The One Line in the Supreme Court “Bridgegate” Decision That Sums Up Now

There’s a reason why the petty actions of Christie’s aides feel at once jarring and instantly recognizable.

Alex Edelman/ZUMA

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court threw out the convictions of key allies to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the notorious scandal known as “Bridgegate.”

The unanimous decision was at once a jarring throwback—who can properly recall anything before Donald Trump—and instantly recognizable. After all, two political aides emerging essentially unscathed despite overwhelming evidence of public corruption seems entirely appropriate, even expected, for this current moment. 

One line in the ruling all but admitted as much. Here’s Justice Elena Kagan writing for the court:

The evidence the jury heard no doubt shows wrongdoing—deception, corruption, abuse of power. But the federal fraud statutes at issue do not criminalize all such conduct.

A similar legal calculus could be applied to countless acts of malfeasance we’ve seen from the Trump administration, including the events that sparked Trump’s impeachment. (Recall the president’s lawyers claiming that abuse of power isn’t necessarily an impeachable offense.) Moreover, creating a traffic jam as a form of political retribution, as Christie’s aides did in 2013, is exactly the kind of petty criminal behavior that fuels Trumpworld.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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