After interviewing 70 people, including the governor, Christie’s hired legal team agreed this entire fiasco was the fault of Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein — two people the lawyers didn’t talk to. [...] Christie’s lawyers suggested the governor’s office create a new position of ethics officer — appointed by Christie himself. After all, he’s already planted one of his loyalists as head of the State Ethics Commission, despite the conflict of interest.Paul Whitefield at The Los Angeles Times:
But even though the governor may feel this wraps up the issue, there are still some lingering questions. [...] while Christie’s lawyers profess to have “gotten to the truth,” here’s all this million-dollar report really tells us: They haven’t found evidence that he’s guilty.
Let’s see what the U.S. attorney’s investigation turns up.
At worst, it’s a whitewash, a report bought by the man who had the most to lose if it found he was involved in this little piece of political dirty tricks. Full disclosure: That's my pick.The New York Times:
At best, it raises this troubling question: Assuming that “the rogue aides did it,” just what kind of people is Chris Christie surrounding himself with?
Lawyers hired by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey at public expense issued their findings Thursday on the traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge in September, apparently engineered as a bizarre form of political revenge. To no one’s surprise, Mr. Christie’s lawyers have found his hands to be clean. He was without fault, they declared. This glossy political absolution cost the taxpayers of New Jersey more than $1 million in legal fees.Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.
We can now add this expensive whitewash to the other evidence of trouble in Mr. Christie’s administration. If Mr. Christie really wants to win back public trust, he and his political allies can start by paying for this internal inquiry out of their own pockets. Then the governor and these lawyers can make all emails and any other crucial information available to federal and state investigators.
The next big story is the fact that some 6 million people signed up for coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act. Tami Luhby at CNN:
More than 6 million people have signed up for Obamacare, as a crush of people raced to get health insurance before the March 31 deadline. President Obama announced the milestone Thursday in a call with enrollment counselors and outreach volunteers, who are undertaking an intense marketing drive in the final days of open enrollment. There were more than 1.5 million visits to HealthCare.gov and more than 430,000 calls to the call centers on Wednesday.[...] It is short of the initial goal of 7 million, which was based on a projection by the Congressional Budget Office and adopted by the administration. But it shows considerable gains from the first month when just 106,000 people had signed up.Josh Voorhees at Slate:
Assuming that 6-million-plus figure is official, it suggests there was a rather massive surge in sign-ups during the past few weeks. Only about 4.2 million people had signed up for coverage at the end of February, a total which didn't reach 5 million until about a week and a half ago, according to the White House.Chris Joseph looks at the Florida ACA numbers:
More good news for the president and his ACA allies: The clock hasn't run out on the initial, six-month enrollment period just yet. There are still a few days left before the standard March 31 deadline, and administration officials announced earlier this week that they would extend that existing cutoff into mid-April for anyone who tried to enroll in the regular period but failed to.
Despite Florida Republicans pretty much doing everything within their power to derail Obamacare,Sophie Nowak at National Journal brings up a good point:
more than 440,000 Florida residents have already enrolled Affordable Care Act through the federal marketplace website.
According to a report by the AP, the state is expected to blow projections out of the water by the time enrollment closes on March 31. [...] Florida GOPers, meanwhile, have done everything to block navigators -- workers hired to help people enroll -- from getting into county health departments, and offering no financial help for groups looking to help the nearly 3.5 million uninsured Floridians get enrolled.
Obamacare friends and foes alike are eagerly watching the law's insurance-enrollment tally, ready to trumpet every success or pounce on every failure.Turning to NSA reforms, Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal Constitution explains the new proposals:
But as the final figures before the end of open enrollment are posted, a significant chunk of people who bought insurance under the law will be missing from the official tally.
That's because people who bought insurance directly from insurers, and not through the law's exchanges, will not be included. And just how many people that represents is a figure that will not be available in time for the big enrollment-total reveal—and likely not for a long time after
Fueled by the protests from high-tech and communications industries, civil liberty advocates and elements of both political parties, Congress and the Obama administration at least appear to be taking steps to rein in the National Security Agency's bulk-collection spying program on American citizens. In a statement released in Europe, for example, President Obama, laid out a plan for a revamped, tighter-run program to be approved by Congress later this year.And the USA Today editorial board chimes in too:
Americans upset by the government's indiscriminate sweeping up of phone records got hopeful news Thursday. President Obama proposed new rules that would go a long way toward ending the most disturbing aspects of this mass collection effort, done in secret for years before fugitive leaker Edward Snowden confirmed its existence last summer.
Under Obama's plan, the National Security Agency would no longer collect "metadata" on whom you call, when you call and how long you talk. These records would remain with phone companies, which already keep them for business reasons. NSA officials — who now decide on their own whether to "query" a particular phone number — would have to get court approval first.