When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sat for an interview in 2014 with federal investigators probing the Bridgegate scandal, two pulled him aside and personally apologized for the way the prosecutor overseeing the case was handling the probe, according to an account in Christie’s new book.
In the book, Christie lambastes the investigation as a political hit job carried out by a liberal prosecutor who wanted to damage the Republican governor to boost his own chances of getting a job in a Hillary Clinton administration.
Then-U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman “didn’t conduct the interview himself,” Christie writes. “He preferred to stay back in his office, presumably coordinating the media leaks.”
The scene described in the 432-page Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, published on Tuesday by Hachette Books, offers a new window into Christie’s view of the scandal that helped sink his political career.
As disclosed in recent days by news organizations that obtained advance copies, the book blames Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, for blocking Christie’s rise in Trump’s orbit. Christie also accuses the White House staff of failing to deliver for Trump, but does not go after the president.
Much of the administration’s early stumbles could have been avoided, Christie writes, had Kushner not fired him as chair of Trump’s transition team.
He documents his friendship with Trump, which he traces to a 2002 dinner. Trump ordered him scallops and lamb — Christie says he is allergic to the former and hates the latter.
Christie also recalls his work in Trenton with South Jersey Democratic power broker George E. Norcross III and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), and explores his own failed bid for the White House.
“We were beaten by two forces we couldn’t control: Jeb Bush locking up so many of the donors who would have come our way, and the total dominance of our political lane by Donald Trump," he writes.
But he suggests he might have won if not for the bridge scandal.
A federal jury in 2016 found two former Christie allies guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud and other counts in connection with the 2013 traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge, which were intended to punish a Democratic mayor who had refused to endorse the governor’s reelection.
Bridget Anne Kelly was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and Bill Baroni got two years. Both are awaiting re-sentencing after an appeals court in November threw out a couple of convictions.
Another onetime Christie ally, former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein, pleaded guilty. Wildstein testified that Christie laughed when Baroni told him about the traffic jams during a 9/11 commemorative event in New York City in 2013.
Christie has said he doesn’t recall that. The governor has also maintained he did not have advance knowledge of the bridge plot, which was described as a lane-realignment study.
In his book, the two-term governor says he received the apologies from an FBI agent and a corruption investigator who he says worked for him when he was U.S. attorney from 2002 to 2008. Neither is named in the book.
Fishman, who succeeded Christie in that office as an appointee of President Barack Obama, was bitter that scores of talented prosecutors had left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark to follow Christie to Trenton after he was elected governor in 2009, according to the book.
Christie describes Fishman as an avid Clinton supporter known in the U.S. Attorney’s Office as “Napoleon on Broad Street” (the one in Newark) for his “bitterness, imperiousness, ambition, and physical stature.”
Fishman’s ambition, Christie writes, "was rumored to be a return to D.C. in a Clinton Justice Department, perhaps as attorney general or deputy.”
“What better way to increase his stock than by taking out her purported number-one 2016 rival?” the governor writes.
New Jersey Democrats have long viewed Christie’s own tenure as U.S. attorney with suspicion, saying he politicized the office.
Fishman declined to comment Tuesday, but in response to previous criticism from Christie, he told the Bergen Record in 2017: “I can only assume that I have had to make some decisions or have made some decisions over the last several years that have been uncomfortable for him.”
In addition to the bridge case, Fishman also prosecuted Christie’s mentor, David Samson, who abused his power as chairman of the Port Authority to shake down United Airlines. Samson pleaded guilty to a felony corruption charge and was sentenced to probation.
In his book, Christie belittles the government’s case in Bridgegate, saying that when he was a prosecutor, he would have been “embarrassed to bring such a jerry-rigged charge."
Christie argues that Fishman could have referred the case to the state Attorney General’s Office, which “could have brought official-misconduct charges that would have actually fit the defendants’ conduct.”
“Then, however, he would have lost control of the case and his ability to inflict political damage on me,” Christie writes.
Christie would go on to announce his candidacy for president about two months after the charges were announced.
After the first Republican debate in August 2015, Christie writes, he told his wife, Mary Pat, “We’ve got a problem.”
“What’s the problem?” she asked. “Donald Trump,” he replied.
“From a stylistic perspective, he was everything I was — but on jet fuel,” Christie writes.