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Prosecutors argue against prison time for New Jersey ‘Bridgegate’ mastermind

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The mastermind of the “Bridgegate” lane closure scandal that helped torpedo New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s presidential bid should not be sentenced to prison due to his cooperation, U.S. prosecutors said in a court document filed on Tuesday.

David Wildstein, who helped the government convict two former Christie associates after he pleaded guilty in 2015, is set to be sentenced in federal court in Newark on Wednesday.

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Wildstein admitted overseeing a scheme to shut down access lanes at the busy George Washington Bridge in 2013 to create massive traffic gridlock as punishment for a local Democratic mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s reelection campaign.

U.S. prosecutors charged Wildstein, former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and a former executive of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, with concocting the plot. The Port Authority supervises operations for the George Washington Bridge, which connects Manhattan and New Jersey and is one of the world’s busiest crossings.

Christie, who has denied any involvement, was not charged. But the fallout dogged his bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 and has contributed to his current record-low approval rating of 15 percent in New Jersey.

Wildstein pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2015 and agreed to cooperate with authorities, eventually appearing as the star witness at Kelly and Baroni’s trial for eight days of testimony.

“Put simply, were it not for Wildstein’s decision to cooperate and disclose the true nature of the lane reductions, there likely would have been no prosecutions related to the bridge scheme,” U.S. prosecutors wrote in arguing that Wildstein should receive probation but no prison time.

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Kelly and Baroni were sentenced to 1-1/2 and two years in prison, respectively.

Wildstein testified at trial that he and Baroni joked with Christie about the traffic jams caused by the lane closures as they were occurring, an assertion that Christie and Baroni both denied.

He also told jurors that he and Baroni used the Port Authority as a “goody bag” to dole out favors to local officials in exchange for support for Christie’s reelection.

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Wildstein’s defense lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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MSNBC’s ‘demotion’ of ‘feckless’ Chuck Todd celebrated: ‘Hurray! More Nicolle, less Chuck’

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MSNBC host Chuck Todd was moved to an earlier timeslot where his show, "Meet the Press Daily," will likely earn lower ratings. Meanwhile, Nicolle Wallace seems to have been promoted to a two-hour timeslot leading into primetime.

Wallace, who has extensive experience in Washington, previously served in George W. Bush's White House until abandoning the GOP as the era of Trump came to power.

Todd has made several missteps where he's been unwilling to press GOP leaders who lie openly and obviously on camera.

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George Conway blasts ‘blundering cheat’ Trump in new op-ed: ‘His name should live in infamy’

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Prominent conservative attorney George T. Conway III has written yet another Washington Post op-ed blasting President Donald Trump.

"If there’s one thing we know about President Trump, it’s that he lies and he cheats. Endlessly," Conway wrote. "And shamelessly. But still, mostly, incompetently."

"So it should have come as no surprise that Trump finally went where no U.S. president had ever gone before. In a tweet last week, he actually suggested that the country 'Delay the Election.' That trial balloon was a brazen effort to see if he can defraud his way into four more years in the White House," he explained. "And why not try? After all, Trump has managed to swindle his way through life, on matters large and small, essential and trivial."

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Trump’s ‘delay the election’ tweet laid the groundwork for him and his followers to have an excuse if he loses

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Writing in The New York Times this Monday, Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss their contention that President Trump is seeing the writing on the wall regarding the 2020 election, an analysis born from his recent tweet where he suggests delaying the election.

According to Stephens, Trump's tweet is a sign that he knows "in his heart" that he's going to lose in November.

"He’s laying the groundwork not for a coup but for an excuse, both for himself and for his followers," Stephens says. "It creates a mythology to explain defeat, attack Joe Biden and keep the Trump family relevant in the Republican Party. The fact that he’d pull a stunt like this is another reason it’s so important that he lose in a landslide in November."

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