NY Times released an examination, replete with forensic analysis including maps of the Governor's suite of offices, of Chris Christie's inner circle as it existed during the sabotage attack against the George Washington Bridge. Haven't seen this covered much yet, probably due to the exhaustive nature of the article, but one point in particular stands out to me as glaring: now-disgraced Bill Stepian seems to have been best positioned to give Bridget Kelly the order to create "some traffic problems for Ft. Lee."
Perhaps to inoculate themselves from charges of "liberal media" boosterism, the Times editors have chosen a rather innocuous title: "For Christie, Politics Team Kept a Focus on Two Races."
The implications therein, however, are anything but innocuous. See below the orange traffic snarl...
The article begins by focusing the re-election operation that was set up within the Governor's office.
His campaign called them “the Top 100,” the swing towns that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wanted to win as he prepared for a re-election campaign. Capturing these towns, sometimes referred to as mini-Ohios or mini-Floridas, would validate the governor’s argument that he would be the most broadly appealing Republican choice for president in 2016.It goes on to lay out how this group of operatives, known to each other as "the crew" and as "intergovernmental affairs" to the public, went about their duties. At the head of this group was key counselor, and former campaign manager, Bill Stepian, now disgraced in the wake of the Wildstein emails (has it only been 3 weeks?).
The Times introduces a very useful map as the centerpiece of their study. The office layout where Christie and his team preside from the First Floor of the New Jersey State House is there represented. One one side of the suites is Christie's private office with adjoining access to his chief counsel Charlie McKenna, and his Chief of Staff, the now embattled Kevin O'Dowd. These are the only two people who could walk in on the Governor unannounced. The rest of offices are separated by what is dubbed the Ceremonial Office. Just past this buffer zone is where Bill Stepian was seated, and where he shared space with now infamous Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, she of the "time for some traffic problems" directive to Glorified Rat-Fucker David Wildstein.
Now that the scene is set, I'll leave it to you to read the entire article. I'd like to jump to what I believe is the real story, the deliberately buried lede, the central thesis: Bill Stepian was probably the one who gave Bridget Kelly the order to create "traffic problems."
On Stepian's role in the administration:
By many accounts, the person in the front office who handled most of the politics was Mr. Stepien. He cut an intimidating figure, occasionally raising his voice. [...]The GOP sure loves their binders don't they?
One Republican campaign ally said of Mr. Stepien: “Bill was the enforcer, both politically and legislatively.”
[Mr. Stepien] ran the political operation much the way he had run the campaign. He mapped out the list of mini-Ohios and mini-Floridas where Mr. Christie might win what they called “persuadable voters.” He obsessed over data on the towns, and outreach to local officials, typically Democrats. He shared with Mr. Christie the binders with information on the individual local officials’ donors and projects.
On Bridget Kelly, seated at the next desk from Stepian:
Ms. Kelly, who succeeded Mr. Stepien as deputy chief of staff, had worked for him when he was director of intergovernmental affairs. Her job was to work with legislators, and she won fans early among Democrats and Republicans.Doesn't exactly sound like the rampaging harpy running a rogue political operation under the Governor's nose.
“We would often comment that she was a breath of fresh air because she took her job very seriously,” said Sheila Y. Oliver, a Democrat and former speaker of the State Assembly.
Ms. Kelly would make sure that legislators were invited if the governor was doing an event in their district, and would routinely call to ask if there was anything the office could help with. For ceremonial functions like the State of the State address, she was the one telling dignitaries where to sit.
Now for the kicker, on the Stepian/Christie partnership:
Another senior Republican official who has discussed strategy with Christie aides described Mr. Stepien’s relationship to Mr. Christie this way: “Bill Stepien didn’t report to the chief of staff. He reported to the governor. There was no dotted line; there was a direct line.”No getting around that indeed.
If Mr. Stepien was not in the daily staff meetings, he would be talking to the governor or his outside political advisers later.
“If ‘Step’ were to bark an order at somebody, the assumption would be — unless otherwise stated — that it was coming from the governor,” one veteran Republican consultant said. “There is no getting around that.”
"Time for some traffic problems..." Sent by the woman whose job it was to "tell dignitaries where to sit." Who nobody up or down the state power structure would pay attention to if she had told them to close lanes on bridges. Sent by the woman seated beside the fear- inducing political enforcer, with the direct line to the Governor. Yet Chris Christie only found out about all this a few weeks ago (never bothering to ask Baroni and Wildstein why they were resigning in December).
For those wondering who might have given Bridget Kelly the green light, I'd say this article is laying out a case for Bill Stepian. Well, anyway, it would be irresponsible not to speculate.Enjoy the Superbowl Governor!