Feb 21st - 12:10 pm
It was a bit of a surprise when I received a phone call shortly before deadline last night from a very agitated Patrick Foye, Cuomo’s hand-picked Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. I thanked Foye for reaching out, but it became clear pretty quickly we were not going exchange pleasantries.
He was furious, saying he heard that I had a bunch of “fukakta f*%#ing theories” about the Bridgegate scandal that’s been tormenting Governor Chris Christie — and that Governor Cuomo has been trying to avoid.
I may be the world’s worst Jew, but I did grow up around enough Yiddish to understand what Foye meant. It was difficult to get much else from the conversation, which felt a bit like a verbal barrage of salty language and vitriolic venom.
On Wednesday, the Port Authority held it’s first monthly meeting since the Bridgegate scandal really took on steam. Foye is the central figure in the case because he was the first person to call the controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge a “violation of federal law and the laws of both states.”
Foye expressed that belief in an internal September 13th email sent to other Port Authority officials in September and CCed Howard Glaser, a top aide to Cuomo.
At the meeting we asked Foye whether he reported his belief to proper authorities. Foye said he sent an email to the Inspector General, the law enforcement arm within the the bi-state agency. fair enough. But that was it? Glaser apparently had one phone conversation with Foye after that, but never spoke to the Governor about the case.
But if your top guy at the Port Authority – who happens to run the agency – suggests a crime was committed, might that rise to the level of at least a conversation with the Governor? Cuomo Administration officials have maintained that they believed it was a mess that was somehow contained to Jersey. The problem with that is twofold:
1) Anything that is done under the auspices of the Port Authority (like lane closures enforced by PA police) is immediately the problem of both states, since it’s a bi-state agency. There is no “New Jersey” side or “New York” side.
2) Foye’s email explicitly said New York law was violated…that’s what “both states” means.
Foye yesterday refused to say whether he ever had a conversation with Cuomo. I asked him a variation of this question at least three times, and he referred me to the governor’s office on “second floor” – which is odd because the second floor had referred me to him.
Cuomo has said that he first learned of the lane closures in October when it hit the press. So, did he and Foye have a conversation then? The legislature in New Jersey finally began to investigate, and that’s when Foye was called down to Trenton to testify.
But it was not until that testimony on December 9th that Foye revealed there had been no traffic study – the stated reason from the Christie appointees (who have since been fired) as to why the lanes were actually closed. Clearly, Foye had already conducted his own internal investigation and determined that malfeasance was afoot. It’s an open question whether people could have known about this case on the “New York” side and kept quiet to avoid getting into a messy scrum with Christie.
Matt Wing, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo says,
“Clearly Pat Foye acquitted himself exactly as a public servant should.”
Let’s look at the oath and guidelines Foye is obligated to uphold. According to the Port Authority’s own ethics policy,
“No employee shall commit any act or neglect any duty which in any way is prejudicial to good order, discipline, or efficiency, or reflects unfavorably upon the good name and reputation of the Port Authority, or adversely affects the interests of the Port Authority or those of the general public.”
In addition, as a lawyer, Foye is obligated to uphold rules of professional conduct outlined by the Unified New York State Court System which includes,
“A lawyer should maintain high standards of professional conduct and should encourage other lawyers to do likewise…Obedience to law exemplifies respect for law. To lawyers especially, respect for the law should be more than a platitude.”
Foye didn’t simply write a hyperbolic email on September 13th. He doubled down on the claim that a crime had been committed Wednesday saying,
I believe then and I believe now, and obviously given the multiplicity of law enforcement investigations underway there is some serious question of violations of federal and state laws. It was my belief then, it is my belief now.
It’s clear the culture of secrecy is alive and well at this massive bi-state agency. And when things go wrong there is a tendency to hush them up out of an overarching concern about the agency’s bond rating. These agencies were set up to be above the politics of both states — but now it appears that it could be operating beyond the laws of them as well. The Port Authority has been operating in a gray netherworld where a lack of transparency keeps pests in the press from finding out what is actually going on.
But when something really bad happens, the ultimate authorities here – in this case the two Governors – are obligated to find out the truth and be honest about what they know. That appears not to have happened here.
And that is what I would call “fakakta.”
Feb 4th - 10:19 am
While other top Republicans like former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan are rallying around NJ Gov. Chris Christie as the George Washington Bridge scandal continues to unfold, former Gov. George Pataki is suggesting the mess has made Christie damaged goods for 2016.
“Like everyone else, I have no idea what Gov. Christie did or did not know,” Pataki told Newsmax TV’s John Bachman.
“But a year from now that will be clear. And, at that point, either the governor will have been exonerated and in a position to run or not, in which case we won’t be talking about it anymore.”
“…If, in fact, others in his administration or the governor himself were aware that this was going on, then, sure, he cannot run for president because he was very unequivocal in his press conference,” the former governor continued. “If it turns out that there were people on his staff who did this as a rogue matter, then he’s been hurt, but it’s survivable.”
“We just have to wait and see over the next few weeks what happens, but, clearly, someone who had been the frontrunner has been damaged severely and we have to take a look.”
Pataki, who once harbored White House aspirations of his own, said he does not think there will be a “dearth of talent” for the Republicans in 2016, noting that there are many leaders in the party – including a number of (unnamed) “former governors.”
It’s “way too soon” to start naming names of potential candidates, Pataki insisted, adding: “There’s a lot of good, capable people out there.”
He did not rule himself out of the running, saying he has learned to “never say never” in politics, even though he’s having a “tremendous time” in the private sector.
Pataki also had some harsh words for his fellow New Yorker, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is the current frontrunner for the Democratic nod to replace President Obama.
“Absolutely she’s beatable; anyone is beatable,” Pataki said. “She has great name I.D., but you look at her record as secretary of state, you look at her comments on Benghazi.”
“One of the things most troubling to me was Secretary of Defense (Robert) Gates’, not quotation, but recitation of when he was sitting with Obama and Hillary and she was acknowledging that she opposed the surge in Iraq solely to help her political career. That is wrong.”
Pataki noted that his son was a Marine lieutenant in Iraq during the surge.
Jan 9th - 2:14 pm
A trio of New York lawmakers are calling for a New York-based investigation of New Jersey officials closing access lanes on the George Washington Bridge in order to exact political retribution.
The call from Sen. Adriano Espaillat and city Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa come after Gov. Chris Christie apologized in a lengthy news conference for his government and political aides shutting the bridge down in order to exact political retribution on the mayor of Fort Lee.
But the New York lawmakers say there also needs to be a determination if there was any impact on the New York side of the bridge as well.
Espaillat, a potential Congressional candidate against Rep. Charlie Rangel later this year, is reviving his call to have key Senate committees — transportation, government operations and investigations — probe the incident.
He had initially sent a letter to committee chairman in November after the issue was first raised, but before smoking gun emails revealed the extent of the bridge closure and the involvement of the Christie administration.
The bi-state Port Authority has oversight of the George Washington Bridge.
“The George Washington Bridge has enormous impact on the Upper Manhattan neighborhoods I represent,” Espaillat said today in a statement. “Some of my constituents rely on it to commute to work, and traffic from the bridge frequently causes problems along local streets, and makes conditions less safe for pedestrians. Had this incident been successfully suppressed from the public, it would have marked a terrible precedent and negatively impacted our community’s future.”
Jan 9th - 12:07 pm
Rep. Michael Grimm is standing with Gov. Chris Christie at a time when Republicans aren’t rushing forward to defend the embattled politician and possible 2016 presidential candidate.
In a statement released while Christie’s news conference was still going on, the Staten Island Congressman managed to not only praise Christie but bash President Obama.
“Governor Christie demonstrated true leadership and accountability during today’s press conference,” said Grimm. “I have known Governor Christie since he was a United States Attorney with a distinguished anti-corruption record and I was an undercover agent working a high profile public corruption case with his office. I know him to be a man of unquestionable honor and ironclad integrity, and I take him at his word. In an a time when President Obama and key figures in his administration shamelessly pass the buck and avoid accountability for one massive failure after another, the Governor’s swift and immediate action to dismiss those responsible, commit himself to a full vetting of his staff, and embrace his responsibility as his state’s chief executive is both uncommon and refreshing.”
Update: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is chiming in on Grimm’s statement, as it tries to boot the congressman from office this year.
“It’s comes as no surprise that Congressman Michael Grimm who is currently being investigated by the FBI himself, would be the first elected official in the country to come to Chris Christie’s defense,” said DCCC spokesman Marc Brumer. “Maybe they can they can carpool to federal court together. Only Congressman Michael Grimm would use a scandal in another state to try to divert attention from his own scandal plagued tenure in office. Another day, another desperate attempt by Congressman Grimm to distract New Yorkers from his failed record.”
Update: The National Republican Congressional Committee is now getting into the mix, putting out a statement going after Grimm’s opponent, Domenic Recchia, and the D-trip.
“Speaking of traveling to federal court, when Domenic Recchia went there last month to plead leniency for Colombo crime boss Carmine Persico’s mobster son-in-law, did Carmine pay for Domenic to get there in a fully stocked stretch limo? And while we’re talking about traffic in New York, let’s not forget that the DCCC’s anointed candidate Recchia voted for a plan to charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan below 60th St. which would have cost Staten Island drivers millions. So ‘traffic talk’ is probably not a winning conversation for Recchia and his Washington surrogates,” said NRCC spokesman Ian Prior.
Jan 8th - 12:12 pm
Natinoal Democrats can barely contain their glee over the revelation this morning that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – a leading GOP contender for the 2016 presidential race – was not only closely involved with lane closings on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in September, but that those lanes were closed in a clear act of political retribution.
Emails and texts released by the New York Times show that a deputy chief of staff in Christie’s office gave a signal to the Port Authority to close the lanes about two weeks before the closings occurred.
And Christie’s handpicked chairman of the Port Authority, David Samson, was also involved, according to emails that describe his efforts to “retaliate” against New York officials who had not been told of the changes and sought to ease the gridlock.
Christie had repeatedly insisted that his office had nothing to do with the lane closures, and his many statements were highlighted in a DNC video released late this morning. (Look for the Fred Dicker cameo at the end; it’s a clip from his radio show in which he announces the governor has cancelled his only scheduled public appearance today).
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz also issued a statement calling the revelations about the Christie administration’s involvement “troubling,” but not surprising.
“These revelations are troubling for any public official,” Wasserman Schultz said, “but they also indicate what we’ve come to expect from Governor Christie – when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his Administration, he bullies and attacks.”
“For 121 days, Chris Christie disparaged the questioners and later lied saying no one in his office was involved. That was clearly untrue given the discovery of emails that came directly from his own top staff. Time’s up, Governor.”
From an incredibly hyper-local standpoint, this is a nice gift for Gov. Andrew Cuomo – to see a man who is widely perceived as a potential political rival to the governor at the national level embroiled in a scandal on the very day the governor is giving a high-profile speech that will net him national headlines that are likely to be largely positive.
Jan 28th - 6:52 pm
With the $50 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid winning its final passage in the U.S. Senate, the three governors from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey said a joint statement this evening they’re grateful the package is finally approved.
In the statement from Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Dannel Malloy, the governors note that it was a “difficult pathy in getting to this moment” but thanked the Senate for speedy passage.
There’s also thanks for the “tenacious efforts” of the states’ Congressional delegations.
But those are the only references in the statement for a saga that dragged on for months following the storm that devastated parts of the New York City metropolitan area.
The dispute over funding to pay for cleanup costs and infrastructure repairs saw Christie and Rep. Peter King of Long Island, Republicans both, openly questioning and assailing the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives.
But the effort also put a focus on the relationships between the three governors in the tri-state area, with extra special attention on Cuomo and Christie, who have by all accounts worked well together, but are also potential presidential contenders down the road.
Here’s the statement:
“Our genuine thanks and gratitude goes out to the U.S. Senate for its thoughtful consideration and passage of the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief package. Despite the difficult path in getting to this moment, the Senate membership clearly recognized early on the urgency and necessity of approving the full aid package and its importance in rebuilding our battered infrastructure and getting our millions of affected residents back on their feet as quickly as possible. To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation.
“We also make special note of the tenacious efforts of our respective Congressional delegations in steering the Sandy aid package through their respective houses and bringing this aid home to their people.”
Jan 4th - 2:41 pm
They showed him the money — or at least part of it.
A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was going to reserve judgment on the House’s plan to vote on federal storm aid for New York and New Jersey until they “show me the money” he and Republican Gov. Chris Christie are glad that a partial package has been approved.
The remaing $50 billion or so for the aid package is expected to be vote on Jan. 15.
The Cuomo and Christie statement:
“Today’s action by the House was a necessary and critical first step towards delivering aid to the people of New York and New Jersey. While we are pleased with this progress, today was just a down payment and it is now time to go even further and pass the final and more complete, clean disaster aid bill. We are trusting Congress to act accordingly on January 15th and pass the final $51 billion instrumental for long-term rebuilding in order for New Jersey, New York and our people to recover after the severe devastation of Hurricane Sandy.”
House Republicans had initially planned to vote on the full $60.4 billion package this week, but balked at a vote following the temporary conclusion of the fiscal cliff saga. After withering criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner relented and announced a vote would be held.
Dec 28th - 8:01 pm
Today the Senate has approved a $60.4 billion emergency spending package for Hurricane Sandy recovery that was backed by Democrats.
The 61-33 vote Friday sends the measure to the House, where the bill faces uncertain prospects.
Governors Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Dan Malloy of Connecticut responded by sending a stern letter to every member of the House in hopes the bill will pass before the new year.
Nov 30th - 12:18 pm
ICYMI: Here’s today’s CapTon morning memo, which focuses on the unusual, and probably short-term, alliance between three governors – Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Dannel Malloy – forced by Superstorm Sandy. This piece by The Daily Beast’s David Freedlander is in a somewhat similar vein, though he focuses on the Cuomo-Christie relationship, which is particularly interesting because of the 2016 angle.
In the memo, which you should really sign up for on our SoP home page if you haven’t already, I wrote:
We already know about the terrible power of Hurricane Sandy when it comes to economic and physical damage. But is it possible the storm also has the power to mend – at least temporarily – long-standing political rifts between the governors of the tri-state area?
There are reports this morning that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Democrat), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Republican) and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (Democrat) “are joining forces in a regional effort to land nearly $83 billion in federal aid to recover from Superstorm Sandy.”
Even though it seems logical for the governors to team up – the whole strength in numbers thing, particularly when it comes to wooing a reluctant Congress for additional cash – it took this trio a while to get together.
Cuomo was the first to put a price tag on Sandy damage, pegging the total at $30 billion – a number he has since revised upwards. That figure was leaked to the New York Times three days before President Obama was scheduled to make his first trip to New York to tour areas damaged by Sandy.
During that visit, the president reportedly advised the governor and Mayor Bloomberg to incorporate as many states as possible into their disaster aid ask in order to maximize their chances of getting Congress to say “yes.”
Easier said than done, since doing so requires the setting aside of egos and long-simmering political rivalries.
Both Christie and Cuomo are seen as potential White House contenders in 2016. But the two nevertheless seem to have a good working relationship that pre-dates Sandy. (Remember: They have, among other things, the Port Authority in common).
There’s a veritable love fest between Christie and Obama ever since the president’s pre-Election Day visit to the Sandy-ravaged Garden State shore – a move that infuriated Republicans, who believe the New Jersey governor, an outspoken surrogate for Mitt Romney before the storm, was in part to blame for Romney’s loss to Obama on Nov. 6.
An anonymous senior Obama administration official even leaked to the New York Post that the Christie people had been “so much easier to deal with” than Team Cuomo after Sandy.
But that hasn’t stopped Christie and Cuomo from collaborating. They issued a joint statement this past Wednesday, pledging a “shared commitment” to receive federal aid in order to rebuild after Sandy.
Cooperation between Malloy, Cuomo and Christie is perhaps more difficult to navigate.
Nov 4th - 6:13 pm
As her Democratic opponent Sean Patrick Maloney trumpets a robocall from former President Bill Clinton that explicitly references rebuilding from Sandy, Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth counters with one of her own: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The high-profile New Jersey governor is very much the face of the storm recovery efforts in his home state, though the call does not reference the disaster.
Still, the call could either be a potent counter to the Clinton call for Maloney, or does have the potential for backfiring should voters believe both candidates are politicizing the storm.
But the Christie robocall does help Hayworth shore up a potential trouble spot for her when it comes to the Democratic push that she would support turning back federal spending for disaster relief that isn’t off set by cuts, a position of top Republican lawmaker Eric Cantor.
Hayworth has since said she doesn’t agree with that position.
Here’s the script of the Christie robocall:
“Hi! This is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. You know, for everyone who lives in the Hudson Valley — I have one strong bit of advice for you: Please vote for Nan Hayworth! You know I’m supporting her, and I hope you will, too.
Nan is a strong, principled woman who has lived in the Hudson Valley for over 24 years. A doctor, a mother, a small business owner, Nan knows that tax relief, spending restraint, and fewer regulations on small business owners is the only way to create new jobs for everyone in the country — she gets it! And I hope Nan will get your vote on November 6.
Thanks for listening to my message. I’m New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.”