Questions in the Aftermath of the U.S. Attorney’s Charge Against Fox

Transportation Comissioner Jamie Fox.

Former Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox.

The man who was once supposed to solve New Jersey’s state Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) crisis just ate a complaint by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as the state’s TTF fund decays, with a deal only now apparently in the offing.

Jamie Fox was going to be the man to make that TTF deal.

Instead, with Fox out of the administration and embattled, Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) appear close at last. Still, even the enormous issue of how New Jersey revisits its myriad frozen roads and bridges projects seemed but an afterthought alongside new questions today about the implications of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s movements.

If Fox was charged regarding his alleged role in David Samson’s personalized United Airlines flight from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, the transgression that sank Samson, what does Fox – or others – know about a flight that Gov. Chris Christie allegedly used from Newark to South Bend, Indiana?

Once dubbed “Christie’s plane problem,” the curious Newark to South Bend flight received some coverage here.

What Fox knows about that other United route was the going question under consideration by insiders today in the aftermath of the one-two punch of Samson’s guilty plea and the subsequent complaint filed against Fox. Now there was at least one source who speculated about longtime bad blood between U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and Fox, noting how the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) pushed for Fishman to get the U.S. Attorney’s job as early as 1999 but ran into opposition by then U.S. Sen. Bob Torricelli (D-NJ). Fox worked for the Torch at the time.

What seemed more germane was that part of the insider discussion related to Fox’s timed exit as a consultant in 2014 in the wake of Bridgegate and subsequent United-gate investigation to join the Christie Administration as commissioner of transportation.

Why exactly did he join the administration when he did?

No one could offer any convincing explanation for why Fox, a Democrat who worked for former Senator Bob Torricelli and former Governor Jim McGreevey, would be going to work for Christie at roughly the same time that the governor intended to ramp up his 2016 run for the presidency as, of course, a Republican. Insiders offered half way compelling reasoning, mostly anchored on the operative’s longstanding good relations with multiple Democrats in the legislature. Staggering out of Bridgegate, a rehabilitated Christie would need a veteran and respected hand to get the opposition party to do something, or so the rational went behind the scenes.

It made some sense given Fox’s pedigree.

The depth of goodwill he has among all wings of a deeply fractured Democratic Party is impressive.

Maybe it really was simply the governor’s way of currying favor with Democrats.

But after failing to find a solution to the depleted Transportation Trust Fund as the nationally focused Christie shut down all talk of a gas tax, Fox left the administration in the fall of 2015. Sources close to the former transportation commissioner say that the long respected political operative is now gravely ill, and they worry about how the charge will impact his health.

With Christie’s Donald Trump veep hopes apparently over (the billionaire real estate tycoon picked Indiana Governor MIke Pence, according to reports), the governor – alongside Sweeney and Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) – can undertake a fix that hinges on a gas tax, without impeding his national ticket prospects.

But Fox charged could portend worse. For sources this afternoon speculated on the extent to which the former commissioner of transportation, coming on the heels of the guilty Samson, might elucidate other information, particularly as it pertains to the United Airlines case.