I always hated Chris Christie long before it was popular in the GOP. And I always thought that Bridgegate was a big lie.
Bridgegate’s premise was absurd. Its transformation from a media campaign into an actual criminal case demonstrated the toxic interconnections between Democrats within the law and within the media. But it took the Supreme Court to toss it.
It took Justice Elena Kagan, of all people, to write the decision that shut this mess down.
Of course if we’d taken Bridgegate seriously, the actions of the Obama administration during the government shutdown was Bridgegate x 1,000,000. Yet it goes without saying that no member of the administration was ever seriously investigated or tried for it. The only reason Bridgegate ever became a thing was party identification. It took quite a few years to close the door on it.
And while the Supreme Court made the right decision, that legally there was no actual basis for prosecuting “being a jerk while holding public office” as fraud, the amount of time it took to get this far and the fact that it had to get this far says a lot.
“I don’t see how this case works,” Justice Stephen Breyer, a member of the court’s liberal wing, said at one point during the hourlong hearing. Breyer said that what happened was bad — and maybe even a crime — but doubted the statutes involved in the case were properly applied.
Other liberal and conservative justices also seemed to struggle with the arguments made by the Justice Department, whose defense of the case rested on the idea that no one involved in the political retribution scheme had the “authority” to realign the lanes at the bridge. Because they didn’t have the authority, the government said, the defendants lied — they claimed to be doing a “traffic study” — in order to take control of the costly resources needed to execute their political punishment scheme.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan all asked numerous, sharp-edged questions about those arguments, while Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Ruth Bader Ginsburg each asked at least one tough question of the government.
The justices were right to be confused. But how did this case get this far?
The liberal justices behaved well in this case, probably because unlike the lower courts, they didn’t care about punishing Christie’s allies, and were concerned about the precedent.
Yes, occasionally grotesque abuses of power by federales can be remedied if you’re willing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court. But that’s not any kind of solution.
Of course this doesn’t matter.
Just as overturning prosecutorial abuses in Virginia didn’t matter.
The Democrats ultimately seized both New Jersey and Virginia.