NYT: Bridgegate Indictments Near
After more than a year of investigation, federal prosecutors in New Jersey are ready to bring indictments in the “Bridgegate” scandal, the New York Times reports.
Hearings by a special investigative committee of the State Legislature and a report by Mr. Christie’s own lawyers provided more questions and contradictions than they did answers to the most basic question: What prompted a deputy chief of staff to the governor, a Republican, to send a note calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee”?
People close to the case say prosecutors are likely to bring charges based on a rarely used provision of a fraud statute, under which they would argue that Mr. Christie’s associates used the bridge, or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs it, for a purpose other than its intended one. In the case of the bridge, the closings were apparently meant to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, a Democrat, after he declined to endorse the governor’s re-election bid in 2013.
What is less certain is whether prosecutors will find crimes in the other ways Mr. Christie used his powers in the service of political ambition. He used Port Authority money to fill holes in his budget; his lieutenants doled out flags and steel from the remnants of the World Trade Center to woo mayors whose endorsements they sought. An office of “intergovernmental affairs” worked to cultivate endorsements, all in the hopes that the governor could use a huge winning margin to argue that he was the Republican most likely to win the White House in 2016.
Christie still hasn’t officially declared his candidacy for presidency; observers believe his ambitions could be largely determined by prosecutors’ choices — and even if he’s not personally indicted, charges aimed at his camp could prove a political hindrance.
Still, the Times notes that indictments have been “falsely predicted” before.