Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trouble Ahead: Christie's Bridgegate Gamble Creates New Challenges

Gov. Chris Christie took a major political and legal gamble with his decision to ask Randy Mastro and a team of Gibbon Dunn lawyers to conduct an internal inquiry into the Bridgegate and Hoboken allegations in the face of a pair of ongoing probes by a federal grand jury and a legislative committee armed with subpoena power.

Trouble Ahead: Christie’s Bridgegate Gamble Creates New Challenges

Gov. Chris Christie took a major political and legal gamble with his decision to ask Randy Mastro and a team of Gibbon Dunn lawyers to conduct an internal inquiry into the Bridgegate and Hoboken allegations in the face of a pair of ongoing probes by a federal grand jury and a legislative committee armed with subpoena power.

Politically, there is no question that the embattled Christie needed the controversial Mastro report exonerating him and his top aides of any wrongdoing in Bridgegate and attacking Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s veracity. The release of the report revived his 2016 presidential hopes, protected his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, reinvigorated his governorship, and rallied Republican legislators.

Christie’s ebullient personality and forceful tell-it-like-it-is rhetorical style are his greatest political assets. He needed to confront the press and the public if he wanted to stop the continuing skid in his popularity and credibility ratings that followed the January 8 release of Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly’s explosive “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email and his 10-week self-imposed bunker strategy.

But permitting Mastro’s lawyers to interview Christie and his top aides was a double-edged sword.

First, it created a body of direct testimony that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the federal grand jury panel investigating the Bridgegate and Hoboken cases might have taken months to compile, but can now subpoena. The revelation that a federal grand jury has been impaneled for 18 months indicates that U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman believes federal laws may have been broken.

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