Christie teeters, Cuomo shoves

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Christie and Cuomo. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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Even as Chris Christie struggles to avoid being damaged by a burgeoning scandal at the Port Authority, Andrew Cuomo seems determined to see that it sticks.

Today, the New Jersey governor announced the resignation of Bill Baroni, his deputy executive director at the Port Authority.

Last Friday, David Wildstein, another longtime political ally whom Christie named to be the Port's director of interstate capital projects—even though Wildstein had no infrastructure experience and the position never existed before—also resigned.

A third Christie appointee to the sprawling bistate agency, Port chairman David Samson, is missing in action.

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If the resignations aren't an admission of guilt on the part of Christie, they can at least be read as an attempt to quash the controversy before it balloons into something big enough to damage his 2016 presidential aspirations.

"It’s a big admission that these guys fucked up, and they're trying to contain the problem," said someone who knows both Baroni and Christie.

Since the Wall Street Journal revealed that Wildstein, Baroni's subordinate, had closed New Jersey access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September without following the normal safety protocols, all in the name of a still-illusory "traffic study," Christie has steadfastly maintained his innocence of the whole thing.

The New York side of the Port Authority, headed by Cuomo, has taken a different tack.

For a while after the scandal broke, Cuomo said very little, even after his executive director Pat Foye's emails complaining about the mysterious access lane closure surfaced in that Journal article. 

Then Foye got subpoenaed, and in testimony before the New Jersey legislature, he offered a public indictment of Baroni, saying, in effect, that Baroni's story about a traffic study wasn't true.

"A person familiar with the matter" proceeded to tell the Wall Street Journal that Christie had called Cuomo to complain about Foye's handling of the controversy, even though Christie had been publicly downplaying the controversy, choosing instead to make jokes about traffic cones.

Christie responded in a press conference today, saying the story about the call with Cuomo was "wrong."

Either way, said someone who deals regularly with the Port Authority, Cuomo is out to ensure the Christie bears the full brunt of the fallout from the scandal. 

"He just stuck a fucking spear in the eye of Chris Christie," said the source. "Chris Christie said this thing is a joke, it's not for real, but he called Andrew Cuomo about it? It means that Chris Christie was worried. Very embarrassing for Chris Christie."

Today, Christie announced he was replacing Baroni with Deborah Gramiccioni, a former federal prosecutor.

It's more likely to be a beginning, rather than an end, to the drama.

"At the Port, it’s going to be horrible," said the person who knows Baroni and Christie. "There’s a real threat of a retribution war back and forth, like gangs."