Brennan’s Testimony And The Questions It Raises

By MATT FRIEDMAN 

Good Wednesday morning!

Katie Brennan testified for about four hours on Tuesday. She did not drop any new bombshells, though it was compelling to hear her discuss reporting that Al Alvarez sexually assaulted her to one person after another, only to see him stay on the Murphy campaign and transition committee, and then be hired as chief of staff to the Schools Development Authority.

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But while the testimony largely fleshed out what Brennan told the Wall Street Journal back in October, it was perhaps more notable for the questions it raised or reiterated.

I keep coming back to this one: When and what did Gov. Phil Murphy know?

Murphy has answered that question. He said he didn’t know about the allegation until October 2018. But when Brennan wrote an email to the governor and first lady in June to discuss a “sensitive matter” and request a meeting with one of them, the governor wrote back to her less than an hour later saying he was “on it.” On what, exactly?

Brennan never got that meeting . But not long after, she said she talked on the phone with Jonathan Berkon, a Murphy campaign attorney, who told her that Alvarez would soon be leaving the administration. Of course, Alvarez stayed on four more months.

So the campaign attorney calls Brennan , somehow aware of Alvarez’s status in the administration. Why would a campaign attorney even know that? He said he couldn’t discuss the reasons for Alvarez’s departure because it was an HR matter, according to Brennan. Then how would he know?

That’s one of several unanswered questions I’ve compiled >here.

WHERE’S MURPHY? All over the place. In Princeton for a 10 am discussion at Siemens USA. In East Rutherford at noon for an XFL press conference. At the Statehouse menorah lighting at 2 pm. And holding a press conference on NJ Transit at the Trenton Transit Center at 3 pm.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Willingboro teacher

Rocco Riccio , former Camden Co GOP exec direct

Jeff Booker, former Star-Ledger reporter

Jessica Calefati , Switzerland resident and former Poughkeepsie High School exchange student

Remy Foong

QUOTE OF THE DAY : “Somehow, it wasn’t a priority to address my sexual assault ... until it impacted them.” —

Katie Brennan on the Murphy administration

BONUS QUOTE OF THE DAY : “I watched Ms. Brennan’s opening statement today, and I commend the courage, bravery, and leadership she showed in telling her story. She is right: no one should have to go through an ordeal to have their voices heard. We must stand with survivors of sexual assault, and we must start from a place of believing the accuser.“ — Gov.

Phil Murphy

WHAT TRENTON MADE

SCANDAL — Brennan: ‘At each turn, my pleas for help went unanswered,’ by POLITICO's Ryan Hutchins: A top official in the administration of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told state lawmakers on Tuesday that she felt ignored and let down as she tried, repeatedly, to get someone to address her accusations of rape against another high-ranking state employee. Katie Brennan, a state housing official who says she was sexually assaulted in April 2017 by Al Alvarez, then a top aide on Murphy’s campaign, said she contacted at least four state officials, an attorney for Murphy’s campaign and the governor himself as she sought justice. Through it all, Brennan said, she thought help was around the corner, but it never arrived. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office refused to charge Alvarez. The governor’s transition team, told that Alvarez faced such an allegation, went ahead and hired him as chief of staff at a state agency. The state’s chief ethics officer said she couldn’t fire Alvarez. The campaign attorney said Alvarez would leave the state soon, then he didn’t. In the end, the only thing that worked, Brennan said, was a call to a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.” >Read more here.

—“Katie Brennan's testimony in Phil Murphy investigation makes it hard to believe governor,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “Gov. Phil Murphy's inner circle was packed with people who knew all about Katie Brennan's accusation that Al Alvarez, who was also a top Murphy official, sexually assaulted her. Everybody knew, we are led to believe, except the governor. Murphy's claim of being ignorant about Brennan's allegation strains the bounds of credulity after Brennan testified during a dramatic, five-hour hearing Tuesday in Trenton.” >Read more here

IF THERE’S SOMETHING STRANGE IN WEINBERG’S NEIGHBORHOOD, WHO YOU GONNA CALL? LAW REVIEW COMMISSION! — “Sen. Loretta Weinberg sues Teaneck over approval of slot car racing track,” by The Record’s Megan Burrow: “State Sen. Loretta Weinberg has filed a lawsuit against the township, claiming officials approved a slot car racing track to open in the same building as her district office, despite local regulations that would prohibit such a business in that location. Weinberg, D-Bergen, filed her lawsuit last week in state Superior Court in Hackensack and named Teaneck Speedway, the township clerk and the landlord of the building at 545 Cedar Lane as defendants. ‘My concerns are that we have laws on the books — both zoning laws and licensing laws — neither of which have been followed,’ Weinberg, the Senate majority leader, said Tuesday. ‘I’ve been in the building 23 or 24 years and have never had to file a complaint before.’ … A municipal ordinance overseeing pool rooms, dance halls and tennis courts mandates that such businesses be open to public view … . ‘Apparently this provision dates back to a time when there was a prohibition of businesses being in basements because there was a worry they were doing something immoral or illegal,’ [township attorney John Shahdanian] said. ‘In 2018, we don’t have speak-easies in Teaneck.’” >Read more here

LEGISLATURE ALREADY WORKING ON PROTECTING CAR DEALERS WHO SELL LEMONS — “N.J. lawmaker takes a stand -- for lemonade stands,” by The Jersey Journal’s Terrence T. McDonald: “Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti is taking stand for lemonade stands. In what was prompted by his 9-year-old son’s research, Chiaravalloti, a Democratic Assemblyman from Hudson County, sponsored legislation that would ensure local governments are prohibited from closing down child-run lemonade stands due to a lack of permit. While it hasn’t been reported in New Jersey, lemonade stands being shut down has been surprisingly common in other states including Colorado, Rhode Island and New York.” >Read more here

“Take a deep breath, is New Jersey poised to cut back on CO2 pollution?” by NJ Spotlight’s Tom Johnson: “Warning that it is time to get serious about climate change, lawmakers [Monday] approved a bill to clamp down on pollutants contributing to global warming, possibly targeting the biggest culprit of all, carbon dioxide. The legislation (S-3207), which cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, aims to ensure the state is on target to reduce carbon pollution in New Jersey by 80 percent below 2006 levels by mid-century. At this point, the bill proposes the state Department of Environmental Protection adopt strategies to curb emissions from short-lived, but very potent, pollutants, such as methane. But Sen. Bob Smith, the chairman of the committee, appeared to endorse a recommendation from the New Jersey Sierra Club that the state also target carbon dioxide, the most pervasive greenhouse-gas pollutant.” >Read more here

TIGHT AS A TICKER — Fed finds tight labor market across New York and northern New Jersey, by POLITICO’s Brendan Cheney: New York City has enjoyed strong economic growth and low unemployment since the recovery from the Great Recession began in earnest. And now that growth is spreading to areas that seemed left behind. Northern New Jersey and portions of upstate New York, where job growth has been much slower than in the city, are seeing a tight labor market with low unemployment rates and rising wages, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released Tuesday. >Read more here

“Move to Improve Work on NJ’s Transportation Infrastructure,” by NJ Spotlight’s John Reitmeyer: “Lawmakers are hoping to speed up the time it takes to complete transportation-related capital projects in New Jersey, two years after they increased the amount of money that’s spent each year on the state-funded infrastructure work. A key Senate committee [on Monday] approved a bipartisan bill that would rewrite some state policies to make the Transportation Trust Fund operate more efficiently, including by allowing the Department of Transportation to work more closely with county governments and outside consultants to ensure projects aren’t sidelined due to a lack of available engineers. The designing of similar infrastructure projects could also be bundled together by the department to help speed up the pre-construction phase, according to the bill. To bring in more federal funding, the state would also be permitted to work more closely with universities in New Jersey on research projects related to infrastructure and transportation.” >Read more here

—“Shore homeowners band together to fight new tax” >Read more here

—“Alternative business lending in N.J. should be regulated. I should know, I’m a lender” >Read more here

—“15 bears killed on first day of December hunt” >Read more here

—"Why are unknown number of sexual-assault exam kits going untested in NJ?" >Read more here

—“N.J., Pa. settle with Encore Capital over alleged deceptive debt collection practices” >Read more here

—“Greenwald introduces legislation to combat the opioid crisis” >Read more here

TRUMP ERA

GOTT-A-PROBLEM-WITH-THE-BASE-HEIMER — “They resisted Trump and pushed the blue wave. Now they're pressuring Democrats,” by The Record’s Herb Jackson: “If the Democrats who will take control of the House next year expect the energy of that wave to simply dissipate, they're in for a surprise. The newly activated suburbanites are watching over their shoulders, and say they won’t hesitate to make noise if they do not like what they see. That became clear last week when grassroots groups that believe their efforts helped boost Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s re-election margin in North Jersey’s 5th District reacted angrily to the political hardball he and several colleagues on the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus played before supporting Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s quest to regain the gavel as speaker of the House. t was also demonstrated by activists in NJ11th for Change demanding that Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill hold a town hall meeting to explain her reasons for joining the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative, pro-military lawmakers.” >Read more here

GETTING RIGHT TO THE MEAT OF IT. THE T-BONE, TO BE EXACT — “Cory Booker Fuels 2020 Speculation With Rousing Speech On Criminal Justice Reform,” by The Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic: “In an impassioned speech to a gathering of civil rights advocates and activists in Washington, D.C., Booker drew directly on his experiences in an inner-city community to address the dramatic disparities in how minorities and white Americans are treated by the U.S. criminal justice system, which he called a ‘crisis in our whole body politic.’ The senator tied his personal story as a young black man living in Newark to the devastating problem of gun violence, which claims thousands of lives across the country each year. 'I’m the only U.S. senator that lives in the inner city. I don’t know if any other senator had shootings on their block this year,' Booker said at a Bend Toward Justice event hosted by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, recalling how a 28-year-old man he once knew was killed in New Jersey earlier this year.” >Read more here

—“Palatucci e-mail reveals call for self-examination” >Read more here

—“Trump, LoBiondo meet in Oval Office to sign Coast Guard Act” >Read more here

LOCAL

I THOUGHT MUHAMMED AKIL HAD THIS JOB — “Jersey City poet laureate is 24-year-old poetry slam champion,” by The Jersey Journal’s Terrence T. McDonald: “Rashad Wright, a Union Street poetry slam champion, was named the city's poet laureate last week. The news, announced at the Jersey City Arts Council's Nov. 27 awards gala at White Eagle Hall, stunned this 24-year-old, a recent graduate of New Jersey City University who has been performing poetry for six years. ‘I didn't know that I was in the city's eye or taken seriously," Wright said. "A big surprise.’” >Read more here

FRELINGHUYSEN'S FAULT — “Morris Township expects to have first Democrat mayor,” by The Daily Record’s William Westhoven: “The new year will launch a new era for Morris Township, where an unprecedented incoming Democrat-controlled committee is expected to elect its first Democratic mayor. Democratic Committeeman-elect Jeffrey Grayzel announced Monday that a majority of Morris Township's 2019 committee members will support him for mayor. Current Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Wilson, who was elected to the then all-Republican committee last year, is expected to be named as deputy mayor, Grayzel said.” >Read more here

THERE IS NO TEACHER — “The substitute teacher who told kids Santa wasn’t real gets the boot (and probably coal for Christmas),” by NJ Advance Media’s Rob Jennings: “The substitute teacher who sparked an uproar by telling first graders that Santa isn’t real -- and also took aim at the Easter Bunny and other creatures -- will not be returning to school. Montville Schools Superintendent René Rovtar said Tuesday that the sub, whose identity has not been disclosed, is no longer working in the K-12 district.” >Read more here

—“Hudson County judge orders recount of mail-in, provisional ballots in Bayonne BOE election” >Read more here

—“Trenton council blasts acting directors for leaving meeting early” >Read more here

—“Kushner Co. buys Princeton hotel for $37M” >Read more here

—“Genao, Stack aide at both City Hall and senate office, appointed to Union City BOE” >Read more here

—“Philip Seidle, killer cop: Ex-wife 'did not become a victim until I killed her” >Read more here

—“On the Waterfront: American Water opens Camden headquarters” >Read more here

—“One year in, Downtown Trenton Starbucks is making an impact” >Read more here

—“Racist graffiti, swastikas found again in N.J. district’s schools” >Read more here

—“Town won’t have to buy failing mall. Developer will buy it and has a plan to save it” >Read more here

—“Aborted pay raise for Paterson’s new personnel director stirs controversy” >Read more here

EVERYTHING ELSE

NJ HIGHWAYS TO BE JAMMED WITH DOT EQUIPMENT — “NJ weather: Snow possible for Wednesday afternoon commute,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Russ Zimmer: “Roadways in Monmouth and Ocean counties could get a dusting of snow just as drivers are preparing to head home from work on Wednesday afternoon, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service. Snow is far from assured. The weather service says there is a 30 percent chance of precipitation and it's possible that some of it could come down as rain or sleet.” >Read more here

THE LAST TIME YOU’LL SEE ACAPELLA ASSOCIATED WITH MASCULINITY — “Princeton group won’t sing Disney song after being accused of promoting ‘toxic masculinity’,” by NJ Advance Media’s Adam Clark: “The audience is cheering. A group of Princeton University students in blazers is singing a cappella. And a woman pulled up on stage has to make a decision: allow a man from the audience to kiss her, or kindly reject the entire premise of the song after a three-minute build up to a smooch. For years, this has been the typical scene at the end of each rendition of 'Kiss the Girl,' a song from Disney’s 'The Little Mermaid' performed by Princeton’s all-male a cappella group, Tigertones. The song’s prodding lyrics followed by an impromptu peck on the lips or check might have seemed harmless once upon a time. But this is 2018, and it’s not happening anymore. The signing group, informally known as The Tones, is pulling the song from its act following a student newspaper column that suggested the song’s lyrics, combined with a potentially awkward or unwanted kiss, promote toxic masculinity.’” >Read more here

EXIT 69 —“Dirty joke broadcast on N.J. highway sign. How was the system hacked?” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “ A flashing video sign on I-80 in Hackensack offered drivers something more suggestive than the routine safety message on Sunday after someone hacked into the control box. A Facebook video posted Sunday afternoon showed the sign parked on I-80 near Exit 65 in Hackensack flashing the message and displaying a phone number to passing traffic. Caution: This video has adult language.” >Read more here

—“New Jersey Table Tennis Club player follows his dream from China to NJ to US Open Championships” >Read more here

—“Accused Colts Neck killer won’t go to trial until 2020, prosecutor says” >Read more here

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