Possible Bridgegate Indictments Stalling Christie’s Presidential Plans
As others including Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have officially announced they are running for president in 2016, Gov. Chris Christie has yet to make his intentions publicly known.
Recent published reports suggested that Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey was expected to announce indictments in the so-called Bridgegate probe and political experts said Christie has to wait for that announcement before he throws his hat in the presidential ring.
"There's just no point in making a presidential announcement when you know there's an investigation continuing in the U.S. Attorney's Office," said Peter Woolley, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "He really cannot announce until this episode is behind him."
The New Jersey governor was once considered to be the GOP frontrunner, but the so-called Bridgegate scandal has Christie's poll numbers plummeting. A Rutgers-Eagleton survey released Tuesday revealed that 58 percent of registered Garden State voters said "presidential" does not describe Christie "at all," versus 28 percent who thought it described the governor "somewhat well" and 10 percent who said "very well."
"The governor can't stick his neck out here right now. The bad press that would surround the Bridgegate indictments is not a good time to for him to go out there and say that he's in the race," explained Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The Bridgegate affair will not keep Christie out of the spotlight, Woolley predicted, and he noted that most in the New Jersey political world expect the governor to run for president.
"He'll continue to position himself. He'll continue to put himself out there publicly and to raise money. This guy's no shrinking violet. He's going to be aggressive either way, but it's not good timing to make any announcement before the U.S. Attorney makes his," Woolley said.
In September of 2013, access lanes in Fort Lee leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed without warning for almost a week. The result was massive traffic jams and angry commuters.
The governor has steadfastly insisted that he had nothing to do with the planning or execution of the closures and an internal probe cleared him of wrongdoing. Democrats dismissed the report and said the lane closures were political payback because Fort Lee's mayor refused to endorse Christie's re-election campaign.
The chairman of the Port Authority at the time was David Samson. He has stepped down and recently retired from his law practice. His name was removed from the firm almost immediately.
Also forced out of jobs as a result of Bridgegate are then-Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni, David Wildstein, Baroni's number-two man at the agency, Bill Stepien, Christie's long time advisor and Bridget Kelly, deputy chief of staff for the governor.