Prosecutors say Christie knew about ‘Bridgegate’

Prosecutors say Christie knew about ‘Bridgegate’
© Greg Nash

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the head of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE’s transition team, knew about lanes being shut down on the George Washington Bridge as it happened, federal prosecutors claimed Monday.

The prosecutors made the charge at a trial for two of the Republican governor’s former associates, who they said bragged to Christie about the 2013 closures done as political retribution against a Christie foe.

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The claim contradicts Christie’s assertion that he never knew officials in his government were seeking to punish a local mayor who withheld support for Christie’s reelection. He claimed his ignorance as recently as Sunday, during a CNN interview in which he said he had no “knowledge of this incident at all.”

Christie, who dropped his presidential bid after a disappointing showing in New Hampshire’s GOP primary, has seen his political star fade quickly since the “Bridgegate” controversy.

Yet he remains an influential player in Trump’s orbit, an active surrogate and a big piece of his campaign apparatus.

Christie took over Trump’s transition team in May, giving the GOP presidential nominee a seasoned politician familiar with managing an executive branch.

He’s tasked with selecting the team of officials who would fill the massive government bureaucracy in a Trump administration; Christie has spent the summer fundraising for and working on those efforts.

The governor isn’t facing charges in relation to the scandal, and prosecutors haven’t claimed he ordered the closures, only that he knew about the move. But the latest revelations could still deal a blow to Christie’s political future, as well as his ties to Trump.

“The supposition is that he lied. But not only did he lie, which is problematic, but this is a guy, for a relatively minor political infraction — a Democratic mayor not endorsing a Republican governor in a blue state, they screwed up the lives of thousands just trying to get to work,” said GOP strategist Reed Galen, who worked on Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“Trump lives with a credibility problem as far as governance is concerned, and this certainly doesn’t help.”

The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment about whether Christie would remain on the transition team, and a team member forwarded requests to the campaign.

Trump criticized Christie over Bridgegate in December, claiming his then-primary rival “totally knew about” the bridge closing when it happened.  

Democrats have already pounced on Christie’s role with Team Trump.

David Brock, a longtime aide to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE who runs various groups supporting her bid, called on Trump to fire Christie.

“The last person we need leading a possible transition of government power is someone who would so brazenly and irresponsibly violate the public trust,” Brock said in a statement.

“Chris Christie is unfit to make decisions that affect our country’s future, and Donald Trump should recognize that fact and fire him immediately.”

Christie had once been seen as a shining star in the GOP. Many were disappointed that the blue-state Republican governor didn’t run for president in 2012, and he reportedly made Mitt Romney’s vice presidential shortlist that year.

He kept his high profile as the head of the Republican Governors Association, helping to flood the group with money and positioning himself for a presidential bid in 2016 as the straight-talking man of the people.   

But that bid never took off, swallowed up by Trump and his even more brash campaign style. Christie floundered through the primaries, ending his bid after he went all-in in New Hampshire.

His decision to endorse Trump angered many in his state, with a group of New Jersey newspapers calling on him to resign from office over reversing his previous criticism of the New York billionaire.

Polls continue to show his approval rating in his state plummeting, with a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll finding just a 26 percent approval rating, compared with a 69 percent disapproval rating.

Christie’s fate is now tied to Trump, Galen said, making the 2016 campaign his last chance at a political future.

“If Trump somehow manages to win, Christie will have a de facto redemption. But if Trump loses, where does Christie go from here?” Galen said.

“He will be a pariah among establishment Republicans for whom he was a dim but last hope in the presidential race. Come Nov. 8, this could complete Chris Christie’s political downfall.”