Chris Christie’s Salvation


Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Once considered the next Republican it-boy, Governor Chris Christie has certainly seen better days in his political career. Prior to announcing his bid for the presidency in 2015, the outspoken New Jersey governor trended favorably among voters. As constituents began doubting his commitment to represent their interests, however, those approval ratings began to slip quickly. Further complications came about when Christie failed to become the Republican nominee and openly endorsed Donald Trump. With little time left in office, Governor Christie has few options left to pursue and is suffering from yet another legal blow.

Following a trial that lasted nearly six weeks, jurors found that two former Christie staffers—Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni—had intentionally closed numerous lanes on George Washington Bridge to create problematic traffic jams. Prosecutors in the case said that the two staffers, who were members of Gov. Christie’s inner circle, used ‘Bridgegate’ as political retribution against a local Democratic mayor who hadn’t endorsed Christie’s re-election bid in 2013. Testimony from the defendants painted a mafia-like picture of Christie, neck chain and thick accent included. Tension arose numerous times as the Governor’s involvement was openly discussed, pointing towards his knowledge of the lane closures.

These corrupt backdoor politics are unacceptable and the citizens of New Jersey agreed.

With swift convictions, both Kelly and Baroni each face up to 20 years in prison for their actions. Charges included seven criminal counts for conspiracy and fraud while using public land. Despite these charges being welcomed by the thousands affected by the traffic jams, there is something lacking from the conviction—a lack of gubernatorial accountability. As the Washington Post reported, Christie responded to the court’s decision by stating, “…let me be clear once again, I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments and had no role in authorizing them.” For this to be true, however, it would indicate that Christie had lost complete control of his office. Should he have had no knowledge of the event, then those staffers must’ve acted out of their own discretion, using Christie’s power to their own advantage. That scenario, while entertaining, is unrealistic.

If those staffers testified that Christie had prior knowledge of this abuse of power, however, why hasn’t he been indicted? As CNN reports, state law in New Jersey even stipulates that “a public official can be prosecuted for committing an unauthorized act with purpose to obtain a benefit for himself or another or to injure or to deprive another of a benefit.” The lack of indictment can be directly attributed to a lack of concrete evidence. Furthermore, there has yet to be a single governor in New Jersey to either be indicted or convicted. So while Chris Christie will soon be ousted from office, he will likely walk away free of charges.

While it’s true that these recent events have eroded Christie’s political career, Donald Trump might soon become his salvation. Currently staffed as the vice president of Trump’s transition team, Christie is quickly learning how to make himself useful to the president-elect. His task of vetting potential cabinet officials, in combination with his law experience, ironically make him a potential candidate for Attorney General. This renewed job security, courtesy of a Trump victory, means that Chris Christie could soon find himself leading the Department of Justice. Put simply, Donald Trump’s victory was quite consequential.

Although Chris Christie was absent from much of the trial, his name was discussed as frequently as the two defendants. Every juror and prosecutor knew that he belonged in that courtroom. A lack of clear communication from the Governor’s desk made it impossible for prosecutors to indict Christie, however. Thus, a politician who has clearly used abusive coercion to receive political support will soon be free of legal strife. While this would ordinarily equate to a lack of employment following office, Donald Trump’s victory means that Chris Christie will conceivably live to see another day in office. So while Trump supporters nationwide celebrate Hillary Clinton’s loss, one can only shudder knowing that each newly appointed adviser this January will be personally approved by a corrupt politician, nonetheless. How ironic.

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