Thursday, June 8, 2017

Christie's secret keeper

Too many krises (Kriskris? Krisses?), from

There's a story about Trump's apparent pick for FBI director, Christopher Wray, that isn't getting told as widely as it needs to be; I happen to know about it because great news staffers at WNYC, my local radio station, Andrea Bernstein and Matt Katz, did a lot of the original reporting, but it's also very nicely written up by Brendan Morrow at Heavy, and it involves New Jersey governor Christopher Christie, who used to work with Wray "a lot" back in the oughts when he was US Attorney for the New Jersey district and Wray was running the criminal division of the federal Department of Justice.

He was also Christie's lawyer during the investigation of the "Bridgegate" scandal that arose when two of three lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were closed at the morning rush hour in the first week of school in September 2013 for an imaginary traffic study, causing devastating delays and public fury, apparently as punishment from the governor's office for Fort Lee's Democratic mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting Christie's reelection campaign, and we were supposed to believe Christie was entirely unaware of this criminal activity by the avengers on his staff.

Christie thinks Wray is a terrific choice for FBI director!

"I know every lawyer who’s got any prominence in the federal system from my time as U.S. attorney, my time with the U.S. attorney’s advisory committee. I know every one of them that are any good,'' Christie said.
"When I had to retain legal counsel during a very, very troubling, confusing, difficult time for me, I made one phone call, and that was to Chris Wray. So I can’t give a better recommendation than that. I think the President of the United State should be commended. He did a deliberative process. He met lots of people from what I understand.''
Well, hm. It's not known how much of the total is work for Christie, but New Jersey taxpayers have paid Wray's firm $1.57 million since early 2015—that's on top of the $11.3 million for Randy Mastro's firm of Gibson Dunn and a subcontractor for a report arguing that Christie had nothing to do with it, though the report was so shoddily produced, with dozens of witnesses uninterviewed and interview notes, if there were any, lost, that Mastro himself, when the firm was asked to testify in the trial of Bridgegate culprits Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni, said he and his colleagues could only offer "hearsay evidence" that would merely "confuse the jury". Nor is it known exactly what Wray did for him.

But then there's the cell phone. The phone Christie had been using in 2013, with which he had exchanged a dozen text messages with his Director of the Authorities Unit and later (December 2013) chief of staff Regina Egea that both Christie and Egea were unable to remember exchanging, was missing at the time the Kelly and Baroni trial began. Christie thought he'd given it to Gibson Dunn, Gibson Dunn thought they'd given it back, and it became a bit of a controversy in the pre-trial wrangling, the defense saying if the phone couldn't be found the jury should be told to assume it contained information favoring their clients (i.e., implicating Christie, though of course no lawyer would put it that way).

Then, on Friday July 8, the day after a federal judge denied the request from Kelly's and Baroni's lawyers to subpoena the phone, it turned up, in the office of—wait for it—Christopher Wray.

As far as I can tell, nobody really thought there was any important evidence on the phone; the messages in question had been deleted, and Egea's phone had supplied whatever relevant metadata there were; Baroni's and Kelly's lawyers were just using the fact that it was missing to cast suspicions. But now we knew that it wasn't just missing: it was being kept, by that million-dollar lawyer whose activities on behalf of the governor aren't really known at all. It seems clear that Christie had been lying when he said he didn't know where the phone was, and that Wray must have been holding onto it for some purpose which was accomplished at the same time as that subpoena was denied.

Trump has hired other people out of Christie's orbit, notably the White House political director Bill Stepien, who was Christie's deputy chief of staff and Bridget Kelly's ex-boyfriend at the time of the Bridgegate incidents and fired when Christie "lost confidence" in him because of the "callous indifference" he displayed during the lane closures. I'm surprised the governor didn't warn Trump about that (hahaha, I mean I'm surprised he didn't send a message congratulating Trump on the hire—"Bill is a great friend, with all the callous indifference you could ever ask for").

Stepien and Christie should both be in jail, no doubt on more counts than the Bridgegate issue if we knew it all, and I imagine Wray hasn't committed crimes, or not on that scale, but this story is really gross. I don't understand why it isn't getting more play, and I hope there's a Senator who will call him out on it in the confirmation hearings.

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