While I’m on the subject of Republican governors under investigation by prosecutors, here is an exclusive report by Scott Raab and Lisa Brennan at Esquire. The Prosecutor Is Closing in on Gov. Christie:
Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening — he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case.
“What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what’s viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”
Fishman’s challenge is to nail down specific criminal charges on several fronts — the diversion of Port Authority money to fund New Jersey road and bridge projects; the four-day rush-hour closures of George Washington Bridge lanes in Ft. Lee; and a web of real-estate deals spun by David Samson, long a Christie crony, when he chaired the PA’s Board of Commissioners as Christie’s appointee. (One such deal, a stalled office-tower development in Hoboken, New Jersey, is central to a claim that Christie’s lieutenant governor told the town’s mayor that the state would withhold Hurricane Sandy relief aid from Hoboken if the mayor didn’t sign off on the development project.)
Whatever Christie says or does — and whatever potential donors or Jimmy Fallon and his viewers think — the question that truly matters is whether Fishman’s pursuit leads to the governor himself. Christie’s Port appointees — not only Samson, but former PA Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and his oddball sidekick David Wildstein — all face near-certain indictment and are being pressed to hand up Christie, as is the governor’s former chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.
Wildstein, portrayed as the mastermind behind Ft. Lee’s traffic problems, has made proffers to Fishman’s investigators — hoping to trade information to the prosecutor in exchange for gentler legal treatment — but Fishman has cut no deals with anyone so far, and the looming indictments have encouraged Christie’s PA appointees to sing. “Don’t underestimate what Wildstein has on Christie,” says one source. “And Wildstein and Baroni have both turned on Samson. If Samson doesn’t give Fishman Christie, Samson is toast.”
Federal charges in the bridge closures potentially include both intentional interference in interstate commerce and — in the cover-up that ensued — obstruction of justice. The use of Port Authority money, raised by issuing bonds, to pay for non-PA projects will likely result in charges of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit same; the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating on this front, along with the Manhattan District Attorney, who’s seeking evidence to support state charges of falsifying business records and official misconduct. Charges derived from David Samson’s numerous conflicts of interest while serving as a PA official could, in Hoboken’s case, include federal charges of extortion under the Hobbs Act, and New York state charges of official misconduct and corruption.
The clearest, quickest road to Christie, both sources agree, runs through David Samson, a former Attorney General of New Jersey who’s 74 years old and reportedly suffers from Parkinson’s disease. So: Will Samson flip?
“They’ve got him cold,” says one source. “He got sloppy, arrogant, and greedy. Samson will want a deal. This way, he’d get one or two years. He’d have a future on the other side. He won’t want to die in jail.”
Fishman’s timetable is unclear — he has yet to send out target letters even to the lower-hanging fruit: Wildstein and Baroni, and Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff and his former campaign manager, each deeply implicated in the Fort Lee/GWB debacle. One source expects Fishman to return some indictments as soon as next month. Both sources say that all of those four certainly will be indicted — and both further note that Fishman, an Obama appointee, hopes to see the entire matter resolved before this President’s term expires. “But Fishman is really focused on Christie,” says one source. “Ultimately, he believes he’ll get to the governor.
h/t donkeyhotey.wordpress.com for graphic.