The New York Times reports that the prosecutor to whom Chris Christie lent $46,000 appears to have “used her position in two significant and possibly improper ways to try to aid Mr. Christie in his run for governor.”
The story published on the NYT Web site Monday evening significantly advances the Michele Brown story. It says the former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey resigned in August after interim U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra came under pressure from unnamed Justice Department officials to remove Brown from collecting records for a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Gov. Jon Corzine (D) campaign.
The Corzine FOIA sought documents related to Christie’s official travel and lodging during his tenure as U.S. Attorney, before he resigned to mount a Republican campaign for governor. But some of those records also involved Brown, and they were not being forwarded in a timely manner - prompting the Corzine campaign to file a complaint about the matter with the Justice Department.
Says the Times:
In March, when Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s campaign requested public records about Mr. Christie’s tenure as prosecutor, Ms. Brown interceded to oversee the responses to the inquiries, taking over for the staff member who normally oversaw Freedom of Information Act requests, according to federal law enforcement officials in Newark and Washington. The requested information included records about Mr. Christie’s travel and expenses, along with Ms. Brown’s travel records.
It was later revealed the Christie and Brown had rented rooms in the same luxury hotels while on official travel.
The Associated Press last week reported:
The vouchers show Christie and Brown stayed at the NineZero Hotel in Boston on Oct. 16, 2007 and each billed taxpayers $449 plus taxes and fees for their rooms, more than double the government allowance for a Boston hotel room at the time, according to a General Services Administration travel reimbursement table.
Christie made a mortgage loan to Brown five days after they returned from Boston, on Oct. 22, 2007. He failed to report the loan on federal ethics forms and on his 2007 federal income tax returns, omissions he later described as a mistake. Brown has since resigned and joined a private law firm
The NYT piece cites ”federal law enforcement sources in Newark and Washington” as its sources.
It also illuminates some of the political wrangling around Marra’s successor, Obama nominee Paul Fishman, whose nomination was stalled for months by Republican senators placing anonymous holds on him.
As we guessed here in this earlier report, the delays apparently had to do with whether Christie or Fishman would get to take credit for a massive roundup in July of public officials in a corruption sweep called Operation Bid Rig. If Fishman had been promptly confirmed, he would have likely emerged a the public face of the investigation.
The NYT reports:
In mid-June, when F.B.I. agents and prosecutors gathered to set a date for the arrests of more than 40 targets of a corruption and money-laundering probe, Ms. Brown alone argued for the arrests to be made before July 1. She later told colleagues that she wanted to ensure that the arrests occurred before Mr. Christie’s permanent successor took office, according to three federal law enforcement officials briefed on the conversation, presumably so that Mr. Christie would be given credit for the roundup.
Brown declined to be interviewed by the New York Time but emailed the newspaper to call the charges “outrageous and inaccurate.”. A Christie spokesman said Brown had not helped his campaign in any way while in the U.S. Attorney office. Read our previous report about Marra’s frustrations, including revelations of an Office of Professional Responsibility probe into whether he aided Christie’s candidacy with remarks a news conference announcing the corruption sweep.
Christie said said he loaned Brown $46,000 to pay her mortgate in September 2007 after her husband, Michael Allen, lost his job.
News of Mr. Christie’s loan to Ms. Brown broke in August, dealing a blow to his candidacy, and he apologized for failing to report it on his tax returns and ethics filings.