Christie’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Mar 28, 2014 9:04am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • CHRISTIE SAYS HIS STYLE DIDN’T ‘INSPIRE’ SCANDAL: Gov. Chris Christie insisted yesterday in an exclusive interview with ABC’s DIANE SAWYER that he “did nothing to create the environment” that prompted some of his former top aides to cause a traffic nightmare on the George Washington Bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. Christie spoke with Sawyer at his home in Mendham, N.J., hours after a report was released by a law firm hired by the Christie administration to conduct an internal probe of the September bridge scandal, ABC’s RICK KLEIN and JOSH MARGOLIN report. The report cleared Christie of any involvement in or knowledge of the traffic fiasco. Christie said he is “relieved” to have the facts. He rejected any suggestion that the outside law firm that was appointed by his office would “whitewash” its findings to protect him. “These people have their own professional and personal reputations,” he said. “Six of them were former federal prosecutors. They’re not going to whitewash anything for me and put their reputations at stake.” http://abcn.ws/1gHbhQk
  • ‘IT DEFIES CREDULITY’: “I spent a lot of time in the last 11 weeks thinking about what did I do, if anything, to contribute to this,” Christie told ABC’s DIANE SAWYER. “I don’t think anyone would take that as an indication to do something so incredibly stupid,” he said. At another point, he said to Sawyer: “You asked if I contributed to a climate, and I don’t believe that I did.” The governor said he was baffled by the motivation for shutting down access to key lanes to the busiest bridge in the country. “It defies credulity to me. Which is why when things were first reported, I said, ‘This can’t possibly be true.’ Because who would do something like that? Sometimes, people do inexplicably stupid things,” he said. http://abcn.ws/1gHbhQk
  • THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: Sunday on “This Week,” the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, ABC News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and ABC News contributor and former Obama White House senior adviser David Plouffe. Plus, as Opening Day of the baseball season approaches, George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with ESPN’s Keith Olbermann. See 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

 

FRIDAY FUN DAY: According to the Associated Press: “The National Archives is set to release 2,500 pages of documents from former President Bill Clinton’s White House, including records from two aides, the ex-president’s farewell address and other topics. Documents released since February have covered the Clinton administration’s unsuccessful health care overhaul plan, Republicans’ sweeping victories during the 1994 midterm elections and other issues. The papers being released Friday were to include records from Clinton speechwriter Michael Waldman and domestic policy adviser Ira Magaziner and documents from Clinton’s farewell address to the nation. Other topics include Native American policy and Serbia. … About 8,000 pages of records have been released so far, part of roughly 30,000 pages of records to be disseminated from the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark.”

 

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: “Inexplicably stupid.” That’s Gov. Chris Christie’s final judgment on the small group of now-former aides who’ve been found to be involved in the bridge scandal. In his interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, Christie sought to make the report his office paid for the final word on the matter – and to lay all blame with those already implicated. There are enough lingering questions – Christie’s brief conversation with David Wildstein on Sept. 11, not to mention the true motivations behind the lane closures, and what Bridget Kelly and Wildstein will actually say – to keep the story alive for additional months. But this marks Christie’s best chance to try to start over, and the only chance he’ll have to define the debate on his own terms. To that end, with his lessons learned and his confidence that “they love me in Iowa,” it’s clear that Christie still has very big things on his agenda.

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: If Gov. Chris Christie is able to put his New Jersey bridge episode behind him — a question that still remains unanswered — he’ll return to where he always was: In the middle of the pack in one of the most wide-open and competitive Republican primary fields in recent memory. The party is far from deciding which direction it should go in balancing electoral pragmatism with conservative purity. That’s particularly true with those all-important voters in early states. One thing we know is that humility is rarely a bad thing. We’ll see if Christie will ever be able to live up to — or perhaps even live down — these eight words he said yesterday to Diane Sawyer: “I think they love me in Iowa, too.”

 

BUZZ

BRIDGE SCANDAL BROUGHT CHRIS CHRISTIE ‘CLOSER TO MY FAMILY’. The bridge scandal that has embroiled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie caused some “soul searching” that led him to spend “a lot more time at home than I ever have,” the governor told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview, ABC’s CHRIS GOOD notes. “It’s brought me closer to my family. It’s brought me to reevaluate some of the way I spend my time. I think you can get caught up in this world and this life so easily,” Christie said. The governor said he’s rediscovered something about his home life: “I really like my family.” Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, have four children, born between 1993 and 2003. The scandal has led his children to support him, and to some interesting moments at home, Christie said. The governor has been embroiled in controversy since it was alleged that top aides closed key lanes to the George Washington Bridge to create a massive traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., in some kind of political punishment of the town’s Democratic mayor. “Right after it happened, our oldest son was home on break, and he asked me, ‘Did you do this?’ It was a tough question that your son would ask you, and I said, ‘No, I didn’t,’ and he said, ‘Good, I’m glad,’” Christie said. “My oldest daughter asks me, just, all the time, ‘Are you okay?’” http://abcn.ws/1hzz2VI

MORE CHRISTIE: ‘THEY LOVE ME IN IOWA’. Chris Christie is already feeling confident about his chances in at least one presidential battleground: Iowa. Despite the potential political damage he suffered from the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, Christie said that voters — even presidential primary voters — still love his brash style, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP reports. “I think they love me in Iowa too,” Christie said in the interview, which  aired on World News with Diane Sawyer tonight. “I’ve been there a lot. I think love me there too, especially because of the way I am.” “Not in spite of, especially because,” Christie added. The public criticism, multiple investigations into the bridge scandal, and questions they have raised about his leadership style haven’t changed his personality, Christie said. “I am who I am,” he added. “At core, I am a passionate, loving, caring, direct, truth teller. And for some people, they love it.” http://abcn.ws/Ql3Vat

NOTED: CHRISTIE’S BRIDGE SCANDAL COULD HINGE ON THIS MOMENT. The internal probe that exonerated New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of any involvement or knowledge in the George Washington Bridge scandal did not settle a key question: when did Christie find out about the closures? It could all come down to what happened during a Sept. 11 memorial event that Christie attended along with David Wildstein, a former port authority official who was allegedly involved in conceiving and orchestrating the lane closures as political revenge, according to ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP. The closures paralyzed traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., for several days. Wildstein says he told Christie, but Christie says he has no memory of the conversation, according to a report released yesterday by lawyers appointed by Christie to conduct an internal investigation. http://abcn.ws/QkikUc

WHITE HOUSE TOUTS 6 MILLION OBAMACARE SIGNUPS (DESPITE MISSED GOAL). Just days ahead of the March 31 Obamacare enrollment deadline, the White House announced yesterday that more than 6 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the federal and state marketplaces, ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY notes. It’s  a milestone that President Obama touted on a conference call with health care navigators. But 6 million is not the number the administration had originally envisioned. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted in May that 7 million people would enroll in Obamacare by the end of March. And at the time, it certainly seemed like the administration had adopted the CBO’s estimate as its target number. In June, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called 7 million a “realistic target.” And an internal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services memo circulated in September heralded the 7 million enrollee goal. But in February, Vice President Joe Biden publicly backtracked: “We may not get to 7 million,” he acknowledged, “but if we get to 5 or 6 million, that’s a hell of a start.” A few days later, Sebelius also sought to distance herself from the CBO number. The CBO also revised its estimate, decreasing its forecast from 7 million to 6 million, a projection the Obamacare team (and its legions of volunteers) exceeded yesterday. http://abcn.ws/1jAglrM

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

COMMEMORATING SUICIDES, VETS PLANT 1,892 FLAGS ON NATIONAL MALL. On average, 22 veterans commit suicide each day, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). To commemorate them and raise awareness, 32 veterans from the group flew to Washington, D.C., to plant 1,892 flags on the National Mall yesterday, one for each of the veterans that the group says took his or her own life in 2014, ABC’s CHRIS GOOD notes. IAVA extrapolated that number from a 2012 Veterans Administration report finding that 22 veterans took their lives each day in 2009 and 2010, only a slight increase from years past, and a number that includes all veterans, not just those who served in America’s more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The event was part of IAVA’s 2014 Storm the Hill campaign, an annual week of action in which organization vets meet with lawmakers to push a veterans’ agenda picked for that year. In 2013, it was the Veterans Affairs benefits-claim backlog; this year, it’s veteran suicides. http://abcn.ws/1h0IW1D

 

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX

REPUBLICAN OPPO GROUP GOES AFTER IOWA SENATE CONTENDER. Earlier this week the Republican opposition research group, America Rising, unearthed a video of Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley calling GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley just “a farmer from Iowa.” Today they’ve gone a step further. According to America Rising, “For many it felt like the inverse of the classic American radio address ‘So God Made a Farmer’ by Paul Harvey. The address, given new life in a Dodge Super Bowl commercial, memorializes the work of the American farmer. So we imagined what that speech would sound like in trial lawyer Bruce Braley’s hands… Watch “So God Made a Trial Lawyer”: http://bit.ly/1pBipgs

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

ALASKA: NOT THE ‘BRIDGE TO NOWHERE’, BUT A ‘ROAD TO SOMEWHERE’. When she went into premature labor last year, getting to the hospital quickly was a matter of life and death for Etta Kuzakin and her unborn child. But Kuzakin was delayed by gusty winds and the fact that there is no road from her home in the remote Alaskan village of King Cove to the nearby town of Cold Bay, where an all-weather airport makes emergency flights to Anchorage. The residents of King Cove would like to build a one-lane gravel road that would provide a reliable route to the Cold Bay airport, but the federal government is blocking the project. A group of locals came to Washington to make their case. http://yhoo.it/P0MPh7

 

WHO’S TWEETING?
@PhilipRucker: Excited that @abbydphillip is joining @washingtonpost to pioneer new general assignment reporting team. Welcome!

@ccamia: @GovChristie to hold news conference — first in more than two months since #Bridgegate scandal broke open http://usat.ly/1mybM1s 

@SalenaZitoTrib: This is just so peculiar: @RepMikeRogers will not seek re-election, heading to radio http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140328/POLITICS02/303280045 …

@TheFix: Today is the first Republican primary of the 2016 election. http://ow.ly/v7cDn 

@tackettdc: New Facebook lab intent on delivering Internet access by drone http://nyti.ms/1rHXNXN 

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