January 14th, 2014
10:15 AM ET
9 months ago

Christie scandals: What you need to know

Updated 9:39 a.m. ET, 1/14/2014

(CNN) – After trying to defuse the George Washington Bridge scandal with a leave-no-question-behind news conference last week in which he fired two top aides and apologized repeatedly for his being "blindsided" by what aides and appointees were doing, questions won't seem to go away for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

And the story took on new life on Monday with reports that the possible 2016 presidential candidate is being investigated on another front by a federal watchdog into how it spent recovery funds on tourism ads featuring Christie and his family.

Political vendettas 'as American as apple pie'

Here's what you need to know about the controversies swirling around Christie, as he delivers his annual State of the State address Tuesday afternoon.

Christie speaks

Christie will address the bridge controversy when he delivers the State of the State address Tuesday afternoon, a source close to the governor told CNN. In an apparent effort to anger more people in the state, he’ll also call for a longer school day for New Jersey kids.

Is anyone outside of New Jersey paying attention?

Christie's approval and favorable ratings among Garden State residents has dropped, according to another new survey, which also indicates that most in the state don't consider their tough-talking Republican governor a "bully."

According to the Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll, Christie's approval/disapproval rating among New Jerseyans now stands at 59%-32%, down from 65%-25% last month.

According to a Pew survey, Americans paid more attention to last week's frigid weather than to Christie and the George Washington Bridge controversy. Forty-four percent say they very closely followed the news about the cold weather, with just 18% saying the same thing about events in New Jersey.

Another scandal brewing

CNN broke the news Monday that the inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development is reviewing whether Christie improperly used Superstorm Sandy relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.

Who's who in Christie bridge scandal

The audit will examine New Jersey's use of $25 million in storm relief funds for a marketing campaign to promote tourism at the Jersey Shore after Sandy decimated the state's coastline in late 2012, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone told CNN.

Pallone wrote that he was concerned about the bidding process for the firm awarded the marketing plan; the winning firm is charging the state about $2 million more than the next lowest bidder. The winning $4.7 million bid featured Christie and his family in the advertisements while the losing $2.5 million proposal did not feature the Christies, he said.

The inspector general's office confirmed the review.

Pallone told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" the probe seeks to explain how the contract materialized.

"The daily in my district, down at the Jersey shore, basically did this investigation, and they compared the contracts between the two bids. They basically said the lower bid was not willing to put Christie in the ad. And that was the one that was $2.5 million. And then when the higher bid at ($4.7 million) said it would put him and his family in the ad, they were chosen. The question is how did that process come about," he said.

Christie's office responded to the report Monday, saying the ad was part of an "action plan" approved by the Obama administration and developed with the goal of "helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history."

Ongoing (and renewed) investigations

The bridge scandal has spawned two investigations in New Jersey.

State Democratic legislative leaders are forming a special new committee to investigate the matter.

New Jersey Democrats ramp up bridge controversy investigation

New Jersey Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Priet and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald announced Monday that the committee's sole mission will be to look into the lane closings in Fort Lee, and that the panel will have subpoena power and will "utilize a special counsel."

The committee will be led by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, whose Transportation Committee has led the investigation of the widening political controversy so far.

Wisniewski's Transportation Committee loses its subpoena power on Tuesday, when the current legislative session ends and a new one begins.

The move on Monday by New Jersey Democrats places subpoena power with the newly formed special investigatory committee.

U.S. attorney probing Christie has opened wallet to Democrats

Additionally, the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, is looking into the bridge matter.

Pallone also said in the interview with "The Situation Room" that the issue goes beyond whether the governor is being honest in his account of his knowledge of the bridge scandal.

"I don't think the issue is whether he told the truth or not. I think the issue is he created this atmosphere around him. It's a bullying atmosphere. An atmosphere take no prisoners," he said. "I think they went too far and it's deplorable."

The legal problems

Wisniewski says he believes laws were broken when - as e-mails suggest - the governor's aides ordered lane closures at the nation's busiest bridge.

"I do think laws have been broken," he said. "Public resources - the bridge, police officers - all were used for a political purpose, for some type of retribution, and that violates the law."

Legislators need to "make sure any violations of law are addressed," Wisniewski told CNN's Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell on Saturday.

On Friday, the New Jersey State Assembly committee investigating the scandal released more than 2,000 pages of documents suggesting politics was behind the lane closures and showing top Christie aides allegedly tried to stonewall media inquiries into the matter.

The state legislative committee has yet to find any documents indicating Christie was involved in the lane closures, Wisniewski said Saturday. Christie says he wasn't.

The political problems

While some Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach on the question of whether Christie knew about the now-famous plot to close access lanes to the nation's busiest bridge, the chairman of the Republican National Committee said Sunday he doubts investigators will find any direct link between Christie and the politically motivated scheme.

"I don't think there will be one," Reince Priebus said. "Because I think we've got a really smart person in Chris Christie, who's a former U.S. attorney, who understands what's out there."

Priebus doubts there's a direct link between Christie and bridge scandal

What they're saying

David Frum, former adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote that the bridge scandal's key lesson is one of character, not tactics.

A lesson for Chris Christie from Richard Nixon

Whether Christie knew about it or not, he's responsible for setting the tone of his staff. As Richard Nixon ultimately concluded, it's destructive to focus on revenge against your opponents.

Legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan thinks that three prosecutors could take on the Christie case, but the odds of that are slim. The rule is: "If you are going to shoot at the King, you'd better be able to kill the King."

A Chris Christie prosecution would be political dynamite

CNN's Chris Frates, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Scott Bronstein, Paul Steinhauser, Michael Martinez, Ashley Killough, Dan Merica, Chris Kokenes and Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    That bullies are bad people and at some point all they've done against others will come back to bite the in the behind?
    We already knew that and we already knew that the NJ big governor was one of them.

    January 13, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "blindsided"

    Is that what you call it when it's all over the newspapers while the incident was taking place? Is that what you call it when the Majority Leader of the State Senate copies you on a letter all about the bridge closures and problems 6 days after it happened, demanding answers as to what was going on?

    "The state legislative committee has yet to find any documents indicating Christie was involved in the lane closures, Wisniewski said Saturday."

    How refreshing. What a marked contrast to the GOP/Teatrolls screeching "cover up, cover up, there's elephants hiding in the strawberry patch!!!!!!" The evidence will show what it shows. Once thing's for sure in my mind though: Kelly and Wildstein will have to be extremely lucky to avoid prosecution.

    January 13, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    This guy is a silly guy. I don't know how he got elected. After all this, at least I am honest, I can run for senate too.

    January 13, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Christie’s office responded to the report Monday, saying the ad was part of an "action plan" approved by the Obama administration and developed with the goal of “helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history.”
    --------------------------
    What does the Obama administration approving the use of funds to promote tourism have to do with the fact that the contract to produce the ads was not awarded to the lowest bidder. Rather is was awarded to a bidder with a cost that was pretty close to being *double* that of the lowest bidder. The process of the awarding of the contract is being investigated, not the content of the ad, Governor.

    January 13, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. Romney is STILL NOT My Hero

    Christie just go ahead and say, "I'm not running in 2016", and you'll fair a lot better. Until you do that, you'll continue to be lynched by the media.

    January 13, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    We know all that we need to. Christie is a bully and he sent his henchmen out to do his dirty work. He's the modern day Nucky Thompson and this is Boardwalk Empire. You've got to love Jersey politics.

    January 13, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "Christie’s office responded to the report Monday, saying the ad was part of an "action plan" approved by the Obama administration"

    I'll bet you a pair of SpongeBob swimmies that nowhere in that "action plan" does it say "and governor Christie and his family will be in $5M of national advertisements in an attempt to blunt any damage to NJ's tourism industry."

    January 13, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    It appears that the Democrats took a page out of career criminal Darrell Issa's playbook. Before all the facts shake out, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!!!! Thanks for the lesson Darrell!

    January 13, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. skinsfan66

    Isn't funny how quickly the news media is lokking into these so called 'scanle' even though nothing has been found. To bad the media isn't as dillagent in looking into Bengasi or the IRS or Fast and Furious or the NSC, Acorn, Black Panthers with bill clubs outside of voting location in Philidelphia scandles. Ooops, I forgot, those are about Democrates and they get a free pass from the media.

    January 13, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  10. Rusty Krus

    @Gurgyl
    This guy is a silly guy. I don't know how he got elected. After all this, at least I am honest, I can run for senate too.

    He originally ran against John Corzine who was ineffective and did some rather stupid things like having an affair with a Union Leader and used NJ State servers to email love notes back and forth. He then allowed his State Police driver to drive 90 miles an hour and then got into an accident while texting; Corzine was almost killed.

    Barbara Buono would have made a good governor, but the Democratic leaders didn't think she had a chance so they allowed her to wither on the vine.

    Finally, most voters are uninformed and believe all the nonsense that ad agencies put out there. I never voted for this guy and I never will.

    January 13, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  11. skinsfan66

    SNIFIT you miss the point of 'Blindsided'. He did not say he was blindsided by the event. He was blinksided because he was told it was the result of a traffic study being done, not politcal revenge. Of course being a lib you usually miss the point of common sense plane talk.

    January 13, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. skinsfan66

    Rusty Krus – you are correct that most voters or uninformed, how else can you explain how Obama got re-elected.

    January 13, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. Socrates

    This bully is done. Next one, please.

    January 13, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Take a page from Republican Rep Darryl Issa's polical hardball book by using the investigation process to damage Gov Christie's run for the presidency. Impeach Gov Christie immediately if there is evidence of a crime committed or drag out the investigation into the 2016 primary season if there isn't.

    January 13, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. it must be said

    Christie scandals: What you need to know
    --–

    Democrat witch hunt. End of story. A real nontroversy.

    January 13, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "It appears that the Democrats took a page out of career criminal Darrell Issa's playbook. Before all the facts shake out, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!!!! Thanks for the lesson Darrell!"

    Nobody is claiming that Christie was directly involved, that we know it without the investigation, that we know documents exist proving it and that Christie is involved in a cover up. Heck, had you read the entire article, you'd see that the Dems are being quite straight forward about the fact that there are no documents yet showing Christie knew or was involved. They're not running around accusing him of it or claiming to already know or that it just makes sense or how could it not be, etc. The differences are, in fact, stark.

    "CNN and every other reporter that has gone through all of the emails and still nothing. There still could be but as of now....nothing. The only thing that liberals have right now is thoughts and conjecture but nothing of substance whatsoever"

    Nothing? The emails prove without any doubt that this was a politically motivated stunt. That's plenty of substance. Has there been proof linking Christie directly yet? Nope....and the Dems have been quite forthcoming about that fact. Does that mean there's no scandal and that the ongoing investigation isn't news? Nope. You're glossing over things to ignore distinctions again, tom. Nobody's running around claiming that there's proof that Christie did it or that "we know proof exists linking this to Christie and if we don't find it then that proves there was a cover up." THAT is what Issa and the Teatrolls have done to Obama. There's a difference. Again, the evidence will show what it shows, but there is already evidence that this was a politically motivated stunt. The accusations against Obama never even dredged up proof for that threshold question, let alone anything linking him directly to it. In fact, there were documents proving the opposite in some instances. This thing is already 1 step beyond where Issa and the Teatrolls have been able to get with their witch hunts. Call me when someone starts baselessly claiming that Christie is engaged in a cover up...then we'll talk.

    January 13, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. Jackson

    Jeff Brown in Jersey

    It appears that the Democrats took a page out of career criminal Darrell Issa's playbook. Before all the facts shake out, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!!!! Thanks for the lesson Darrell!

    ________________

    The far right has as much to gain from taking him down. Can you be sure this was a ploy from the left?

    January 13, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. current state of the union

    There is no way she will.talk, no way. She will take the fifth or tell lies, how is Christie unaware if this, it was front page news on day one, he didn't even ask about it? They might not link him directly, but we all know he's lying, nothing new.

    January 13, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Jackson

    skinsfan66

    Isn't funny how quickly the news media is lokking into these so called 'scanle' even though nothing has been found. To bad the media isn't as dillagent in looking into Bengasi or the IRS or Fast and Furious or the NSC, Acorn, Black Panthers with bill clubs outside of voting location in Philidelphia scandles. Ooops, I forgot, those are about Democrates and they get a free pass from the media.

    _______________

    And yet, the GOP voted to impeach Clinton, but allowed Reagan to commit High Treason, and didn't see fit to punish him at all.

    Care to talk about free passes?

    January 13, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    One thing is for certain, the Democrats will now spend millions and millions trying to bring Christie down for purely political reasons. Those are millions stolen from the pockets of the NJ taxpayers.

    January 13, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Isn't funny how quickly the news media is lokking into these so called 'scanle' even though nothing has been found. To bad the media isn't as dillagent in looking into Bengasi or the IRS or Fast and Furious or the NSC, Acorn, Black Panthers with bill clubs outside of voting location in Philidelphia scandles. Ooops, I forgot, those are about Democrates and they get a free pass from the media."

    Those went on for months and the MSM reported every single little tidbit about them, every bobblehead pundit's analysis and every single time Issa or another Teatroll opened his fat yap and accused Obama of being directly involved. Pretending they didn't is foolishness. Thousands and thousands of documents were produced, hundreds of hours of public and private testimony were obtained and public hearings galore were held, etc., and nothing was found. We haven't even gotten beyond the stage of 1 subpoena and 1 witness testifying with respect to this investigation and you're already trying to claim "nothing was found"? Ridiculous. Furthermore, no Dems are running around claiming that Christie was directly involved, that it simply must be the case, that it's the only thing that makes sense, that we know but just have to prove it or that lack of proof is actually proof of a cover up. In fact, the Dem in charge so far, had you read the article, was quite forthcoming about the fact that no documents yet prove Christie was directly involved. We've NEVER heard any GOPer/Teatrolls admit anything of the sort with respect to Obama.

    January 13, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  22. Former GOP

    @Anonymous
    One thing is for certain, the Democrats will now spend millions and millions trying to bring Christie down for purely political reasons. Those are millions stolen from the pockets of the NJ taxpayers.

    You mean they will try to emulate what Karl Rove has spent his life perfecting? It's about time!

    January 13, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    skinsfan66

    SNIFIT you miss the point of 'Blindsided'. He did not say he was blindsided by the event. He was blinksided because he was told it was the result of a traffic study being done, not politcal revenge.
    ------------------------------
    Gee, it took Christie over months to figure out that there was no data from the alleged traffic study. It took an unflattering data dump to bring Christie to his knees and apologize to the people of New Jersey, particularly Ft. Lee, for the inconveniences caused by the debacle.....after having joked and ridiculed the idea of political retribution.

    Well, Gov. Christie missed a few apologies along the way. Local television and radio stations were broadcasting suggestions for alternate routes, and take them drivers did. Since 9/11, large trucks can only cross the Hudson River by using the GWB, or the Tappan Zee, which is located 25-30 miles upstream to the north.

    When big trucks couldn't cross the GWB, I'll give you one guess where they all went. North. The Tappan Zee and the highways leading to it from northern NJ were overloaded, which only served to tangle traffic in the counties just north of the GWB on either side of the river.

    January 13, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. farmerjulia

    Dead man walking.

    January 13, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. current state of the union

    You idiots kill me, he took education funds and used it to give the rich more tax breaks , right a nontroversy, its easily traced to right outside his door you fool. Issa has had over a year, and he's got nothing other than to explain why the request for more funding was rejected by the ones who hold the purse strings, just because you blindly follow, and look the other way, doesn't mean we all do. Your party has nothing to offer, nothing.

    January 13, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
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