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Just when things were settling down for the long siege of subpoenas and investigations, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich gave a few interviews this week, accusing the Christie administration of orchestrating a 2-year courtship of his endorsement, complete with "gifts" and promises for his town.

From NorthJersey.com/The Record:

Governor Christie’s campaign orchestrated an extensive operation over two years that involved gifts to Fort Lee — including Port Authority funded shuttle buses, snow plowing, pothole repair and emergency radios — to convince the borough’s mayor to offer his endorsement of the governor during his reelection campaign, Mayor Mark Sokolich said in his most extensive comments to date on the George Washington Bridge scandal.

When Sokolich did not offer his endorsement, he says he was punished by paralyzing traffic jams at the bridge that were ordered by Christie’s appointees at the Port Authority during five days last September.

More below the fold.

You have to wonder why Sokolich didn't come forward, even quietly to investigators, with this sooner. But if this is all true, it could blow a big hole in Christie's entire defense of ignorance: (emphasis mine)

Efforts to gain his endorsement began nearly two years ago and included a personal tour of the 9/11 Memorial plaza in lower Manhattan by David Wildstein, the Port Authority executive who orchestrated the traffic jams.

Sokolich said two cousins, visiting from Croatia in October 2012, asked to visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. So Sokolich telephoned the Port Authority, as he had been told by the agency’s deputy executive director, Bill Baroni if he ever needed a favor.

A few days later, Sokolich and his cousins were given a personal tour of the plaza by Wildstein, then the Port Authority’s director of interstate capital projects.

“I’ve been told to be nice to you,” Sokolich remembers Wildstein saying during that tour.

Now the trick is matching all of that with proof, somehow.
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Comment Preferences

  •  There is a money trail behind all that stuff (5+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:29:51 PM PST

  •  Yikes, this contradicts info that Sokolich gave (7+ / 0-)

    i.e., that he didn't recall -- at first -- being asked for an endorsement. Then he remembered being asked.

    I dunno, seems fishy to me. Why would he not recall and then recall 2 years worth of "courting?" I have to wonder if it's related to the Hudson Light project in a way Sokolich doesn't want brought out.

    •  One other thing. If I were the U.S. atty looking (6+ / 0-)

      into this, I would be telling all witnesses, including Sokolich, to STFU.

      •  they aren't investigating the bridge (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite, ksh01, JVolvo, peacestpete, Chi, Lujane

        they are investigating the use of Sandy money as a slush fund to buy things that have to do with money, not endorsements.  they are investigating Zimmer's claims and spreading from there.  

        I kept wondering about the good mayor from Fr. Lee. He did seem to be hiding something and he did seem afraid to speak out. Maybe now that Christies is more obviously going down, he feels safe enough.  He was clearly freaked by the bridge closure and no one returning his calls.  He didn't know how it would play, and he played as close to the vest as he could.  His big concern was a concession from Christie that it would not happen again.  But he could be deflecting attention from whatever was going on with the building project.  

        •  Hah. You're right. Make that legislators and/or (5+ / 0-)

          official investigators.  

          And there is a slight smell of deflection. You know, I'm a little surprised at this whole mess -- from Bridgegate to Hoboken to the fired prosecutors.  The stereotype of the Jersey pol is that they are much better at corruption than Christie has proved to be so far

          •  yes (6+ / 0-)

            Christie thinks he's the smartest of them all, and that's always a mistake.  Rachael caught him in a big lie, which he is vulnerable to, because he always has an answer, and he can't remember all his old stories. His biggest mistake is being a motor mouth, that really makes him look dumb and guilty.

            Back in December he'd said that he didn't order any investigation and he wasn't particularly interested. And on radio day, he said he had ordered an investigation the beginning of October, but he didn't say what was reported back to him.  And like OJ he's trying to find the real murderer too, he has an internal investigation going on, but no telling when it will end, just as soon as possible (like never?).  

            Christie took it too far, and he was drunk on his own power.  He's a fool, it's great watching his team from the fed's go down.  It's sweet.

            Sokolich has always seemed like an unwilling witness.  Many have that look of fear he sports.  He must be trying to cover his ass in some way by claiming it must be the endorsement. That's what people were saying about Dawn Zimmer, she could have just said it was the failure to endorse, and yet she told a much bigger story.  Sokolich maybe isn't as pure as Zimmer.  

            AnnetteK found something very interesting but that no one on MSNBC is yet speculating about.  The Renna woman's lawyer is a law partner of Zimmer's lawyer, and Zimmer had a past relationship with Renna's lawyer, she turned a guy in when he was a federal prosecutor, and he was her contact attorney.   That looks to me like Renna is going to tell the truth to the legislators, as Zimmer will just tell the truth to the federal attorneys.  There may be a group of incorruptibles on the scene, who may be a lot smarter than Christie gives them credit.

            •  wow. Hadn't read what AnnetteK wrote. I'll (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              peacestpete, anna shane, Sandino, Lujane

              have to find it. Amazing.

              Another thing. On the firing of HGI.  My theory is that they were given the word by the Christie Admin to make getting individual benefits hard so as to increase Christie's slush fund.  They were fired due to bad publicity, but paid the remainder of their contract and agreed to keep their mouths shut so that Christie's instructions wouldn't come to light.  That's why Christie didn't shout to the world that he fired HGI when everyone was complaining about them.

              •  that sounds plausible (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ksh01, Lujane

                but I don't think he'd be that direct, although who knows, he isn't very good at covering his tracks.  But I do think he wanted control of all of it, and the big secret was that HGI got 'laid off' and it was all with Christie.  Although to support your thesis, they don't smear HGI.  

                And now it seems that Politico thinks Christie can change his mind and not be after David's high school record after all, but, too late, he said the lines about how he was in the popular group and David was a loser.  He's not too swift, the fat man.

            •  Interesting thought (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              devis1, Sandino, spooks51, Lujane

              that Sokolich is now trying to point investigators in the direction of "payback for not endorsing Christie."

              So here's how I patch that into my working conspiracy hypothesis:

              Hudson Lights was the motive for Bridgegate, either blackmailing someone for a piece of it, or killing it.  Sokolich knew this, so in his first interviews, he downplayed the endorsement theory and then would inexplicably jump to the non sequitur of "Oh I dunno, maybe someone's jealous cause we have this wonderful redevelopment project going on."

              My take on that is, he was very well aware that Christie publicly announced his intention to take away Fort Lee's bridge access permanently.  That's what he was terrified of.  And way too terrified to come out and say so--way to put a big bullseye on his poor town.  If you shoot at the king, don't miss.

              So, Sokolich was blinking SOS with his eyes.

              And then, when Christie did his mea culpa thing, Sokolich got a meeting w/ Christie, in which he extracted a promise not to screw with the bridge lanes anymore.  He got what he needed for his town.

              But now, with everyone investigating Bridgegate full bore, Sokolich is getting pressure to throw the dogs off the scent.  If Bridgegate was just petty retribution, well, nasty business, but hey, so what?  Over and done.

              But if Bridgegate is found to be about Christie and Samson once again abusing the power of their offices to get favors for development cronies, now that is the stuff of indictments and impeachments.

        •  He's in the same position as Dawn Zimmer (5+ / 0-)

          is, he didn't want to stick his neck out too far in case Christie survived t his scandal and retained his power to make trouble for Sokolich.

          Don't forget this is also about Samson and some really big developers.

          Also, I suspect his legal counsel told him not to spill all his beans to the press at the beginning.
          So far he's seemed fairly straight up.
          There was also a diary a couple weeks ago suggesting that there was a "Christie/Samson preferred developer involved with the Harrison developments who was vying for the Ft. Lee developments, and Sokolich steered the contracts away from  him, possibly, and that was the real reason for the payback. Todd Christie was involved in that one.

          You can't make this stuff up.

          by David54 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:08:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Tends to absolve Christie ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anna shane

    .... it sounds to me like some of the minions like Wildstein and Baroni were off trying to snag some low level endorsements by doling out small favors.

    It's unlikely that Christie would be involved at such a low level that included tours of Port Authority facilities.

    There may have been staffers in the governor's office who knew these guys were trying to influence as many pols as possible to endorse Christie, but these would not be actively managed by the governor's personal office.

    "The Obama Administration has been an unmitigated disaster" - Osama Bin Laden

    by Explorer8939 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:40:43 PM PST

  •  Christie: 'Couldn't pick him out of a line-up' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JVolvo, peacestpete, anna shane
    Three years before the intentional traffic jams that crippled his small New Jersey town, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich sat down with Governor Chris Christie for a lunch of beef tenderloin in a cream sauce with a salad.

    Christie, a rising Republican star, wanted to discuss plans to cap property taxes and control municipal costs, Sokolich said. Joining them in Princeton at Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion, was a fellow Democrat, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Sokolich said. The meal was “very meaningful,” he said.

    “It’s not often you have a captive audience with the governor,” said Sokolich, 50, in his Borough Hall office. “I was impressed. He was very focused. We shared in common what we thought to be the biggest problems confronting New Jersey.”[...]

    http://www.sfgate.com/...

    And yet....

    Christie said he had no recollection of anyone in his campaign asking him to meet Sokolich or call him.

    “Until I saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a lineup,” Christie said. “The reason that the retribution idea never came into my head is because I never even knew that we were pursuing his endorsement.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/...

    "I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights." (From "You Said a Mouthful" by Bishop Desmond Tutu - South African bishop & activist, b.1931)

    by FiredUpInCA on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 03:17:15 PM PST

  •  So Christie/Samson thru some crumbs at Sokolich (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anna shane, Sandino

    To get (X). He said no so 'time for some traffic problems' in Ft Lee?

    Is it extortion or protection racket or both?

    Makes sense to me.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:35:57 PM PST

  •  Thanks EPJN. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:25:14 PM PST

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