(May 7) President Trump, as usual, is justifying awful behavior by exaggerating the meaning of a legal escape.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that political allies of his bully-boy buddy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, received a “complete and total exoneration” from the Supreme Court. At issue was a criminal case stemming from the “Bridgegate” incident in which a governor’s appointee and that appointee’s aides closed bridge lanes during rush hour as political retribution against a town’s mayor.


Once again, Trump is celebrating an act of unspeakable indecency. The court found that the aides had not broken the specific federal laws for which they had been convicted, but made it quite clear just how despicable their actions were.

Yes, the federal legal case against them always was suspect. As the Supreme Court noted in its unanimous decision, the Justice Department tried and convicted the aides under statutes criminalizing property fraud. It was always a stretch for the federal government to claim the lane closures were property fraud, and the court found the prosecutors had stretched the statute too far. “The scheme here did not aim to obtain money or property,” the justices wrote. Therefore, they overturned the convictions.

Still, the justices made absolutely clear this didn’t excuse the behavior itself.

“Not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime,” they wrote (my emphasis added). Note the word “corrupt.” It was not the first time the justices used that word in this decision. After explaining that the officials closed the lanes “to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to support the governor of New Jersey’s reelection bid,” here are a few passages (nonconsecutive) the court used to describe the lane closures:…

“The evidence the jury heard no doubt shows wrongdoing – deception, corruption, abuse of power … [One official wrote in an email] that she wanted to ‘creat[e] a traffic jam that would punish’ Mayor Skolich. … Almost immediately, the town’s streets came to a standstill. According to the Fort Lee Chief of Police, the traffic rivaled that of 9/11, when the George Washington Bridge had shut down. School buses stood in place for hours. An ambulance struggled to reach the victim of a heart attack; police had trouble responding to a report of a missing child…”

Interrupting here to stress this: These people Trump is congratulating put lives at major risk, all for partisan politics, and joked about it.

[The full column is here.]


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