Christie Lied about 9/11 to Try to Shut Down Paul’s Opposition to Dragnet Spying [Updated]

One of the most contentious exchanges in last night’s debate came when Megyn Kelly raised Chris Christie’s past attacks on Rand Paul for opposing the bulk dragnet.

KELLY: Alright, gentlemen, we’re gonna switch topics now and talk a bit about terror and national security.

Governor Christie. You’ve said that Senator Paul’s opposition to the NSA’s collection of phone records has made the United States weaker and more vulnerable, even going so far as to say that he should be called before Congress to answer for it if we should be hit by another terrorist attack.

Do you really believe you can assign blame to Senator Paul just for opposing he bulk collection of people’s phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?

CHRISTIE: Yes, I do. And I’ll tell you why: because I’m the only person on this stage who’s actually filed applications under the Patriot Act, who has gone before the federal — the Foreign Intelligence Service court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th.

I was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001, and the world changed enormously the next day, and that happened in my state.

This is not theoretical to me. I went to the funerals. We lost friends of ours in the Trade Center that day. My own wife was two blocks from the Trade Center that day, at her office, having gone through it that morning.

Never mind that most US Attorneys don’t, themselves, go before the FISC to present cases (usually it is people from the National Security Division, though it was OIPR when Christie was US Attorney), never mind that the name of the court is the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The real doozie here is Chris Christie’s claim that he “was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001.”

On December 7, 2001 — three months after the attacks — President Bush released this notice of nomination.

The President intends to nominate Christopher J. Christie to be United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.   Christie has been a partner with Dughi, Hewitt and Palatucci of Cranford, New Jersey since 1987.  He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and Seton Hall University School of Law.

Christie was confirmed quickly and started as US Attorney in January 2002.

Now, maybe Bush spoke with his big New Jersey fundraiser Chris Christie and assured him the payoff — in the form of a key appointment — would be coming. Maybe that conversation even happened on September 10.

But it is not the case that he was nominated on September 10.

I attribute this fib — like the mistakes about the name of FISC — to be bluster and debate confusion. What I find more offensive is that Andrea Mitchell, when hailing Christie’s national security credentials later in the night, literally claimed he was nominated on September 10 and started on September 12.

And there’s a far bigger subtext here.

Christie implies he was involved in the dragnet in question. He was US Attorney from January 2002 to December 2008 — so he in fact would have been in office during the two years when the phone dragnet worked through the Servic–um, Surveillance court, and four years of the Internet dragnet. But if, as he implies, he was involved in the dragnet for the entire span of his tenure — and remember, there were huge cases run out of Trenton right out of 9/11 — then he was also using the fruits of illegal wiretapping to do his job. Not Servic — um, Surveillance court authorized dragnets and wiretaps, but also illegal wiretaps.

Which may explain why he’s so invested in rebutting any questions about the legitimacy of the program.

Update: Here’s what his official biography says about his tenure as US Attorney. (h/t JH)

Christie was named U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey in 2002. As the chief federal law enforcement officer in New Jersey, earning praise from leaders in both parties and drawing national attention for his efforts in battling political corruption, corporate crime, human trafficking, gangs, terrorism and environmental polluters.

Update: In an absolutely hysterical attempt to rebut the clear fact that he was not nominated when he said he was, Christie’s people said he was informed he would be on September 10 at 4:30 (as I suggested was likely). But the rest of the explanation makes it clear they hadn’t even done a background check yet!

The intervening crisis caused by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington then delayed action on the nomination. In the interview for the book, Christie said he didn’t hear again from the White House for two weeks and that things were slowed because there were no available FBI agents to do background checks, as they had been assigned to investigating the 9/11 attacks.

 

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

25 replies
  1. galljdaj says:

    Way to go marcy! Nothing like the printed truth for lies and liars! That’s what I liked most about ABUZZ, we could post the ‘documents of Truth FOR ALL to see!

    And! It was the nyt that killed ABUZZ and the allowed the lil bush destruction of Freedom in the USA, and another bankruptcy by the lil bush gang, stripping the life blood of America, and giving it to the ‘few’!

  2. orionATL says:

    gov. uuggly emotes:

    “…. My own wife was two blocks from the Trade Center that day, at her office, having gone through it that morning…”

    “i however, as u.s. attorney, was not in the city. i was on the jersey shore fucking one of my office associates.”

  3. bloopie2 says:

    Actually he was so fat back then that in 2002 when he started, his ass was still back in 2001.

    • emptywheel says:

      Please don’t stoop to fat jokes. There is plenty to criticize Christie on for policy grounds.

      • orionATL says:

        the plantagenet-maned donald trump vs the preternaturally ugly-visaged chris christie vs the dark lord scott skywalker as bases for voter choice?
        .
        with a surfeit of faux debates on teevee we’re supposed to stick with policy-issues ?
        .
        since when did a policy issue ever make a serious difference in a presidential campaign ?

      • bloopie2 says:

        Touché. But one bit of his policy that I do like is his rejection of the new train tunnel under the Hudson to Manhattan. Regardless of what other reasons he may have had for taking that stand, he did present a colorable argument that NJ could be on the hook for billions in cost overruns; to my recollection, no one ever refuted that argument. Sort of an early “Boston Olympics NO” (which few are complaining about).

        • orionATL says:

          i consider christie’s tunnel decision short-sighted and politically uncourageous in the extreme:
          .
          http://mobile.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/opinion/08krugman.html?_r=0&referrer=
          .
          and
          .
          .http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/krugman/2012/04/10/christie-the-cannibilizer/?referrer=
          .
          by now that tunnel would have involved thousands of jobs; just in time to help us of the the impending slump.
          .
          rule of thumb: never trust a politician’s xplanations for his conduct; manipulation of emotions and lying is his normal mode of communicating.

          • bloopie2 says:

            I consider construction jobs to be meaningless. They don’t last long and so are not a good reason for government expenditure. Better off just giving the money to folks outright and let them spend it straight back into the local economy, instead of a big chunk of it landing in company execs’ pockets. And I agree on your rule of thumb; still in this case the likelihood of a huge cost overrun was real, and he was right to reject it for that reason alone.

            • orionATL says:

              tunneling jobs last a looong time. check out some subway work.
              .
              not that it would matter for the people of new jersey, but the gao seems to think christie “mistated/overestimated”, i.e., lied about, the project costs for political advantage:
              .

              [… More on this when the full GAO report is public. But one thing to emphasize here is that this turns Christie’s whole narrative on its head. He poses as the tough guy willing to make hard choices to secure his state’s future. Instead, he turns out to be a guy willing to eat the state’s seed corn — as one of the critics quoted in the article says, to “cannibalize” a project essential to the state’s future — so as to secure a short-term political advantage.

              This fits a broader pattern: in general, the politicians who make the loudest noise about taking care of future generations, taking the long view, etc., are the ones who are in fact most irresponsible about public investments, both in infrastructure and in human issues like child health and nutrition.

              And public investment really, really has been lagging. Here’s real public and private investment since 1995, when the data start:

              Source: FRED…]
              .
              as i said, not that the future for the people of new jersey matters.

        • Rocknation says:

          Through the budgets of the Port Authority of New York AND New Jersey, BOTH states were going to foot the bill equally along with the feds. As for the cost overruns, they remained stable through 2010. Making Christie either a fiscal incompetent or a deliberately deceptive liar.

      • wallace says:

        quote”Please don’t stoop to fat jokes. “unquote

        bullshit. Lying sacks of shit deserve everything they got coming, including their wasteline as a measure of their bullshit.

  4. Trevanion says:

    He always leaves the impression of spending excessive amounts of time studying old videos of Eddie Haskell for tips on presenting one’s self.

  5. RUKidding says:

    Good catches, Marcy, and worth noting…

    I appreciate your extensive research on these issues and posts on them.

    One could maybe “forgive” Christie for getting the dates mixed up as to when he was appointed. It’s entirely possible that W told Christie in early Sept that W would appoint Christie. It’s now 2015. I could see someone honestly mixing up dates and timelines at this point. Andrea Mitchell is a hack, so why would she be bothered to do her homework, where, in this case, Google is your friend. No surprises there. So much of the “media” & pundit class are lazy and totally worthless in terms of good info.

    It is interesting, though, the contentiousness re the Dragnet and Christie’s attacks on Rand Paul. Thanks for the info.

    • bloopie2 says:

      “It is interesting, though, the contentiousness re the Dragnet and Christie’s attacks on Rand Paul.” Christie is the loser on this one – by next year, the electorate will be sufficiently educated to value privacy over cries of “But Terrorism!”. Besides, I wonder if Christie would mind if the whole world saw the contents of all his email accounts – if you’ve done nothing wrong, guy, you’ve got nothing to hide.

  6. David says:

    Believe me, I’m not a Christie supporter or even a Republican but is it possible that there is some sort of unofficial appointment by which Attorney Generals begin working earlier than they are officially appointed. Just wanted to cover all bases here.

    • emptywheel says:

      There’s no dispute (though Andrea Mitchell reported it wrong last night) that Christie was not serving as USA until January 2002. That’s what his official NJ bio says, it accords with official records and the language in the nomination, above, that he was still repping banks when he was nominated on December 7.

      There is definitely an Acting position that someone might serve in (though usually someone who’s already working at DOJ, for a lot of good legal reasons), but there’s no reason to believe that happened here.

      I think what happened was Bush vetted and sent a bunch of USA nominations to Senate on 9/5/01. Probably because the ABA balked at having someone as unqualified as Christie serve as USA, they held his, though probably gave him reassurances — quite possibly on September 10! — that his nomination would go through, but that it would just take time. When they put it through in December, it sailed through the Senate — just a 2 week lapse, with unanimous approval. It’s a lot easier to get someone approved to be a federal prosecutor signing warrants outside of Manhattan when there’s been a big attack.

      So in his mind he may remember being appointed on 9/10. But that’s not what happened, and the reason it happened is bc he was considered unqualified for the position, even before 9/11. But in the wake of 9/11, these things became easier.

  7. bloopie2 says:

    Last post then done. First, multiple billions of dollars in cost overruns is not responsible governance; needed or not, if you don’t know the cost, you shouldn’t buy it. (GAO report or not, I can’t believe this would not have happened.) Second, I’d bet that a large chunk of the cost would have gone places other than into the paychecks of New Jersey citizens. Third, there are many places in a state economy where you can get a tremendous dollar-multiplying effect from government expenditures; better to spend that money creating permanent jobs, or educated citizens who can boost the economy, or healthy ones who aren’t a drag on everyone else, or non-criminal citizens who give rather than take.

  8. Yuri Ryan says:

    Check out Bush’s remarks at the Teamsters Barbeque on September 3, 2001, he uses the phrase “wounded knee”, a phrase he will repeat when addressing the firefighters from the 9/11 NYC rubble with a megaphone. Why was America on wounded knee before 9/11/01? No reason to use that phrase unless you are already thinking about a future speech you might have to make and mix up the speeches. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/09/

  9. Yuri Ryan says:

    While Christie’s remarks are clearly meant to deflect the obvious question, “why was christie, a rookie with no experience, still hired after the attacks to lead the most complex investigation in US history?”. Other bizarre remarks occurred on September 3rd, 2001 at the Teamsters BBQ , where Bush states that “America is on bended knee”, a phrase Bush repeats when making his speech from the 9/11 rubble to the firefighters using that megaphone. So the question is, “Why was America on bended knee before 9/11/01?”. It makes no sense for him to have added that phrase to his September 3rd speech.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    After the accident from Alaska, one would think doing background checks – especially on one’s own candidate – would be the first order of the day.

  11. Michael Peters says:

    It is undisputed that the Newark Star Ledger, the state’s largest newspaper, ran a story on the morning of 9/11/01 that Christopher Christie had been “nominated” as US Attorney.

    “President Bush nominated former Morris County freeholder Christopher Christie as the state’s next U.S. attorney yesterday, but the candidate’s lack of criminal-law credentials generated a new round of opposition from New Jersey lawyers.”

    Christie doesn’t “remember wrong”… this wasn’t some secret nomination that nobody knew about until months later… you are ommitting facts.

    • emptywheel says:

      The state’s largest newspaper appoints USAs, not the President?

      No, even Christie’s pushback offers a different story than that–as I included in the update. He admitted he had not even gotten a background check on 9/10/01. You’re not nominated for a position that requires Top Secret clearance w/o a background check.

      I’m actually probably going to circle back around to that for several reasons.

      1) The President nominates USAs, not papers. That didn’t happen–according to the White House–until months later.
      2) The leak he was “nominated” was not a DC paper, but a NJ one. That suggest Christie leaked it.
      3) According to Chris Christie’s bio, he did not get the call from Gonzales (which surely told him he’d get the job, but not yet, if he passed some more checks) until 4:30 on 9/10. So who leaked to the NJ press? Oh yeah. Christie.
      4) There was a bunch of (actual) nominees sent to Congress (which is what it takes) on 9/5/01. Why was Christie not in that batch? Bc ABA said he was not qualified?

      In short there’s actually more of a story here (and Christie’s pushback on this is hysterical, bc it admits that he was not nominated on 9/10). I’ll return to it, because it makes Christie–and whoever leaked that story to his hometown paper–look far worse.

    • orionATL says:

      the central question, which your weak defense of christie now places in bold, is why christie feels it is important to lie about the timing, merely the timing, of his nomination. what could possibly be gained by that level of trivial lying ?

      a larger lie is the answer.

      christie is trying to create, as his silly allusion to his wife’s whereabouts on 9/12/2001 implies, a false image of himself as immediately, and of course heroically, involved in the response to the wtc bombing. the facts are, however, that he was not.

      thanks for bolding the christy lie.

      christy is running on the old prosecutor-turned-politician’s stock-in-trade – “i put some bad guys in jail” – well, yes. sort of, sooner or later, you did. but 14, yes 14, long years ago. turn back you clock, dear rightwing voter, turn back your clock.

      but all that’s before we get to the issues such as, ahem, office favoritism in the u.s. attorney’s office. and the petty vindictiveness of the fort lee caper, and its lies. and the candidate’s long-evident love of bullying behavior.

      your guy has quite a petty record, flack.

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