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Christie Wins and Loses in Vegas After Bridgegate Report Exonerates Him

Monday, March 31, 2014

WNYC
TRENTON, NJ - NJ Governor Chris Christie speaks to press on March 28, the day after an internal investigation exonerates him from involvement in 'bridgegate.' TRENTON, NJ - NJ Governor Chris Christie speaks to press on March 28, the day after an internal investigation exonerates him from involvement in 'bridgegate.' (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

Late last week, lawyers for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie released a report clearing him of responsibility in the Bridgegate scandal. Then he left for Las Vegas, leaving his supporters and critics alike to discuss the implications on the Sunday talk shows.

Amid growing skepticism that this was a complete, impartial investigation, Randy Mastro, Christie's lawyer, literally quoted "A Few Good Men" on ABC's "This Week," saying skeptics "can't handle the truth."

But the top five witnesses into the matter refused to be interviewed. And Mastro says he talked to 70 people -- but we don't know who these people are, or what information many of them provided.  Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is leading the New Jersey Legislature's investigation,  says the report told us just what Mastro wanted us to know.

Wisniewski told WNYC that he is going to subpoena all of the documents that Mastro obtained as part of the investigation. And Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who is partnering with Wisniewski on the investigation, said on "Meet The Press" Sunday that she wants Christie himself to testify under oath, and that's the only way she'll be fully satisfied.

Much of the Mastro Report focused on accusations that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer made about various Christie officials demanding that she approve a development project -- or else they would withhold Hoboken’s Sandy aid. Mastro concluded that Zimmer was lying.

But one part of Mastro's case seemed to fall apart this weekend when a Democratic mayor appeared on MSNBC. The Mastro report says that Mayor Matt Doherty of Belmar was at a public event with Zimmer and another Christie official, Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable III, when Zimmer says Constable delivered one of these threats from Christie. The Mastro Report says that Doherty overheard the conversation and didn't hear Constable threaten Zimmer. Yet under intense questioning from MSNBC's Steve Kornacki yesterday, Doherty's story seemed to fall apart. He admitted that he really didn't hear the whole conversation, which means this threat really could have been made.

Meanwhile, Christie was in Las Vegas this weekend speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition -- which went both great and terribly. The good news for him was he got three standing ovations and a better reception than some of the other potential 2016 Republican candidates. He was asked about why he had appointed a Muslim judge to Superior Court in New Jersey, and he delivered a five-minute passionate story about how the judge, Sohail Mohammed, is as much of an American as anyone else, and if anyone on the Internet says that Mohammed wants to bring Shariah Law into New Jersey, than that is "crap."

Yet in another part of his speech, Christie recounted how he had an incredible trip to Israel a couple of years ago and flew over the "occupied territories." For some Jews, this term is a no-no, because it implies that Israel is "occupying" land that it is rightfully theirs. In certain audiences this wouldn't be a problem, but at the Republican Jewish Coalition it drew murmurs. Christie then had to apologize to Sheldon Adelson -- a staunch Israel supporter, perhaps the biggest Republican donor in the country and the owner of the company that operates The Venetian, where the event was held.

A source said that Adelson was understanding.

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