At some point this week, a report commissioned by Chris Christie and paid for by the Christie administration and completed by friends of Chris Christie will be released, and it will apparently say that Chris Christie was not involved in Bridgegate. Critics of Christie are skeptical about the report (that no one has seen), but this is the thing: Chris Christie will never be completely free of the scandal.
The Newark Star-Ledger editorial board, which in January called for Christie's resignation (with a few qualifiers), published an op-ed on Tuesday mocking the report. "Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers think he’s innocent," they write in response to a report in The New York Times. "He knew nothing — nothing! — about those controversial lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in September. That’s the official conclusion of their internal investigation, the actual content of which we have yet to see." It calls out various conflicts of interest and reasons to be skeptical.
WNYC articulates similar skepticism in a handy list format. Christie's ties to the law firm conducting the review should make you question its independence. It lacks information from several key players who have taken the Fifth before an inquiry being conducted by the legislature. Therefore, question the report's completeness. It's really a good list, in fact, poking all sorts of holes in the report. Its author, Matt Katz, also went on the radio to offer his thoughts, pointing out that the leak to the Times is probably meant to establish one thought firmly in the public mind: Christie is innocent. Katz's article offers reasons to doubt that.
As any student of philosophy knows, it is impossible to prove a negative logical assertion. There's a reason that our legal system doesn't require innocence be proven, just that guilt be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. Your choices are guilty and not guilty. Christie right now is not proven guilty, but he'll never be proven innocent.
Let's say that Bridget Anne Kelly, author of the "time for traffic problems" email, says that Christie wasn't involved the decision. Let's say that's agreed to by the other staffers that didn't participate in the query, and there's no evidence anywhere else that suggests he was involved. Will people universally accept that Christie wasn't involved? No. Democrats, pressing a political advantage, will raise whatever questions they can. That process, in fact, has already begun. Conspiracy theorists will ply various options: Kelly is lying, Christie deleted emails, etc. Tiny evidential disagreements will become exaggerated reasons for doubt. This is how it works.
It puts Christie in a bind. He wants to run for president in 2016, and doesn't want this hanging over him. He wants the report from the lawyers he hired to be the final word on the issue. Or, barring that, for the (Democratically-controlled) legislature's investigation to offer some finality. Neither will achieve that.
Do a quick Google search for "IRS Obama." Or "Benghazi Obama." Or any one of a million combinations of "Obama" or "Clinton" and anything else. Full exoneration in the public eye will never happen. Chris Christie will run for president (if he does) in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge. As he often says, politics ain't beanbag. Nor is it a jury trial.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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