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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NJ's #2 Federal Prosecutor Quits After Christie Loan Flap; Is Another Shoe About to Drop?

The purported controversy over Chris Christie's $46,000 loan to a former subordinate of his in the U.S. Attorney's Office has claimed its first casualty -- the former subordinate AUSA!

Michele Brown, the second-in-command at the U.S. Attorney's Office covering the District of New Jersey in Newark, NJ, has resigned effective immediately following the disclosure that she and her husband borrowed $46,000 from now-gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie in 2007 at a time when Christie was both the United States Attorney and her direct boss.
It is also being reported in various sources that the current interim U.S. Attorney (Ralph Marra) is being investigated by the Department of Justice for certain comments made regarding the recent wave of political corruption arrests that some perceive as showing a particular political bias.    This follows a long water-drip of accusations that certain investigations and prosecutions were undertaken on the basis of political considerations as opposed to actual criminality; curiously and perhaps not coincidentally, some of the people rumored to be the subject of such investigations have become extremely vocal about this topic in the past few weeks.

(Marra responds by saying the claims are "trumped up" but also characterizes the loan controversy -- in my opinion a potential campaign killer -- as a "purported controversy" and this refusal to acknowledge even the existence or presence of a controversy weakens his credibility; I find Marra's statements actually weakened his position, which is incredible.)

Background coverage and commentary on this topic in earlier blog entries below.

In a possibly related move, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak today penned an op-ed on the Star-Ledger opinion website (nj.com) in which he openly speculated not as to whether, but as to when Christie would quit the gubernatorial race as a result of the Brown loan and several other controversies that have erupted in the past two weeks.  

Questions:  Why is she resigning?   If she did nothing improper or illegal, why not stand your ground?  Why end a long career as a federal prosecutor?   And...why do so after merely a few days of controversy?   Or, does someone know that there is much, much more to this story, so that it was known that the moderate heat this story generated during the "dog days" of August when half the world is on vacation would pale in comparison to the hell-fire sure to come after Labor Day?   Is there a second shoe about to drop?    

Who pressured Brown to resign?   Was it Christie?   Was it the Obama Justice Department?   Was it someone currently in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark?  (Then reconsider the questions in the first paragraph above.)

Was there already a "deal" in place to arrange new private employment -- surely more lucrative than the top federal prosecutor pay grade of around $156,000 annually -- for Brown?   Who among us just quits a job?   What?   In this economy?   When the Labor Department's U-6 unemployment rate is in the high teens?

Why is Michele Brown the one taking the bullet here?

Conclusion:  All of this points to the Christie campaign feeling severe political heat.   As this blog forecast just last week, the Christie loan revelation could "kill the campaign" and this author holds true to that conviction.  (See the blog entries below for yourself, especially "Republicans Need a Torricelli.")    At a minimum, they can't stop the bleeding, and the vultures, already in the air, are circling closer and closer.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and strategic analyst who engages in crisis management and other matters. Mr. Dixon cautions readers that this article is not legal advice. Mr. Dixon may be contacted for further comment through edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com, or at 917-696-2442.


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