Follow-up Friday: Chris Christie’s very squalid plummet

    N.J. Gov. Chris Christie is shown in August 2016. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    N.J. Gov. Chris Christie is shown in August 2016. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    It’s darn lucky for Chris Christie that he signed on as manservant to a con artist extraordinaire, because if he were not currently in Donald Trump’s shadow, we’d all be paying a lot more attention to the humiliations being meted out almost daily in the Bridgegate federal trial.

    Just in the past week alone, the benighted New Jersey governor, who also heads up Trump’s presidential transition team (insert joke here), has been outed as a “flat-out” liar (to quote one of his own aides). He was outed by three people who testified under oath that not only did he know about the GW Bridge access lane closures (executed in September ’13 to punish a mayor who’d refused to endorse him), but that he in fact knew about the closures before they were executed.

    Here’s what Christie said in January ’14 when the scandal blew up in his face: “I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, its planning, or its execution.” Here’s what a whitewash probe — conducted by a Christie-friendly law firm and financed by Jersey’s taxpayers — later concluded: “Governor Christie’s account of these events rings true.”

    Well. I was shocked this week — shocked! — to learn that Christie’s steadfast denials were contradicted by the accounts of the prosecution and defense witnesses who swore in court to tell the truth.

    Christie’s political career, which peaked in the summer of ’12, is deader than a pig on a spit. He has even been hit with a criminal summons — a Jersey judge signed one two weeks ago, decreeing that there may be “probable cause” to probe Christie for “official misconduct” — and I shudder to think what will happen to Christie’s statewide approval rating, which is already in the nadir neighborhood of 21 percent.

    Remember the Republican convention in Cleveland (if indeed we must), when Christie took the stage to act like a big-shot prosecutor on Hillary Clinton’s trail? Looks to me like he might be spending the early months of the Clinton administration saddled with his own woes and lawyered to the max.

    I couldn’t help but notice, these past few weeks, that Christie has been virtually AWOL on the Trump surrogate circuit, leaving the defend-the-indefensible duties to the various oddballs and misfits who were seemingly recruited from the Star Wars cantina. Perhaps it was his choice to distance himself; back on Oct. 16, he told NBC News, “It’s the candidate’s campaign. It’s not my campaign.” Or, just as likely, Team Trump deemed it unwise to saturate the airwaves with a guy who was being outed in federal court for creating/condoning a public emergency that used schoolkids as political pawns.

    Because that’s what the drip-drip of testimony has taught us these last few weeks.

    Ex-Christie honcho David Wildstein, the prosecution’s star witness, said Christie knew that the traffic jams were contrived to punish a recalcitrant mayor whose town was situated near the bridge, to flood the mayor’s streets with backed-up traffic, and that Christie laughed about the traffic while it was happening — during a 9/11 memorial ceremony, no less.

    Ex-strategist Mike DuHaime said he told Christie that top staffers in the governor’s office knew all about the closure plan — shortly before Christie insisted at a marathon press conference that none of his top staffers knew anything about it. One Christie official watched the press conference and texted to another Christie official: “He just flat out lied.” The text surfaced at the trial. 

    And ex-aide Bridget Kelly — who’s on trial for her alleged role in contriving the public safety emergency, and who’d been set up by Christie to be the sacrificial lamb — testified that she’d told Christie about the closure plan one month before it was executed. On the first day of school, no less.

    It’s also worth highlighting a sick (and underreported) episode that surfaced in testimony late last month, while most of us were busy gearing up for the first presidential debate. After Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, ordered an end to the lane closures, Christie’s top political appointee at the agency — Bill Baroni, now on trial — beseeched Foye to close the access lanes all over again. And after Foye told Baroni (as recounted in testimony) that “someone could have died,” Baroni told him that “the issue was important to Trenton.”

    Yeesh, what a squalid crew. What a precipitous plunge for the GOP’s one-time Next Big Thing, who’s now exposed as a vindictive bully with his cred in shreds. And all the while, Jersey’s taxpayers are footing the bill for his legal expenses ($10 million and climbing) — which sounds a lot like the modus operandi of his current boss, who has made a career of playing fast and loose with other people’s money. To update an ’80s Jersey slogan: He & Trump, Perfect Together.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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