By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- MORE SHOES TO DROP: As ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes, as early as today, between 3,000 and 5,000 pages of e-mails related to the scandal are set to be released. Also, according to the Associated Press, “Six New Jersey residents have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Chris Christie, the state of New Jersey, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and others over traffic jams in September. The suit filed in federal court Thursday appears to be the first civil claim over traffic that appear to have been caused as political punishment for the Fort Lee mayor.” http://bit.ly/1fj4Lz6
- MORE AIDES LIKELY FACING SUBPOENAS: David Wildstein, one of Christie’s top appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which jointly manages the George Washington Bridge, appeared before a New Jersey state legislative committee yesterday and refused to answer questions, citing his 5th Amendment rights. “On advice of counsel I assert my right to remain silent,” he repeatedly told the legislators. Members of the committee voted to hold Wildstein in contempt — a misdemeanor offense — because of his refusal to answer. The chairman of the state’s transportation committee, New Jersey legislator John Wisniewski, said that Wildstein would not be the only Christie aide called to testify. Wisniewski said he would likely subpoena Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien — two aides who Christie jettisoned in his press conference yesterday. http://abcn.ws/1amxVt9
- THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: As scandal engulfs New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, crisis management expert Judy Smith, the inspiration behind the hit ABC show, “Scandal,” joins the “This Week” powerhouse roundtable Sunday to debate the fallout, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, and former Obama White House senior adviser and ABC News contributor David Plouffe. Check the “This Week” page for full guest listings. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. TUNE IN SUNDAY: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Thus ends the part of the story that Gov. Chris Christie can control. Control he had, through a lengthy, thorough, if possibly-too-personal series of apologies and assertions that he had nothing to do with a scandal that’s damaging for its pettiness and relatability. But it gets harder from here. Legislative and later congressional committees are digging in, as are state and federal prosecutors. The ousted aides have stories – and back stories – to tell. And more broadly, this opens up issues around Christie’s temperament and conduct to new scrutiny. Of all the many assertions we heard from Thursday, “I am not a bully” may be the hardest to prove.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: What’s the next step in the lane closures scandal for Chris Christie? Despite the almost two hour apology yesterday and the firing of two close aides, it’s not over. There are many more e-mails and documents set to be released, possibly as early as this morning according to New Jersey state assembly Democrats. Through a subpoena, they received between 3,000 and 5,000 pages from former executive at the Port Authority and friend of Christie, David Wildstein; Christie’s top appointed staff member at the Port Authority, Bill Baroni; and possibly other aides. Both resigned in December over the unfolding scandal. Wildstein plead the fifth over and over during a state legislative hearing Thursday refusing to answer any questions about the e mails or his involvement, but he alone provided over 900 pages of documents that included the controversial e mails and texts, some heavily redacted, that made this story explode earlier this week, according to Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat who has been leading the legislative hearings on the closings. It’s possible that the most damning e mails are already released and the e mail called the “smoking gun,” the one Bridget Anne Kelly, deputy chief of staff to Christie, sent Wildstein writing, “Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee” is the worse of it. But, we won’t know that, and won’t know if more heads will roll, until every page has been released and examined.
ABC’s TOM SHINE: Talk about a disconnect: Opensecrets.org says a just-released analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows for the first time in history, “most members of Congress are millionaires,” with 268 of them with an average net worth of $1 million or more. In the Senate the median net worth is $2.7 million. Among these millionaires are those who don’t want to extend unemployment benefits, oppose a minimum wage increase and could soon vote out $9 billion worth of food stamp cuts.
CHRISTIE — ‘I HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OR INVOLVEMENT IN THIS ISSUE’: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fired a top aide and apologized for his staffers’ part in the closing of several lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in 2013, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE report. Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, was relieved from duty, Christie said. And he has instructed a second staffer, a top political aide and his former campaign manager, to sever his relationship with the Republican Governors Association, of which Christie is chairman. “I am responsible for what happened,” Christie said. “I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here, regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover.” “This was handled in a callous and indifferent way and it’s not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years and not the way it will conduct itself over the next four,” he added. “I am who I am, but I am not a bully. I am tough, but I’m willing to compromise,” Christie said in response to a question about his political style. http://abcn.ws/1gl7tR5
NOTED: SO, CHRISTIE SAYS HE COULDN’T PICK FORT LEE MAYOR ‘OUT OF A LINEUP’… Really? A photo posted on the New Jersey governor’s own website, taken at a news conference on Dec. 8, 2011, tells a different story. The photo shows Christie speaking on the issue of sick pay reform with several mayors, including Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, at the National Guard Armory in Teaneck, N.J. At his mea culpa news conference on Thursday, Christie took steps to distance himself from rumors that the traffic entire incident had been an act of political revenge against the town’s mayor for declining to endorse the governor for re-election. Not only did Christie say that he never personally asked for such an endorsement from Sokolich, a Democrat, he added that “until I saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a line-up. “I don’t remember ever meeting Mayor Sokolich,” Christie said at Thursday’s news conference. “Certainly, I never did in that context,” he said, referring to the rumored request for an endorsement. (Christie did seek to clarify: “I’m sure I met him at some point at an event in Bergen County.”) PHOTO: http://abcn.ws/1fgu9pe
FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY: ‘I WORRY’ ABOUT THREAT FROM ‘PAJAMA’ JIHADISTS. The continuing conflict in Syria is raising very real concerns about new terror threats emerging in the United States, FBI Director James Comey said yesterday. “My concern is that people can go to Syria, develop new relationships, learn new techniques and become far more dangerous, and then flow back” to the U.S., Comey said in an interview with reporters, according to ABC’s PIERRE THOMAS and JACK CLOHERTY. Dozens of radicalized Americans have gone to Syria to fight, Comey revealed, and he said he and other counter-terrorism officials fear that Syria has become a training ground for a new generation of terrorists. An American-born terrorist trained in the Syrian war could try to slip back into the U.S. and use their training and their knowledge to launch a deadly attack, Comey said. A number of FBI undercover “sting operations” have stopped some chilling plots, Comey said, adding that the work against terrorist here at home will continue. “I worry particularly about their interest in soft targets,” Comey said. They “can be hard to spot, hard to find, can be anywhere in their pajamas, convincing themselves they need to engage in some kind of misguided jihad.” http://abcn.ws/1ksyKXG
BOEHNER BASHES OBAMA’S DECISION TO ASSIGN IRAQ POLICY TO BIDEN. House Speaker John Boehner yesterday implored President Barack Obama to take a more active role regarding U.S. policy with Iraq, implicitly casting blame in the direction of Vice President Joe Biden as terrorist elements tied to al Qaeda have overtaken several key areas from Iraqi forces, notes ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON. “Starting with the president delegating his responsibilities to the vice president, the administration has chosen to spend much of its time and energy trying to explain why having terrorists holding key terrain in the Middle East is not the president’s problem,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol Thursday. “The United States has and will continue to have a vital national interest in Iraq. We must maintain a long-term commitment to a successful outcome there, and it’s time that the president recognized this and get engaged.” Shortly after taking office, Obama tasked Biden to be the “high point of contact” in the West Wing for the administration on all issues related to Iraq. Biden has made 16 total trips to Iraq including seven as vice president, and just this week he has called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki twice to discuss the ongoing situation. President Obama has been to Iraq just once as commander in chief, on a surprise visit in April 2009. http://abcn.ws/1ilUsYT
OBAMA HIGHLIGHTS NEW ECONOMIC INITIATIVE TO HELP TACKLE POVERTY. Addressing one of the items laid out in his 2013 State of the Union, President Obama yesterday named five economically challenged areas of the country that will receive a series of tax incentives and government grants as part of his efforts to combat poverty across the country, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ reports. “We’ve got to make sure this recovery, which is real, leaves nobody behind, and that’s going to be my focus throughout the year,” Obama said in an event in the East Room of the White House. “This is going to be a year of action.” The Promise Zones Initiative, first unveiled in the president’s 2013 State of the Union, aims to help economically disadvantaged areas through a series of tax incentives, which must be approved by Congress, and government grants for businesses and local officials to use to boost their communities. The first five economic “promise zones” will be San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In all, the administration will designate 20 “Promise Zones” over the next three years. http://abcn.ws/Kamlqp
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
CHRIS CHRISTIE’S TWO HOUR PRESS CONFERENCE IN TWO WORDS. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s nearly two-hour long press conference Thursday can be boiled down to two words — “know” and “people,” according to ABC’s KYLE BLAINE. An analysis conducted by ABC News shows that the word “Know” was the most often word used during Christie’s public apology for revelations that implicated his top aides in a political revenge plot. The transcript of the event contained over 19,000 words. “Know” was used over 200 times. The runner-up was the word “People”, which was used in just over 100 instances. Christie used the word “know” often when describing his lack of knowledge of the plot, which emails show involved some of his senior staff members planning a four-day traffic jam in September at the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee Mark Sokolich. “I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or it execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here,” Christie said. Christie’s use of the word “people” referred mostly to two different groups — the people of New Jersey and Fort Lee, and the people involved in the bridge scandal.
WHAT WE’RE READING
“JOHN BOEHNER AND GOP PLAN TO FOCUS ON JOBS,” by the Washington Examiner’s Byron York. “There was a lot to talk about when House Speaker John Boehner appeared before reporters this week for the first time since the holiday break. There are continuing fights over Obamacare. Immigration reform. Appropriations bills. The debt ceiling. The Democratic push for the president’s ‘inequality agenda.’ Given all that, what did Boehner say in his brief remarks? ‘Our focus will continue to be on jobs.’ … The House GOP leadership will meet at a retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore this weekend — as it turns out, right after the new December unemployment numbers are released. Boehner and other top GOP officials will work on a jobs agenda for the coming year, which they will present to the 232 members of the House Republican conference at another retreat later this month. … So many things happen every day that can distract the attention of lawmakers. … But when it comes to the public’s concerns, Boehner appears determined to remember that the big question in 2014 is the same as it was in 2009 and 2010 and 2011 and 2012 and 2013: Where are the jobs?” http://bit.ly/1adOCnd
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
EX-SPY SANDY GRIMES TELLS REAL-LIFE STORY OF NABBING A CIA MOLE. There’s nothing better than a good spy story, except, of course, for a good spy story that’s actually true. The new ABC miniseries “The Assets” depicts the true story of the CIA’s internal investigation to expose one of the country’s most notorious traitors: Aldrich Ames, a CIA counterintelligence officer who spied for the Soviet Union during the Cold War. At the center of investigation was CIA officer Sandy Grimes. Grimes, long since retired from the CIA, sat down with “On the Radar” to discuss her role in uncovering Ames as the mole, a manhunt that lasted nearly a decade and culminated in Ames’ eventual arrest in 1994. “The one thing about searching for a traitor in our organization is … it was going to be someone who was a colleague, simply because there was a limited number of people who had access to information about our lost sources,” said Grimes, who co-authored the book “Circle of Treason,” on which the miniseries is based. “He’d be someone who we’d probably known for a very long time, as well as someone we saw probably every day in the hallways.” WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1djTYTJ
@JimAcostaCNN: Priebus: “a job is the best anti-poverty program. So it’s sad that job creation hasn’t been the focus of this White House.”
@Goldfarb: Unemployment by race: white (5.9%), black (11.9%), Asian (4.1%), Hispanic (8.3%)
@wpjenna: Maryland to be a test case for aggressive government regulation of medical prices. http://m.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/marylands-plan-to-up-end-health-care-spending/2014/01/10/7da53bfc-79b4-11e3-a647-a19deaf575b3_blog.html …