Christie’s Spiteful History Thwarts US Attorney Appointment
President-elect Donald Trump has made at least one decent decision since his election: he did not give New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie the coveted U.S. Attorney General prize he had begged for.
Some media reports say Christie had initially been “promised” the job during the campaign but the promise was withdrawn after two of his staff members were convicted for their roles in Bridgegate. Those convictions led the Trump transition team last month to send the governor packing back to New Jersey.
Christie has one year left in office. He has earned the distinction of having the lowest popularity rate of any governor in the history of poll watching. A baggage of personality flaws and a host of highly questionable executive decisions contributed to the disgust New Jersey voters now have of the governor.
Convictions of Christie Staffers in Bridgegate
But it was, and has remained, Bridgegate that caused Christie’s overwhelming popularity to plummet. Although he has denied, and no real evidence has ever been presented to contradict those denials, any role in the scandal, the people of New Jersey have never believed those denials. The once lead contender for the Republican presidential nominee saw his chances to walk into the White House as President go up in smoke from the political flames of that scandal.
After dropping out of the presidential race, Christie quickly joined the Trump bandwagon, placing his hopes on a Trump presidency to secure an appointment to the U.S. Attorney General post—a position that would allow him to wreak political revenge on the Democratic political leaders in New Jersey who had wrapped the noose of Bridgegate around his neck.
Appointment Had Potential of Prosecutorial Payback
There is more than enough corruption in New Jersey (probably more than in any other state) to prosecute and a slew of Democrats and Republicans to tie to the corruption, as Christie knew so well through firsthand knowledge.
Democratic State Senator Raymond Lesniak would probably have been Christie’s first revenge target. Sen. Lesniak was the most vocal opponent calling for investigations into the governor’s role in Bridgegate. Christie virulently dismissed Lesniak as being “crazy” and a “quack” for suggesting the governor had a role in the scandal.
Christie worked hard for Trump, even taking care of the President-elect’s laundry during the campaign. He stooped to such a servile role by keeping his “eye on the prize”—the top law enforcement position in this nation; a position that would have given him unfettered discretion in deciding who would be investigated and prosecuted. The Attorney General’s position would have given him the power to “clean up” corruption in the notoriously corrupt New Jersey political system. Christie’s target list would have been long, and deep into the state’s Democratic power structure—especially that pesky, persistent little (in comparison to Christie) Lesniak.
Convictions Make Christie a Liability
But those plans were foiled by President Obama’s U.S. Attorneys who successfully prosecuted and secured convictions against Christie’s two top aides just three days before the November 8 election. Christie’s stock plummeted in the Trump political camp. The governor immediately became what every politician fears—a liability rather than an asset. The outgoing governor no longer served a purpose to Trump. The President-elect now has a staff of sycophants to take care of his laundry.
Christie flew back to Jersey, shoulders sagging in personal defeat, knowing he had been placed in political exile by the infamous words, “you’re fired.” It was a long, terribly lonely flight home where there would be no bands or dignitaries waiting to greet him, just a lowly paid State Trooper there to pick him up and drive him to the Governor’s Office where intimidated staff extended feigned greetings while covering up their resumes seeking new jobs elsewhere.
The Governor really had nothing to do. No one was requesting private meetings or asking him to attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies. He was, and remains, an object of political scorn in the very state he once ruled over with an iron fist.
Then came an opportunity—a chance to wreak some political revenge on the very man who had precipitated his fall from political grace: Sen. Raymond Lesniak.
Veto of Prison Reform Bill Used as Payback to Opponents
Sen. Lesniak had sponsored a bill to reform the New Jersey prison system’s use of long term solitary confinement as a disciplinary tool. Civil rights advocates and prison reform activists have been lobbying states and the Federal government to take steps to reduce the use of long term solitary confinement to punish, or isolate, juveniles, mentally ill inmates or pregnant female inmates.
Long term solitary confinement, more commonly practiced in cells known as Special Housing Units, keeps an inmate confined to a cell removed from general population 23 hours a day with usually an hour out each day in an enclosed fence cage for exercise.
Most inmates will spend one to five years in such long term confinement, but scores have been cell-confined for as long as twenty or thirty years. Three inmates in the Louisiana prison system, known as the Angola Three, spent nearly 45 years in solitary confinement before the federal courts put an end to it.
The Lesniak reform proposal, according to a December 10, 2016 New York Times editorial, would have restricted long term solitary confinement to “only extreme circumstances and to no more than 15 consecutive days or 20 days in a two-month period.”
The reform measure, which passed with bipartisan legislative approval, angered Gov. Christie when it reached his desk, reported the Times editorial.
The governor quickly vetoed the measure saying it would “limit the use” of long term solitary confinement by the state’s prison system, insisting that he favored the use of “restrictive housing” as a legitimate penal disciplinary tool.
But the Governor’s veto did not assuage his seething anger.
Governor Writes Unusual Veto Message Attacking Opponent
According to the Times editorial, Christie “wrote a veto message with an unusual denunciation of State Senator Raymond Lesniak, the bill’s sponsor, as irresponsibly legislating through “‘bumper sticker slogans.’”
At the expense of the inmates of New Jersey, Gov. Christie seized and relished the moment of petty revenge against the very man who had orchestrated the fall of the bullying, now failed, presidential candidate: Lesniak.
And that is why Christie would have been the worse choice possible for the U.S. Attorney General’s position. He would have used that position to settle “old scores” and every possible “imagined insult.”
Christie is a Ruthless Bully
A June 25, 2015 GQ article called him a “bully” with a “veritable litany of ruthlessness.”
The magazine reported Christie’s repugnant history of being sued for defamation after running a libelous attack ad in a political campaign in 1994—a suit he settled and for which he was forced to publicly apologize for the blatant lie.
GQ reported that after Christie was appointed U.S. Attorney in 2011, he launched numerous investigations of “seemingly corrupt politicians” who were a “favored prey” for the AUSA—investigations that continued after he resigned and ran for governor, “but not everyone caught up in these dragnets turned out to be guilty.”
Their careers and livelihood, however, lay in ruins without so much as an apology from the man who had professionally destroyed them.
But it was a 2009 subpoena before a Congressional committee investigating “no-bid contracts” that Christie had doled out to his political allies that defines the governor’s irresponsible nature. After telling the committee he had “pressing business” in New Jersey, he left the committee without finishing the questioning.
“There was no chance I was going to stand there and continue to take all that bullshit from those guys,” GQ quoted him as saying.
Christie’s failure to lap dog his way into the U.S. Attorney General’s job at least spares the nation from having a petty, spiteful, revengeful bully as its chief law enforcement officer.