Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

The Christie Investigation: From Inquiry to Lynching?

Christie is the second-term governor of New Jersey. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Christie is the second-term governor of New Jersey. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The two key questions are obvious. What did New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie know, and when did he know it?

When I first heard about the George Washington Bridge scandal, I assumed that the governor knew about the phony “traffic study” and the plan to stick it to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. Like almost every political reporter and analyst in Washington, D.C., I’m incredibly cynical, making it easy for me to believe the worst about any politician.

We still don’t know whether Christie told the entire truth at his news conference last week or whether the many investigations that are now developing — about the bridge scandal but also about other decisions made by the governor during his time in office — will show poor judgment or even malfeasance.

But given the governor’s immediate reaction to the personal crisis that has engulfed him, it isn’t too soon to wonder when the accusations and media frenzy crossed the line from inquiry and investigation to political lynching.

I said I initially assumed that Christie had some knowledge of the plan to tie up traffic in Fort Lee that has caused so much outrage. But after the governor’s news conference, in which he was so definitive in his denials — and so dismissive of the charges when they aired initially, even mocking them by saying that he was the person who put the cones out on the road — I changed my mind.

I am well aware that plenty of people have lied before, and others will do so in the future. Lance Armstrong, Richard M. Nixon, Alex Rodriguez, Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton all went before cameras to deny, deny, deny, so there is no guarantee that Christie is telling the truth.

But the governor’s performance was persuasive. There was no hemming and hawing, no uncomfortable pauses, no sense that he was parsing his words to make sure that he was answering a question without actually answering it.

Of course, there are still plenty of questions to be addressed, so a complete investigation of the bridge fiasco is well-warranted.

What I haven’t yet heard from those covering the controversy is much talk about how politically motivated the investigations are and how inflammatory the coverage has been.

Let’s be clear. The bridge “traffic study” was an outrageous political dirty trick, and if the governor knew about it and authorized it, he will (and should) pay a huge price. But that’s only a part of the reason for the outrage emanating from Democratic politicians and the Democratic Party’s primary messaging vehicle, otherwise known as MSNBC.

New Jersey and national Democrats are jumping on the story and pursuing other inquiries that they hope will uncover information embarrassing to Christie in the hope of destroying his 2016 candidacy for president. They rightly see him as a threat — probably the strongest general-election candidate the GOP could nominate — so they are trying to destroy him politically.

Both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate have launched investigations of the bridge incident and the governor. Longtime Democratic politician Loretta Weinberg, the majority leader of the state Senate, said the controversy now “involves the abuse of power, risks to public safety, harm to interstate commerce and a possible cover-up.”

A New York Daily News headline roared, “New Jersey pol leading Bridgegate probe says Christie impeachment ‘a possibility’ if governor lied,” a reference to Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who also happens to be a former chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.

And according to the Daily News, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., a 25-year member of Congress, “asked the fed” to open an investigation about “allegations [Christie] misused Hurricane Sandy relief funds.”

Payback is fair in politics, of course, and Republicans have spent months beating up former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over Benghazi, Libya, to weaken her for 2016, so what Christie is experiencing isn’t exactly new. But let’s call both issues what they are, at least in part — political games.

Unlike most political reporters and analysts, I never bought into the notion that Christie was the favorite for the Republican nomination. (Here‘s what I wrote about that almost a year ago in this space.)

Polls show him “leading” the race, but the race has not really started. Voters across the country don’t know much about the potential hopefuls, not one of whom has yet announced. So the polls measure nothing but name identification and the nature of the early coverage of potential hopefuls.

I’ve been skeptical that Christie will sell to enough GOP caucus attendees and primary voters around the country to win his party’s nomination, though I certainly haven’t said that he can’t win. The more Democrats make their attacks on him resemble a partisan witch-hunt, the better Christie’s chances become — as long as his opponents don’t find a smoking gun.

The governor is a controversial figure who has stepped on toes over the years, so it is no wonder some are gleeful about his current situation and others are looking to pay him back. But the smell now emanating from the Garden State isn’t merely the pure sweetness of good government. It also includes a pungent odor of partisan politics and pettiness coming from Christie’s detractors.

And someone needs to say that at the same time we are all following the criticism of the governor and the details about the mess on the George Washington Bridge.

  • Cyrus Weinstein

    88 year old blogger Lester Aldrich believe Chris Christie just needs to give up. It’s over – and if Lester says it…

    • IbrahimHasan


  • Michael F Bell

    Chris Christie loves the “pungent odor of partisan politics and pettiness” in the morning.

  • dectra


    Stu, you reach too far with that one.

    Christie will be dropped from the headlines when he’s done telling the truth, and not before. His half hearted attempts to brush this scandal under the rug are exactly why we’re still talking about it.

    • birchbeer

      Yes. Christie’s “immediate” reaction was not his press conference but his month or more of denials, ridiculing the suggestion as preposterous, reportedly calling Cuomo to ask him to help kill the story (denied by Christie but reaffirmed by the Wall Street Journal) and urging the media please move on to another subject, This all while it was growing more and more obvious foul play had occurred.

      Christie’s press conference was only his immediate reaction to the public finding out definitively there was a conspiracy by his administration. But why does his ability to perform ignorance and contrition that is just as likely to be false as not make this a lynching? The State Assembly’s original decision to investigate this has been vindicated by the uncovering of a real conspiracy in the Christie Administration

  • reflectionsv37

    A political lynching? Seriously? And to compare this to Hillary Clinton and Bengazi as if they’re equivalent? Or even remotely the same?
    Stu, if you believe that, I’ve a bridge I can sell you. Cheap!!

    • George Alfano

      Yeah, but the bridge will be closed

  • lib4

    Stu “I understand people lie and even though all the information isnt out 7 days after the bombshell; I am going to go ahead and call this a lynching anyway”
    You should be ashamed sir.
    You can believe Christie all you want but where were you during the Obama Birther nonsense; Fast and Furious, the recently concluded Benghazi investigations when the RW went off the deep end and came up empty handed.

    You will rue the day you wrote this column when the other shoe drops on Christie

  • bettenoir

    Republicans make such convincing victims . . .

  • NR0

    Lynching? Please give me a break. Chose if you wish to believe Christie, I’ll wait for the completion of the various investigations. In either case Christie is either out and out lying to us all, or he is monumentally incompetent.

    Those facts coming to light by scrutiny of this event is NOT a lynching.

    • brantl

      If this went on this long, how did Christie not know what his own people did? Incompetant or lying bully are about the only explanation..

    • dmhlt_66

      A lynching?
      That poor, poor tree!

  • chrisdarling

    Have you called any of the Republican investigations into Benghazi, Obamacare, the IRS, or Fast and Furious a political lynching?

    If not, this column is pure hypocrisy.

  • FoxIsForRetards

    fatty = TOAST

  • bettenoir

    Capital New York reported that Christie’s administration will announce Thursday the retention of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

    On its website, the firm offers assurance to prospective clients: “When your back is against the wall, there is always a way out.”

  • sayitaintso100

    So, if you don’t know if he is lying or not, Stuie, (and, oh, puleeze, he didn’t hem or haw at his news conference, so he must be telling the truth), why don’t you just shut up and wait for the report, like everyone else.

    Thing is, though, corpulent, crass, corrupt, chronically asthmatic Christie has a bucket full of scandals to pick from besides this one — and, yes, he is lying. And, Stuie, do you think there has been, from day one, a lynching of Obama for everything he has done or proposed to do from the fanatics in the GOP? Yes, indeed, What about the lynching of HRC? The rope is out and ready for the tree now that the new Benghazi report is out — which, Stuie, when you write about it, point out the contradictions. Christie is hung out to dry because this is the last straw, and now, those who have been squeezed by him can squeeze back. And you say you are a political writer. HA!.

  • NCSteve

    Right. Because his deputy chief of staff, a person traditionally located two doors down from the office of a governor, a person who is, by definition in in the inner circle, who interacts with the governor daily, was giving orders from her office, near the governor’s office, to a patronage appointee who is outside her, or even the governor’s chain of command and he knew nuthink, nuthink about it.

    I can totally believe that. Because hey, he held a news conference.

    • NCSteve

      And, by the way, Mr. Rothenberg, this is a lynching:

      Read the contemporaneous New York Sun account linked in the account if you have a really strong stomach.

      Calling this a “lynching” is like comparing a modest tax increase on the rich to the Holocaust. It’s that offensive.

  • afisher

    I find it curious that the author took a shot at MSNBC. If not for that Cable program, this would have been a local issue, swept quickly and quietly under the rug – is the author really saying that that would have been better for the country – cuz ya know, Christie is only one POTUS wannabee? PLEEEEZE

  • Vester B

    I was wondering when one of Christy’s media allies was gonna pop up and defend him.

    • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism

      “I was wondering when one of Christy’s media allies was gonna pop up and defend him.”

      Guess you haven’t been watching “Morning Joe” much. JoJo, Ziggy’s Little Girl, the Serial Plagiarist, Upchuck Todd, and the rest of the kids have spent the bulk of their mornings backing Christie, downplaying the story, offering damage control suggestions, and spinning (from the right, of course) like tops.

  • Fed up Fed

    False equivalency is false. Benghazi was a fake scandal conceived to gin up idiots and partisans. As was pretty much the entire Republican messaging strategy for the past 5 years. Lie after lie is what we got out of Republicans, from “death panels” to the IRS’s lawful and proper investigation into tax-dodging political groups. But this bridge WAS shut down, it WAS done out of politically-motivated spite, and Christie’s denials don’t pass the smell test.
    You’re going to tell me that you believe a former US Attorney who was widely known for his expertise at prosecuting public corruption cases couldn’t use his unfettered access to emails and texts from government computers and phones to figure this out? He had 100 days between the first rumors of this thing and when the NJ Legislature received documents to investigate allegations. Instead, he was “shocked” long after the rest of the country already believed he had something to do with this.
    Either Christie is exactly the bully that I think he is, or he’s an incompetent bumbler who can’t lead a staff, let alone a nation. Oh, and using “lynching” as a metaphor is always, always, ALWAYS in bad taste. Christie’s not going to be president, but he’s also not going to be beaten and hung from a tree. Get control of yourself, Rothenberg.

  • Mawm

    Puh leez

  • Stevojax

    False equivalency’s abound. Christie shut down a bridge on 911, the worlds busiest bridge and the author of this article tries to align it with The President having oral sex an lying bout it, never mind the prosecution was suppose to be investigating a Arkansas land deal which he came up blank on. The investigation is not payback, what Christie did was payback.

  • Arakiba

    Why do conservatives always use terms that refer to terrible acts of organized racism and racial violence when describing things that happen to them that they don’t like? Investigating a Republican politician is a “lynching” (even though nobody is try to actually murder anyone, unlike with the lynchings against blacks). Obamacare is “slavery”…as if trying to get more people without health insurance coverage is making them another person’s property and forcing them to work for no pay! Oh yes, and owing money to China is “slavery” too. They use these words to describe what they believe is really bad…which is ironic, considering how many of them don’t think slavery was all that bad and that African-Americans were doing just fine before the Civil Rights era.

    • Patti

      Good post. Could it be that they are themselves racist and therefore the terminology comes easily to them? Just asking.

  • LongTom

    From this column, one can only assume that Rothenberg is actually related to Christie. Christie’s performance was good, but it was the opposite of “persuasive.” It certainly raised more questions than it answered. If he really didn’t know anything about the phoniness of the study and the retributive reasons for the lane closures, any governor who cared at all for his constituents would have been hell bent on getting to the bottom of it as soon as he heard about the traffic jams. Aside from that, what does it mean these days to “take responsibility” for something like this? Apparently, to Christie, it means nothing. If Christie were to “take responsibility”, he would have resigned, just as Wildstein and Baroni did (not to mention Kelly). And waht does it mean to be “sorry” and apologize to the residents of Fort Lee? What good does that do them? If Christie were to compensate the thousands of people whose lives and work were disrupted by this out of his own pocket, then we’d know he was “sorry.”

  • vetvoter

    Gee Stu, guess you must be a Republican. Benghazi was a political lynching. How many consulates or embassies were attacked under George Bush that you and your GOP cohorts didn’t bother to cover?

    Bridgegate is an attempt to find out who in the governor’s office ordered a political hit job on the citizens of New Jersey. That Christie new nothing about it when it is clear that his top staffers ordered it is beyond credulity. He may not have ordered it, he may not have planned it, but no one in their right mind would believe he knew nothing about it.

    Talk about partisan politics and pettiness, you’re just trying to save your boys bacon. And it’s making you look very foolish and partisan indeed.

  • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism

    “Political lynching”, Stu?

    Should you throw in a line about how “prejudice – like cooking, wine-tasting and other consummations – has an olfactory element” and mention that when the non-Fox press “carries on about how” Chris Christie “intimidates a lot of people,” the odor is especially ripe?

    Toss in a line or three about how the probe into the closure of three lanes on the George Washington Bridge and Guv Christie’s as yet unknown role in the matter constitutes antisemitism and a blatant attack on Judea and Samaria, and you, Stu, could be Bret Stephens!

    With a little luck, Avigdor Lieberman will throw you a few hectares of land (not in your name, of course) in your homeland of south Judea – and you’ll bag a Pulitzer for this tripe. Hey, if it can happen to Stephens, it can happen to you, Stu.

    • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism

      After all, Stu, let us not forget that you come from, own property in, and fervently represent in D.C. a nation with a confirmed means – hasbara – of transmitting public policy that has allowed it to claim – despite its 200 nuclear weapons – that it is, was, and forever will be The World’s Greatest and Only True Victim.

      “Political lynching” and other means of self-described, self-inherited Victimization was something you learned in Judea and Samaria long, long ago.

  • Charlie_Kane

    Republican investigations up the wazoo = Legitimate Investigations by lawmakers

    Democratic investigations = Political lynchings.

    Stu Rothenberg, just another talking head political hack.

  • Mike Hawk

    Lynching? Oh, yes, it certainly is a lynching to demand that a person who, by reasonable inference, might bear the responsibility for this abuse of power to be subject to a thorough investigation. It’s like a scene out of “Huck Finn” or “Roots” or some such. In fact, I think I remember a scene like this in Frederick Douglass’s “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” when a politician’s inner circle was directly implicated in political revenge through abuse of state power, and Douglass observed, “It is with heavy heart I recount the abuse heaped on that man. Even now, tears fill my eyes, to see him lynched in that way. And by ‘lynched’ I mean questioned in a reasonable way based on the evidence.”

  • wsayscoupgood

    Wow Stuart….you think that this is a “Lynching” ?????? Well if you really believe that a “Take Charge” kinda guy like Christie didn’t know about the bridge closing….Well I have a bridge entrance in Fort Lee to sell you becasue you will obviously fall for anything.

  • Steven Lewis

    Stuart should stick to his knitting, which is most assuredly not functioning as a human lie detector. While the media was all over the massive traffic jams on 9/11/13, Christie was in NYC with several of the key players in his administration and in the closures, as documented by now-public emails. To think he didn’t ask them what was going on, if he didn’t know, strains credibility.

  • phillygirl

    Jesus H. Christ. Stu follows Michael Barone down the road from political handicapping to Republican hackery to right-wing paranoia.

  • pitch1934

    The republicans, especially in DC, are quick to excoriate Obama for even the slightest misstep by anyone in his administration, no matter how far removed from the Oval Office. This happening was orchestrated by someone no less than twice removed from the governor’s office. There was the guv, the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff. There is a big difference there. How could Crisco be totally unaware of what was happening in Ft. Lee? Doesn’t he stay up on the situations in his state?

  • Patti

    Rothenberg has always been a shill for the republicans. He’s always been a part of the beltway media that thinks repubs can never do anything wrong and when they do he has excuse after excuse for them. But a Democrat – he knows their guilty of whatever idiots like Issa and Christie and Starr come up with. So I’ll pass on his lame excuse for Christie. My opinion is – Christie has a problem with 1 of 2 things. Either he ordered this, knew about and turned a blind eye or he didn’t know and is an incompetent when it comes to being a leader. Either way it’s not good. And most Americans don’t like bullies and a bully is what Christie is.

  • Alison106

    So, Stu, you never thought Christie was the favorite for the Republican nomination, and wrote a year ago–“With a field that could well include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Christie suddenly doesn’t seem so imposing”.

    He still looks pretty imposing (great super fat Christie pic with the article) against that group, who are a joke at best and facing prison time at worst. He could crush those opponents.

    Thanks for the tip about how to be a convincing liar. As long as I don’t hem and haw, leave pauses or parse words and I’m definitive–unequivocally–in my denials and dismissive of the accusations, I can sell it. Wow! You should give lessons in lie detecting!

  • centerroad

    Stu, how’s your mom feel about your ethics? Sadly, she’s the one who taught you truth isn’t very important.

  • AnthonyLook

    How can you not care? Isn’t this maligned often called bully’s soft voice and victimized poor sad face enough to convince you of his innocence? He hasn’t bullied anyone in months, surely it points to his character. Partisan glee has NOTHING to do with what illegalities Christie has committed. That there is a sense of relief and glee does not alter whatever illegal action he may have committed. It is a moot point. Any amount of jubilation over the investigations of Jubilation T. Cornpone Christie is as meaningless as references to a musical, though oddly similar. At any rate, if he is guilty of illegalities then that is that. There is no lynching, victimizing, or minimizing of those actions. He did what did and we aim to find out.

  • Janet Nevada

    Comments 100% against you Stu. It’s about time you dropped your “non-partisan” charade. You and Nathan aren’t EVEN close to non-partisan.

    This BS is a prime example. This column could have been written by some RNC intern. You’ve been stuck in the Village far too long, buddy.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...