Republicans Recycle Excuses: Christie's Defense Ties Bridgegate to Racial Profiling
By Linn Washington
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Bridgegate defense of being misled by staff members resembles a defense advanced in 1999 by another once top Republican NJ official to distance himself from a his role in a contentious 1990s-era scandal that roiled the Garden State: racial profiling by NJ state troopers that targeted minorities for illegal enforcement.
Christie’s defense distancing himself from Bridgegate pivots on his contention that some of his top personal staff and top political appointees kept him totally in the dark about intrigues behind the gridlock that disrupted the small town of Fort Lee last September. “Unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge,” Christie declared.
In 1999 Peter G. Verniero defended his failures as NJ’s Attorney General to forthrightly address racial profiling by troopers with the claim that he was deceived about profiling. Verniero played an ‘I-was-misled’ card.
Verniero declared that top state trooper officials – under his direct command – deceived him just like Chris Christie’s current claim that members of his executive staff deceived him.
NJ Governor Christie Todd Whitman, a Republican, elevated Verniero into the AG slot and then onto the NJ Supreme Court after he served as Whitman’s Chief of Staff.
Current NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s now ex-Deputy Chief of Staff – Bridget Kelly – is purportedly one of those at the center of the Bridgegate controversy. Christie’s bid to elevate his current Chief of Staff to NJ’s Attorney General is now on hold due to Bridgegate.
Peter Verniero claimed he downplayed allegations and evidence of biased enforcement because he accepted assertions from trusted underlings that widespread complaints about profiling were meritless. Verniero claimed he discovered those assertions were deceptive…curiously only after an April 1998 turnpike shooting of three young minority men that triggered another national outrage about trooper profiling.
Verniero claimed he didn’t consider profiling a big deal despite years of extensive news coverage about abuses by NJ troopers, repeated reports documenting profiling and a pivotal state court ruling against profiling that Verniero appealed as AG.
Gov. Christie claimed he downplayed the Fort Lee imbroglio because he accepted assertions from trusted underlings that charges of improprieties about George Washington Bridge lane closures were meritless. Christie claimed he discovered those assertions were deceptive…curiously only after the early January public release of damning emails including an exchange between top Christie staff member Kelly and David Wildstein, a ranking political appointee at the bridge authority...
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