What a tangled web we weave when our high-level staffers engage in a criminal conspiracy to exact political retribution on an unassuming elected official and his constituents and then we make it out of the scandal alive only to sully what remains of our reputation by enlisting as the butt-boy for a neo-fascist presidential candidate.
That’s how the old saying goes, anyway. It might need updating now that a significant development in the Bridgegate saga threatens to pull Chris Christie back in—just when he thought he was out—and drag in Donald Trump, too.
From the vantage point of the tail-end of the Republican primary, Bridgegate looks like ancient history. But in New Jersey, it’s still very much an ongoing story.
One that Trump dipped into Monday when he announced Christie would serve as the chairman of his transition team (something not usually announced until the fall, just before the general election, but why start abiding by the customs of American democracy now?)
The two are longtime friends, but politics had seemed to get in their way.
Trump suggested, in December, Christie “totally knew” about Bridgegate (which would make him guilty of a crime) and Christie spent much of the last few weeks of his campaign cautioning his crowds against supporting Trump.
“Bravado, by itself, is not a plan,” he’d said a few days before he ended his campaign. “He’s just not the right person to be president of the United States and not the person we’d want representing our country.” He then went on to do a long and involved impression of Trump and his plan to build a “big, beautiful wall.”
They put all of that behind them when Christie decided to stand behind Trump. But the drip, drip of Bridgegate is incessant—the trial is set to begin in September, and Christie may testify—making it hard not to wonder if Trump is setting himself up to regret their reconciliation.
On Tuesday, Trump told the Associated Press that Christie had not been ruled out of the running to be his vice president. Trump has, he said, a list of five or six people he’s considering—he wants a politician, someone who the media have already vetted, not a businessman—and he implied Christie is on it.
Also Tuesday, a federal judge in New Jersey was deciding to release the names of the unindicted Bridgegate co-conspirators—the people who knew about the plot to close the access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, but weren’t charged. The decision came after 13 media outlets requested the information be unsealed.
“Although privacy for third parties is indeed important,” U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton wrote in her statement, “this court is satisfied that the privacy interests of uncharged third parties as insufficiently compelling to outweigh the public’s right of access.”
Judge Wigenton specifically said “individuals thus far identified as being involved in the lane closings have been public employees and/or elected and appointed officials.”
Wonder who that could include.
This being a story about Trump and the governor of New Jersey, there is, it should come as no surprise, a complicated twist involving prison.
As part of her decision, Judge Wigenton cited a 2005 case called U.S. v. Kushner, but I like to think of it as Christie v. Donald Trump’s Son-In-Law’s-Dad.
Christie, at the time, was the (Bush-appointed) United States Attorney. He charged Charles Kushner, a real estate developer and big-time Democratic donor, with tax evasion, witness tampering, and illegally contributing to campaigns.
Charles Kushner is the father of Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump’s favorite daughter.
In that case, the judge had decided the “public has a strong interest in the use officials make of their positions of public interest.”
Christie locked Kushner up for two years.
And as if that’s not all strange and confusing enough, there’s another wrinkle to consider.
In 2006, Jared Kushner purchased the New York Observer, which owns Politicker NJ, a New Jersey politics website founded (as PoliticsNJ.com) by David Wildstein, the architect of Bridgegate.
This is the business, and family, that Trump has chosen.