Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening — he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case. “What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what’s viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”
Fishman’s challenge is to nail down specific criminal charges on several fronts — the diversion of Port Authority money to fund New Jersey road and bridge projects; the four-day rush-hour closures of George Washington Bridge lanes in Ft. Lee; and a web of real-estate deals spun by David Samson, long a Christie crony, when he chaired the PA’s Board of Commissioners as Christie’s appointee. (One such deal, a stalled office-tower development in Hoboken, New Jersey, is central to a claim that Christie’s lieutenant governor told the town’s mayor that the state would withhold Hurricane Sandy relief aid from Hoboken if the mayor didn’t sign off on the development project.)
Whatever Christie says or does, the question that truly matters is whether Fishman’s pursuit leads to the governor himself. Christie’s Port appointees, not only Samson, but former PA Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and his sidekick David Wildstein, all face near-certain indictment and are being pressed to hand up Christie, as is the governor’s former chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.
Wildstein, portrayed as the mastermind behind Ft. Lee’s traffic problems, has made proffers to Fishman’s investigators, hoping to trade information to the prosecutor in exchange for gentler legal treatment, but Fishman has cut no deals with anyone so far, and the looming indictments have encouraged Christie’s PA appointees to sing. “Don’t underestimate what Wildstein has on Christie,” says one source. “And Wildstein and Baroni have both turned on Samson. If Samson doesn’t give Fishman Christie, Samson is toast.”