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No Motive to Lie

Clearly, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is telling the truth, and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable are not. How can I be so sure, when the matter seems like a classic "she said-she said" standoff? The mayor has no motive to lie, while Guadagno and Constable have every motive to lie: otherwise, they'd be admitting to a crime.

Using federal funds, or the withholding of those funds, to pressure a public official—in this case, making Sandy relief money for Hoboken contingent on the mayor supporting a redevelopment plan promoted by Gov. Christie's closest political ally, David Samson—is extortion.

Mayor Zimmer's allegations became public on Saturday morning, January 18th, during the MSNBC show "Up, with Steve Kornacki," and by Sunday afternoon, she had been called into the U.S. Attorney's office to give a statement. That's how serious this latest allegation of Christie administration wrongdoing is. Zimmer cooperated fully, spending two hours with federal prosecutors and giving them her original, contemporaneous journal, in which she had recorded both Guadagno's and Constable's thinly veiled threats about Sandy funds being tied to the redevelopment project.

Christie flacks, like former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, were quick to pounce on Mayor Zimmer's delayed disclosure. The conversations with Guadagno and Constable occurred last spring, and Zimmer was only making them public now, after the lane-closure scandal at the GWB had come to light. Zimmer was just another Democrat piling on the governor, Giuliani said.

Barbour went so far as to suggest that the "lady mayor," as he called her, had manufactured the journal entries and, somehow, had backdated them to fit into the proper time frame last spring. That scenario is preposterous; Zimmer would have had to leave blank pages in a daily journal, knowing that she would use them eight months later to support an allegation against a governor she had admired and publicly praised.

Why might Zimmer have continued to praise Christie, even after his team members had threatened her and after she had made private journal entries describing Christie as "corrupt"? She says she didn't think anyone would believe accusations against a governor whose popularity was in the 70-percent range, and there is plausibility to that fear. If she had come out right away, what chance would her city, perhaps harder hit by Sandy than any other community in the state, have of getting its fair share of funds to protect against future storms? Hoboken is the fourth densest city in the United States, with 50,000 residents crammed into one square mile, and its waterside location and low elevation make it particularly susceptible to flooding and storm damage. Mayor Zimmer was obviously hoping against hope that Governor Christie would eventually keep his promises to Hoboken residents and help her city. And so, she fueled that hope by continuing to praise Christie publicly, even though her confidence in a governor she once admired had been shaken. As a former mayor myself, I can understand her making the City of Hoboken her first priority.

In her Saturday morning television appearance, Mayor Zimmer said she would testify under oath and would take a lie-detector test to support the allegations she was making. While Guadagno and Constable have "categorically denied" Zimmer's accusation, you don't see those two Christie administration officials making the same offer of sworn testimony, which carries a penalty for perjury, or polygraph verification.

Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, has an impeccable reputation for integrity. He will get to the bottom of this Hoboken matter. And when Lt. Governor Guadagno and Commissioner Constable lawyer up and refuse to make any statements to Fishman's investigators—lying to federal investigators, under oath or not under oath, is also a crime—the public, too, will see who is telling the truth, and who is not.
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