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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Don't Lie, There's a Videotape

Former New Jersey education commissioner Bret Schundler has made allegations regarding possible official misconduct by Christie Administration officials which, if confirmed, could expose certain high-ranking state government officials and possibly Governor Chris Christie himself to possible federal criminal investigation.

On Wednesday, Schundler released a letter setting forth his chronology of events in Race to the Top-Gate, the who-lied-who-made-a-mistake embarrassment / government amateur hour that cost New Jersey schoolchildren $400 million in federal aid. Towards the end Schundler introduces the possibility of "being set up" as a "scapegoat." 

The letter reads, in relevant part (see page 7):
"I have thought about the possibility that beyond my being a scapegoat for his misstatement, the Governor might be angry at me for not telling him the interview was videotaped. In my defense, I never believed I needed to say, 'Governor, stick to the truth, there's a videotape.' Perhaps I should have."
Schundler implies that former U.S. Attorney Christie may be tempted to lie, if he thinks he can get away with it. This is an explosive implication and sure to fan the flames of this spitting match even more.

Also from Schundler's pen:
"But it's hard to imagine how, within a matter of minutes, the Governor could forget a point I made to him emphatically. . .

"Perhaps [Christie] just accidentally misspoke when he said I provided the missing numbers. . . But then he would have had to accidentally misspeak again, just a few minutes later, when he repeated the same falsehood. The accident thesis seems unlikely. . . but you draw your own conclusions. . .

"The Governor ignored my correction of his mental script. Whether accidentally or on purpose, he went ahead and said what he wanted to say from the beginning. He shouldn't have..."

"Good prosecutors don't support their argument with claims they know are false. And they don't charge people that they know are innocent."
This last comment seems intended to attack Christie either for his previous engagement as U.S. Attorney or for possible prosecutorial misconduct under Christie's watch. Perhaps Schundler was made privy to certain information...and perhaps Schundler has much he can say.  There may be more disclosures. 

In addition, Schundler released other documents from which one may also infer there may have been an attempt to get Schundler to intentionally mislead or lie to the Department of Education in this process.  Schundler wrote that Christie's chief of staff Richard Bagger tried to get him to make certain claims to federal Education Department Secretary Arne Duncan, which Bagger knew were untrue (according to Schundler) and which Schundler refused to do.  This allegation raises the specter of official criminal misconduct.  Making intentional misrepresentations to the government, particularly in the course of efforts to get money or something else of value, could fall within the definition of corruption and may well be criminally prosecutable. 
Since Christie last week picked a fight with the Obama Administration, might the Administration's political appointees at the Justice Department (aka Main Justice) be taking a keen eye at what's transpiring in New Jersey? 

If so, Schundler's most important disclosures might be the ones he can't say to the press right now.  He might be saying them to federal investigators and soon to a federal grand jury.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and president of Eric Dixon LLC. He litigates and investigates legal matters and consults on lawsut stress management, crisis management and effective communication strategies.  He is available for comment, consultation or retention at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com and directly at 917-696-2442.
Finally, Schundler ends with a strong attack that hints at possible knowledge of malfeasance -- and which is sure to provoke another wave of responses and attacks:

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