New York Governor Chris Christie’s problems just got worse. And bigger.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer on Sunday talked to the U.S. Attorney about her allegations that the Christie administration wouldn’t give all the aid Hoboken asked for unless the mayor approved a redevelopment project. Zimmer has offered to testify under oath about what was said to her and by who. This broadens the inquiry against Christie and also means officials of his administration will have to deny her allegations under oath. To the liar in this goes the prison term.
The New Jersey mayor who publicly claimed this weekend that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration tried to withhold hurricane relief funds met Sunday in private with the U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey.
“This afternoon I met with the U.S. Attorney’s office for several hours at their request and provided them with my journal and other documents,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said in a statement Sunday. “As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project.”
Zimmer said Saturday in an interview with MSNBC that she would be willing to sign a sworn statement and testify under oath that she had been threatened by the governor’s staff to approve a development project or risk hurricane relief funding for her town of Hoboken, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
The mayor’s claims, repeated again in a second interview Sunday with CNN, have fueled public impressions of Christie’s administration, which is already enveloped in a separate scandal of apparent political retribution aimed at another New Jersey town.
Christie faces problems now in several areas. There’s the legal problem. The political problem (will he be an asset now going into states raising money and campaigning for GOPers?). And the public relations problem: Christie has carved out a niche in American culture as politician who’ll speak his mind bordering on rudeness and bullying, but he’s also highly likable in his many media appearances. He’s colorful. If the image morphs into a combination of Sopranos meets Chicago Power Politics his branding is in trouble. But given the spate of revelations that has broken the past few weeks, branding trouble is the least of Christie’s potential troubles:
Christie’s administration is now the subject of several federal and state inquiries, including one opened last week by the U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey, Paul Fishman.
Christie has denied Zimmer’s claims and contended on Saturday that $70 million in federal aid had been approved for Hoboken’s relief efforts. But Zimmer countered on CNN Sunday, saying the majority of the funds that the governor is taking credit for came from the federal flood insurance program, and not through the relief aid Congress granted to New Jersey.
According to Zimmer, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guagdano and Christie’s commissioner of community affairs, Richard Constable, suggested she could get easier access to hurricane relief funds if she signed off on a major redevelopment project favored by the governor.
You have to wonder, also, whether Zimmer has decided the gloves will now have to come off after GOPers and the Christie administration today seemed involved in an effort to paint her as a hyperpartisan Democrat jumping on a bandwagon to cut Republican Christie down to size. GO HERE to read the details about the Christie administration’s push-back. The Star-Ledger:
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman had already ordered a review of allegations the Christie administration orchestrated the closure of local access lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee as political payback. The September closures, which caused four days of major traffic jams on Bergen County roads, is also the subject of investigations by two state legislative committees.
Zimmer made the newest allegations on Saturday in an appearance on MSNBC and later backed up those claims in an interview with The Star-Ledger.
Today, she repeated her allegations on CNN, saying Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno delivered a “direct message” from Christie when she to her to approve a redevelopment project if the flood-prone city wanted help getting federal disaster aid.
“She said … essentially you’ve got to move forward with the Rockefeller project, this project is really important to the governor,” Zimmer told CNN. “And she said that she had been with him on Friday night and this was a direct message from the governor.”
Christie’s office has dismissed Zimmer’s allegations as “categorically false.”
This story has as many legs as a centipede.
MEMO TO NEW JERSEY DEMS: You left Buono to fight corrupt Christie on her own. You better have Mayor Zimmer's back. http://t.co/9j48RDGxXW
— KSK(africa) (@lawalazu) January 20, 2014
New @SteveKornacki scoop. If Hoboken mayor Zimmer is lying, she just did it under oath. Christie's turn. http://t.co/n6VnrcVXKQ
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) January 20, 2014
Maybe the GOP NJ Assemblyman shouldn't have flippantly said if Mayor Zimmer has something on Christie, she should go to the US Attorney.
— roadkillrefugee (@rkref) January 19, 2014
graphic via shutterstock.com
Meanwhile the Jersey legislature is issuing subpoenas and Christie lawyered up. If another couple mayors come forward, this story isn’t going to die any time soon. Nonetheless, Christie is on the road raising money. He’s clearly not ready to quit yet.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.