to fire Baroni and Kelly, adding that the jury was right to hold them accountable for their own conduct. In the statement, Christie went out of his way to repeat his innocence, saying he never knew about the revenge plot.
Christie went on to attack the media for “the lies told in the media” as well as others for the lies told in the courtroom. In his statement Christie went on to say:
“I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments and had no role in authorizing them… No believable evidence was presented to contradict that fact. Anything said to the contrary over the past six weeks in court is simply untrue.”
Not too many people were really buying that line. Christie has been tarred and feathered by this scandal, even if nothing is ever proven regarding his involvement. Even if he successfully dodges legal or political repercussions, which it looks like he will, there’s not much he can do to erase the testimony of the prosecutors in the case who argued convincingly that Kelly and Baroni plotted with David Wildstein, a confidant and supporter of Christie, to close the lanes at the foot of what the AP called “the nation’s busiest bridge. An effort that, they said, was in retaliation for the mayor of Fort Lee refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.
The stain of that association is not something Christie can wipe away with big speeches or emphatic sound bites.
Elie Hirschfeld is NY real estate developer.