Chris Christie's low-rent Machiavellis: The scheming lunatics behind Bridgegate

The Bridgegate indictments reveal that Chris Christie surrounded himself with bona fide sociopaths

Published May 4, 2015 2:01PM (EDT)

  (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading every single word of the indictments against the former Chris Christie aides responsible for the Bridgegate scandal. Many of the details laid out in the document are already known, but there are some fresh tidbits revealed by the indictment that really drive home the fact that the Christie populated his administration with petty and incompetent sociopaths.

The basics of the Bridgegate scandal are already well-known: three high-ranking Christie officials conspired to create a series of massive traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge as a way to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who’d refused to endorse Christie for reelection. Not only that, they’d approached this oddball scheme with an air of almost cartoonish super-villainy, best captured by Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who emailed “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” to her co-conspirator at the Port Authority. Because these lackwit criminals conducted much of their conspiring over email and text message, prosecutors had a handy document trail to piece together the particulars of their nefarious scheme.

And those particulars are breathtaking. These three officials – Kelly, and Port Authority officials David Wildstein and Bill Baroni – plotted to minute detail the ways they could best abuse their authority to screw over thousands of New Jersey residents. They gamed out lane-closure scenarios to figure out which one would be the most disruptive. They waited until the last possible moment to order the closures and deliberately kept Fort Lee officials in the dark, partly so that police couldn’t prepare for the chaos, but also to “keep Fort Lee residents and GWB commuters from altering their routes.” And they carefully chose the start date for the closures, September 9, 2013, “which they knew was the first day of school for children in Fort Lee,” to “intensify [Fort Lee mayor Mark] Sokolich’s punishment.”

That’s just evil, and they took gross pride in their work. According to the indictment, “Wildstein went to the GWB to observe the impact personally,” and he happily shared news of the chaos with Kelly and Baroni, who were similarly pleased.

And it gets worse. Their plan was to ignore all communications from Fort Lee regarding the traffic, and they maintained what they called “radio silence” even after emails and phone calls came pouring in on the first day about public safety issues and the difficulties first responders were having handling emergency calls. After several days of pleading, frantic messages that were left unanswered, Mayor Sokolich finally caught on to what was happening. “We are reaching the conclusion that there are punitive overtones associated with this initiative,” he wrote on September 12. “What other conclusion could we possibly reach?”

Okay, message received, right? Time to maybe call off the dogs and stop wreaking havoc on a community you’re supposed to be serving? Nope. They did nothing. It was only by the intervention of the Port Authority executive director that the lane closures ceased. Then our genius co-conspirators started in on their half-baked “traffic study” cover-up scheme.

The governor, of course, maintains that he was completely unaware of everything. Wildstein’s attorney said last week that Christie knew about the closures as they were happening and that there’s “evidence” to prove it, though the federal prosecutor in charge of the investigation said there were no more indictments forthcoming. At this point, though, you have to wonder whether it really even matters as far as Christie’s presidential ambitions are concerned.

Christie’s 2016 hopes are being dragged down by collapsing poll numbers, high unemployment, and a struggling state economy. On top of all that, he has to cope with the fact that he installed this trio of lunatics into positions of power which they giddily abused to exact harsh retribution on a public official (and, more importantly, his constituents) over a minor political slight. The supposed appeal of a governor running for president is that governors are “leaders” who have “executive experience.” But when your closest subordinates are hatching intricate payback schemes that imperil public safety for days at a time, that doesn't speak well to your managerial chops.

By Simon Maloy

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