Feedback
Politics
Christie Bridge Scandal

Christie Faces the Press: Here's 3 Questions He Must Answer

Image: New Jersey Governor Christie arrives to speak to local residents of Belmar, New Jersey and other shore towns in Monmouth County during a Town Hall meeting to discuss federal funds for recovery from hurricane Sandy, in Belmar

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie arrives to speak to local residents of Belmar, New Jersey, and other shore towns in Monmouth County during a town hall meeting to discuss federal funds for recovery from hurricane Sandy, in Belmar, March 25, 2014. A review commissioned by Christie into a traffic scandal apparently orchestrated by top staffers in his administration has found the possible Republican presidential contender had nothing to do with the scheme, the New York Times reported Monday. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) MIKE SEGAR / Reuters

Three remaining questions for Christie: A day after the lawyers he hired exonerated him of any wrongdoing in the twin scandals he’s facing, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will hold a news conference on Friday afternoon at 2:30 pm ET with reporters. And here are three questions we have for Christie after yesterday’s report:

1. Is Christie innocent just because his lawyers -- hired at taxpayer expense -- say so? "These people have their own professional and personal reputations," Christie told ABC yesterday about the attorneys who prepared the report and have close ties to him. "Six of them were former federal prosecutors. They're not going to whitewash anything for me and put their reputations at stake." But just look at this passage from the report when it noted that former Port Authority aide David Wildstein may have told Christie about the traffic study in Sept. 2013. “Wildstein even suggested he mentioned the traffic issue in Fort Lee to the Governor at a public event during the lane realignment—a reference that the Governor does not recall and, even if actually made, would not have registered with the Governor in any event because he knew nothing about this decision in advance and would not have considered another traffic issue at one of the bridges or tunnels to be memorable.” (Emphasis is ours.) We’re not lawyers, but that is certainly interesting language for former prosecutors to use. The essence here: “Of course Christie wouldn’t remember! Why would he???”

2. Why wasn’t Port Authority head David Samson interviewed? Even though the lawyers spoke with numerous Christie aides, they didn’t speak with a key one: Port Authority head David Samson. “Mr. Samson is as close and powerful an ally to Governor Christie as they come, and yet throughout its 360 pages, the report never states directly that Mr. Samson refused to speak with the governor’s own investigators,” the New York Times writes. “Asked about Mr. Samson, [attorney Randy] Mastro replied, ‘The Wolff Samson firm declined to have parties there interviewed.’” OK, but Samson remains the head of the Port Authority, which has control of the George Washington Bridge. We understand why David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly didn’t talk -- they have left their posts and have invoked their 5th Amendment rights -- but the same isn’t true of Samson.

3. What does all of this say about Christie, the people he hired, and the culture inside his administration? The report pinned the George Washington Bridge lane closures on two Christie aides -- Wildstein and former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly. "When things were first reported, I said: 'This can't possibly be true. Because who would do something like that?'" Christie told ABC. "Sometimes, people do inexplicably stupid things." But Christie hired and appointed these folks who did “inexplicably stupid things.” Christie later said that he “did nothing to create the environment” where aides would close a bridge’s access lanes to politically punish a Democratic mayor. But he did hire and appoint these people who were working under him.

2:37

And guess who’s traveling to Vegas to meet with Sheldon Adelson

If we had a fourth question for Christie, it would be: Why did the lawyers release the report yesterday and before the state legislature has completed its investigation? Well, it just so happens that Christie is headed to Las Vegas to speak to the Republican Jewish Coalition and to ostensibly meet with GOP billionaire Sheldon Adelson. As the Washington Post reported this week, several potential 2016 candidates -- Christie, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich -- will be in Las Vegas participating in what the paper called the “Sheldon Primary.” “Officially, the potential 2016 candidates will be at the Venetian for the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which begins Thursday with a golf outing, followed by a VIP dinner featuring Bush and hosted by the Adelsons in the private airplane hangar where Adelson keeps his fleet,” the Post wrote. “But some of the most important events will occur between the poker tournament, Scotch tasting and strategy workshops. That’s when Adelson is scheduled to hold casual one-on-one chats — over coffee, at dinner or in his private office — with the prospective candidates.” Christie, Walker, and Kasich will all address the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday (open to the press), while Jeb spoke at a private dinner on Thursday.

And guess who isn’t traveling to Vegas

There’s been one angle in this “Sheldon Primary” that’s been largely lost: the potential 2016er who ISN’T going to Vegas -- Rand Paul. Remember, Adelson’s biggest issue is Israel, and Paul (just like his father) is hardly seen as a pro-Israel hawk. Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising if Adelson helps play a role in spending millions against Paul, if he runs and if his candidacy takes off. Then again, Adelson spent a whopping $93 million in 2012, and both of his horses lost -- Newt Gingrich (in the primary) and Mitt Romney (in the general).

Health-care sign-ups hit 6 million

On Thursday, the Obama administration announced that 6 million Americans have now enrolled in the health-care exchanges (either state or federal), reaching the revised estimate Congressional Budget Office has projected. And that’s still a few days before the March 31 deadline, which has already been extended for those who try to sign up before the date but can’t. As we’ve said before, there are still many things we won’t know beyond this topline number. How many of these enrollees have paid their premiums to insurance companies? How many are healthy (to ensure a strong risk pool)? And how do the risk pools look in each state? But there is something the 6-million figure DOES tell us: Enrollment has grown exponentially since those dark days in October and November for the administration. And it’s grown largely like it did in Massachusetts when that state’s law was being implemented. Here’s a month-by-month look at the enrollment numbers:

Oct: +106K Nov (thru Nov 30): +259K (365K total) Dec (thru Dec 28): +1.8M (2.2M total) Jan (thru Feb 1): +1.15M (3.3M total) Feb (thru March 1): +942K (4.2M total) As of March 27: +1.8M (6M total and counting)

House leaders ram through “doc fix”

Don’t miss this report from yesterday via NBC’s Frank Thorp: “Rank-in-file House members from both sides of the aisle were angered [Thursday] by the way House leadership unexpectedly passed a bill to stop a payment cut for Medicare doctors without actually tallying to votes of their members. Instead, leadership quickly went to the floor and passed the measure by a voice vote before the vast majority of members even knew it was happening, effectively ramming the bill through the House when there were questions about whether it had the votes to pass. ‘It was outrageous, we should vote on it!’ Rep Peter Welch (D-VT) told reporters after the vote, ‘I didn't know it happened.’ ‘Short on votes for controversial spending bill, so GOP & Dem leaders rammed it through by ‘voice vote’ in empty House chamber. Not right,’ Rep Justin Amash (R-MU) tweeted after the vote.”

Click here to sign up for First Read emails. Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone. Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics