By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who is reportedly running the federal investigation of the Christie administration, and Gov. Chris Christie himself were on the same stage this morning.
It was unclear whether they would be there at overlapping times.
“I think it’s gonna be awkward for them meeting, but I’ll bet we the audience will never know it, because they are both such consummate professionals that they’ll pull it off as if the best of friends,” said Joan Quigley.
The occasion was a daylong conference on prisoner reentry at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City.
Fishman told 400 attendees about a reentry program he has started called “Renew Court.”
“Now that they have served their time, those defendants are being asked by lawyers from the same U.S. Attorney’s Office that sent them to jail, and by a federal judge and probation officers and public defenders, many in this room, ‘what do you need from us?’” relayed Fishman.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop organized this conference and put his reentry expert, former Gov. Jim McGreevey in charge.
McGreevey invited Christie, who has made it state policy that any non-violent first-time offender who is addicted to drugs or alcohol get inpatient treatment instead of going to prison.
“No governor has done more for addiction treatment in this state than Gov. Christie,” McGreevey said. “Can we have another round of applause?”
Christie said incarceration has failed.
“If you send someone into incarceration with an addiction and you do little or nothing to help them deal with the addiction and then you release them back into society, why is anyone surprised they commit additional crimes? It makes no sense,” Christie said.
To this audience, scandal was a distant thought.
“No, right now I think the issue of prisoner reentry is more important. Bridgegate will take care of itself over time,” said Rev. Jackson.
When asked how long the investigation into the GWB lane closures might take, Fishman said, “I’m not gonna comment on that, Michael, nice try.” When asked about his relationship with Christie, Fishman said, “I’m here to talk about prisoner reentry. Thanks.”
The two men never crossed paths here but Fishman and Christie delivered very similar messages about second chances and the importance of reentry. Unspoken was that one of them holds the political fate of the other in his hands.