TIME White House

The Next President Is Getting Some New Wheels

A security officer gives a thumbs-up to the driver of 'The Beast,' a modified Cadillac DTS that is the current U.S. presidential limousine, after U.S. President Barack Obama exited it for a dinner at the Orangerie at Schloss Charlottenburg palace on June 19, 2013 in Berlin.
A security officer gives a thumbs-up to the driver of 'The Beast,' a modified Cadillac DTS that is the current U.S. presidential limousine, after U.S. President Barack Obama exited it for a dinner at the Orangerie at Schloss Charlottenburg palace on June 19, 2013 in Berlin. Adam Berry—Getty Images

Whoever wins the next presidential election has at least one definite perk to look forward to: A new presidential limo, complete with classified armor specifications, that'll replace the current "Beast" introduced for President Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural parade

The leader of the free world is getting some new wheels.

The Secret Service is proceeding with development of a new presidential limousine to replace the Cadillac model currently used by President Barack Obama, according to a new General Services Administration contract posting. The new vehicle is expected to be ready for the inauguration of the next president—whomever she or he may be.

Classified armor development for the new rolling Oval Office has been underway since last year. The government is now seeking bidders to integrate that armor into a new design for “The Beast,” as the heavily-protected vehicle is popularly known, with options for the final construction stages. Details of the new design, like the old, are highly classified and contractors must meet strict security requirements just to get a peek at what they will be asked to build.

The current model was introduced in 2009 for Obama’s inaugural parade, partially replacing a 2005 Cadillac DTS model introduced at President George W. Bush’s second inauguration. The older model is occasionally used to transport the president, as well as visiting heads of state.

The Beast is designed with withstand an array of conventional and unconventional attacks, with heavy, foot-wide, and airtight doors, and packed with communications gear to keep the commander in chief safe and connected to the rest of the government. They are essentially custom-designed off of truck chassis, with just a handful of off-the-shelf cosmetic parts.

A spokesman for the Secret Service did not comment on the need for the new model.

-with reporting from Mark Thompson in Washington

TIME Election 2016

Rand Paul Tops Conservative Straw Poll

Rand Paul CPAC
Rand Paul supporters stand and cheer when the results of a straw poll show Rand Paul winning the GOP Presidential nomination during the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME

Sen. Rand Paul finished again first among conservative activists for the 2016 presidential nomination in a straw poll at the three-day conference, with tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz coming in at a distant second

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul repeated his first-place finish as the preference of conservative activists for the 2016 presidential nomination Saturday, finishing with 31 percent of the vote at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Paul drew a large crowd of supporters to the three-day conference and drew the largest and most enthusiastic crowds with his speech on Friday rallying against the National Security Agency. The straw poll has been a poor predictor of future success, even among the conservatives who vote in it.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another tea party favorite, placed a distant second among the 2,459 votes cast in the annual measure of conference attendees, with 11 percent of the vote. Former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson placed third with 9 percent and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not invited to the conference last year, placed fourth with 8 percent.

The results highlight the fractured state of the Republican Party, with potential tea party and libertarian candidates drawing the energy of the party’s grassroots. Sen. Marco Rubio, who drew intense flack from the base for his support for immigration reform, saw his support drop from 23 percent second-place finish last year to just 6 percent, for a seventh place finish. Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate, saw his support cut in half from 6 percent to 3 percent, as he is increasingly viewed as being part of the party’s establishment.

For the first time, a majority of conference attendees, 51 percent, disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress are handling their jobs.

After his victory, Paul tweeted his thanks to his supporters:

TIME 2016 Election

CPAC Gives Republicans a 2016 Preview

The Republican presidential field won't start taking shape for another eight months, but the 2016 race was the unspoken theme of the first day of an annual conservative conference on the banks of Washington's National Harbor

A deep roster of potential presidential contenders presented competing visions of the Republicans’ future while subtly jostling to position themselves as the right candidate to lead the party.

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a rite of passage for the right’s presidential aspirants, who must showcase their ability to enthrall activists, excite donors and enlist talent. At least five legitimate GOP contenders (sorry, Donald Trump and John Bolton: we’re not buying it) addressed activists in a ballroom at an airy resort here Thursday. In each case, the candidate’s approach to courting the crowd offered an early preview of how he interprets his niche in a crowded field of presidential hopefuls.

Senator Ted Cruz: The Tea Party Icon

Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME

“Now, I do have to start with a bit of bad news this morning,” the Texas Senator began his speech, which opened the three-day conference. “I’m sorry to tell you that by virtue of your being here today, tomorrow morning each and every one of you is going to be audited by the IRS.”

It’s a joke Cruz has told time and again, but it brought down the house — and it illustrated how his keen ability to tap into the anxieties of the GOP base makes him a Tea Party darling.

Representative Paul Ryan: The Ideas Guy

Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME

Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012, may not run this time around. But his remarks were a reminder of why he has forged a reputation as one of his party’s brightest thinkers. He likened his successful pitch for entitlement reform to his former boss Jack Kemp’s belief in supply-side economics: an idea considered a political liability until it became party doctrine.

The message? Republicans should embrace the battle of ideas and hold fast to convictions that may not play well at the polls. “A majority party welcomes debate,” Ryan told the crowd. “It brings people in. It doesn’t burn heretics. It wins converts. And it knows people don’t want to be pandered to. They want to be treated like adults. They want to be convinced. They want to be inspired.”

Governor Bobby Jindal: The Bomb Thrower

Bobby Jindal CPAC
Brooks Kraft—Corbis

A week after breaking an unwritten rule by lambasting President Obama on the White House grounds, the Louisiana governor flung more red meat than perhaps any other presidential hopeful. Jindal, a Rhodes scholar who has urged the GOP to “stop being the stupid party,” has put his wonky side on the back burner and unleashed scathing attacks on his political opponents. On Thursday he opened his remarks with an apology to former President Jimmy Carter for previously calling him the worst President of his lifetime. Later he said Obama should sue Harvard for his law-school tuition because he didn’t learn anything about the Constitution.

Governor Chris Christie: The Pragmatic Conservative

Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME

Thursday’s speech reinforced what is almost certain to be a central problem for a potential Christie candidacy: the base’s skepticism in his conservative bona fides.

Senator Marco Rubio: The American Exceptionalist

Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME

The young Senator from Florida has distinguished himself by hewing to a muscular foreign policy that has lost favor in a party weary from the costs of war. Rubio, who has been mending ties with the base that frayed after his pitch for immigration reform, unspooled an optimistic speech that hammered Obama’s foreign policy and stressed the U.S.’s central place in the world.

“There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio said, drawing on his biography as the son of Cuban immigrants to lay out his belief in American exceptionalism. “Every time I talk about how special America is, some commentator or whoever it may be will roll their eyes and say, ‘Well, that’s just something Americans tell each other to make themselves feel good.’ You have the right to believe that. I don’t have that option, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

Still to Come

Senator Rand Paul brought down the house in his speech last year and is the odds-on favorite to win this year’s straw poll. Former Senator Rick Santorum finished second to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential primary and is flirting with another bid for the White House. Texas Governor Rick Perry is working to resurrect his national brand following a disastrous 2012 campaign. All three will speak to the group on Friday.

The No-Shows

Several Republican governors thought to be eyeing potential White House bids all skipped the conference, preferring instead to focus on their re-election campaigns. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Michigan’s Rick Snyder all received shout-outs from Christie for their conservative stands but did not travel to the conference. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is a favorite of Establishment Republican donors but has shown no real signs of throwing his hat in the ring.

TIME 2016 Election

A Humbled Christie Strikes Low-Key Tone at Conservative Confab

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Md.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014, in National Harbor, Md. Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered an uncharacteristically low-key speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference this afternoon, aiming to reconnect with the Republican base amid a traffic scandal that has dented his 2016 ambitions

Humbled by a scandal that has hampered his rise on the national stage, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sought to reconnect with the Republican base on Thursday, delivering an uncharacteristically low-key speech to GOP activists that sounded traditional conservative themes.

“You know I’m shy and retiring, and I don’t like to speak my mind,” Christie joked during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual confab held at a convention center on the banks of the Potomac River outside Washington.

But the reference to his swaggering image seemed to invoke a figure who wasn’t there. Christie’s remarks were neither brusque nor stirring. He courted the crowd by ticking off familiar tropes, reminding skeptical conservatives of his anti-abortion bona fides and his record of taking on public-sector unions and instituting budget reforms. The Garden State governor assailed the media for bias, cast Democrats as “the party of intolerance,” and urged the GOP to define itself as the party of ideas.

“Our ideas are better than their ideas,” Christie told the packed ballroom. “We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for.”

Christie framed himself as a conservative who has secured a governing majority in a reliably blue state. If the GOP can win in New Jersey, he said, it can borrow the blueprint to expand the political map in coming elections.

“Governors are about getting things done,” Christie said, lumping himself in with a passel of conservative executives leading blue and purple states, while distancing himself from Washington lawmakers. “Republican governors in this country have stood up and done things — not just talked about them.”

Christie’s remarks, which lasted about 15 minutes, were a far cry from the all-about-me message he delivered at the 2012 Republican National Convention. His speech Thursday earned a polite reception from the crowd and was punctuated by several rounds of applause. He spoke off the cuff, using notes instead of a teleprompter.

But his very attendance is a sign that the frost between Christie and his party’s base has thawed. Christie addressed the group in 2012 but did not receive an invitation to CPAC last year. The snub came just months after his public embrace of President Barack Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many Republicans believed Christie’s effusive praise of the President in the final days of Obama’s re-election campaign helped lift the President over GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Christie spent much of 2013 focused on appealing to his state’s Democrats in order to run up the score of his re-election in preparation for a 2016 presidential campaign.

The reception may have reflected the media onslaught buffeting Christie, who has been under fire in recent months amid revelations that aides initiated a traffic jam in an apparent act of political retribution. The harsh spotlight from a media conservatives see as biased has earned him new affection from the right.

Working a crowd that has not always been friendly to his brand of Northeast conservatism, Christie sought to mend fences. He defended the political activity of the billionaire Koch brothers, whose spending on 2014 races has become a rallying cry for vulnerable Senate Democrats. He urged conservatives to stress an economic platform that can lift Americans out of poverty. And he lambasted Obama for standing on the sidelines when Washington required leadership.

“Mr. President,” he said, “what the hell are we paying you for?”

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Aides Joked About Jamming Traffic at Rabbi’s House

David Wildstein
David Wildstein, who was Christie's No. 2 man at the Port Authority, speaks during a hearing at the Statehouse in Trenton, Jan. 9, 2014. Mel Evans—AP

According to newly released documents, Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein -- former aides to the N.J. governor caught up in a traffic scandal -- joked last year about creating a traffic jam outside a local rabbi's house

Former aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the center of a politically damaging traffic scandal joked last year about creating a traffic jam outside a local rabbi’s house, according to newly released documents.

The exchange between former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former transportation official David Wildstein took place Aug. 19, the New York Times reports, just six days after previously released documents showed the two planning to snarl traffic in a north Jersey town—”time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly had written—in apparent political payback after the local mayor declined to back Christie’s reelection campaign.

“We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?” Kelly wrote to Wildstein,

Wildstein, who was a top Christie official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, jokingly called for taking an even larger step. “Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed,” he wrote back.

The documents, supplied by Wildstein as part of a state legislative panel’s probe of the scandal and obtained by the Times without many of the previous redactions, reveal that the lane closures were something of a recurring topic among the same members of the Christie administration who eventually oversaw the closure of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. The ensuing scandal has threatened Christie’s 2016 presidential aspirations.

It’s unclear why Wildstein and Kelly joked about the rabbi—and there’s no evidence of actual traffic problems in front of his house—though the documents show that Wildstein previously wrote that the rabbi “has officially pissed me off.”

“I am clueless,” the rabbi, Mendy Carlebach, told the Times.

Wildstein resigned in December amid early suggestions that the lane closures were politically motivated. Testifying under subpoena before a state legislative committee last month, he refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment rights. Christie, who has apologized and denied any knowledge of a political retribution scheme, fired Kelly in January.

TIME 2016 Election

Agency at Center of Christie Bridge Scandal Apologizes

Port Authority says it's sorry, months after lane closures that jeopardized the New Jersey governor's political future

The agency that oversaw lane closures leading to a busy bridge last year — and which ensnared New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a political scandal in the process — formally apologized to commuters on Wednesday.

David Samson, who chairs the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, issued the apology during an agency board meeting, the New York Times reports, more than five months after lane closures on the George Washington Bridge snarled traffic in a north Jersey town, and at a time when Christie is trying to put the scandal that ensued behind him.

“On behalf of the board of commissioners, we are deeply sorry for inconvenience caused to our travelers,” Samson said. Referring to officials who resigned last year as questions were raised about whether the lane closures were politically motivated, Samson added: “I cannot allow this agency to be mischaracterized by the actions of a few individuals.”

Christie, a leading 2016 Republican presidential contender, saw his political future thrown into doubt earlier this year when documents emerged showing that aides had plotted to close the lanes leading from Fort Lee to the bridge in an apparent political payback after the town’s mayor declined to back Christie’s reelection campaign. The lane closures turned Fort Lee into a veritable parking lot for days. Christie apologized, fired a top aide and said he never knew of the plot. State lawmakers and federal authorities are investigating the matter.

The scandal briefly reignited late last month when a former Christie ally said “evidence exists” that Christie knew of the lane closures sooner than he maintained, something Christie has denied.

[New York Times]

TIME 2016 Election

New Jersey Lawmakers Widen Probe of Christie Bridge Scandal

Chris Christie Sworn In For Second Term As Governor Of New Jersey
Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images

The panel looking into the punitive lane closures on the world's busiest bridge has issued subpoenas to 18 additional people in the New Jersey government to determine when exactly the governor learned of the plaguing traffic problems

New Jersey lawmakers investigating last year’s lane closures on the busiest bridge in the world issued new subpoenas on Monday, as the probes buffeting Gov. Chris Christie continued to delve deeper into his administration.

The Democratic-led legislative panel handed out 18 new or amended subpoenas, the Record newspaper reports. Recipients included the governor’s deputy who handles constituent complaints and the State Police Aviation Unit, which flies the governor’s helicopter. Citing an unnamed source familiar with the investigation, the Record reports that lawmakers are investigating are interested in whether Christie flew over the bridge while the lanes were closed and traffic gridlocked the north Jersey town of Fort Lee, and if so, who was with him.

Christie has maintained that he did not know about the lane closures until they were reported by the news media, and that he had no knowledge members of his administration apparently directed the lane closures as political payback after the Fort Lee mayor didn’t back his reelection campaign. Christie, a leading 2016 Republican presidential candidate, won a second term in a landslide victory last year, but his White House hopes have been threatened ever since the scandal broke open earlier this year. Christie fired a top aide and apologized. Both state lawmakers and federal authorities are investigating the matter.

While new subpoenas are going out, some state employees who already received subpoenas have asked the state to help pay their legal bills. The state attorney general’s office confirmed to the Record that several current and former state employees have asked for for assistance paying legal fees but did not say how many or when a decision will be made.

[The Record]

TIME Chris Christie

Christie on Bridge Closure: “I Had Nothing to Do With This”

Chris Christie Sworn In For Second Term As Governor Of New Jersey
Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took to the radio Monday, again denying he had any knowledge of the George Washington Bridge lane closures that snarled traffic in Fort Lee, whose mayor declined to support Christie's re-election

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reasserted Monday that he had no advance knowledge of efforts to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge for political reasons, following allegations by a former political appointee that “evidence exists” that he was aware of the lane closures while they were in effect.

“I had nothing to do with this: No knowledge. No authorization. No planning.” Christie said on a local radio call-in show, as questions swirled about what he did know about the closure of lanes to the busiest bridge in the nation and when he knew about it. The controversy has been a black-eye for the likely 2016 Republican presidential hopeful and could derail his national ambitions entirely.

The former appointee, David Wildstein, resigned from the Port Authority last month, and Christie dismissed two top political aides after emails were released last month showing they were involved in the effort to close the bridge lanes.

“[E]vidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed,” an attorney for David Wildstein wrote in a letter Friday to the Port Authority.

In the interview, Christie said he was only aware of the lane closings once he read a media report on Oct. 1, 2013 in the Wall Street Journal quoting from an email sent by Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye ordering the lanes open on Sep. 13. “That’s when I asked my Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel — I said to them hey, would you look into this and see what’s going on here,” he said.

But in December, Christie said on the same program that he heard about the lane closures in September, before the Foye email was published. “Well, I first heard about the lane closure back in September, you know, from press accounts, but, you know, this has kind of been an evolving thing,” he said then. “There was no, like, moment where I went oh, wow, look at this.”

On Monday night’s radio show, Christie also provided little clarity on whether he knew of traffic on the bridge contemporaneously. “Things could have been mentioned to me about traffic,” he said. Minutes later, when asked why he didn’t order aides to investigate the traffic sooner, Christie replied, “I didn’t know about traffic.”

Christie sought to diffuse those questions, saying the “most important” point was that he didn’t know about or authorize the apparent politically motivated closure in advance. “Nobody has said that I knew anything about this before it happened,” he said, “and I think that’s the most important question.”

Nearly a month after the scandal flared, Christie said he has not yet fully cleared his remaining gubernatorial staff and noted that an outside investigation is ongoing.

“There is nothing that has been brought to light so far that would make me believe that anyone is [still lying],” Christie said, adding he wouldn’t make guarantees about his aides until the probe is complete. He said if he finds out that anyone on his current staff was involved, “they will be fired.”

The governor confirmed that his office has received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s office, and said he will comply with their request for documents. Bridget Kelly, one of the fired aides, invoked the Fifth Amendment Monday and declined to comply with a legislative subpoena for documents relating to the lane closures.

TIME Republican Party

GOP Leaders Rally Around Chris Christie

Paul Ryan, Rudy Giuliani and Bobby Jindal lend support to New Jersey governor

Republican leaders came out on Sunday morning talk shows in support of their embattled colleague Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has faced harsh scrutiny since his administration was implicated last month in a scheme to create traffic gridlock as political retribution against a local mayor.

GOP allies including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal all showed solidarity with Christie, saying that before all the facts are known for certain about Christie’s involvement in the scandal, it’s too early to pull the plug on the aspiring 2016 presidential candidate.

“I consider Chris Christie a friend. I think he’s been a fantastic governor,” Ryan said in an interview on ABC’s This Week Sunday. “Right now, all we know is one person’s word against another. You can’t base any conclusion on such a thing… And so unless something else is known or made clear, I don’t see why you would change what’s going on right now. I don’t think he should step down because nothing has been proven, and you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kind of situations, in my judgment.”

Federal and New Jersey state investigations are probing the traffic scandal after it was revealed that a top Christie aide organized lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to snarl traffic as revenge against a local New Jersey Mayor who had refused to endorse Christie for re-election.

A lawyer for former Christie ally and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey appointee David Wildstein claimed Friday that “evidence exists” that Christie knew of the traffic jam, despite his claims to ignorance in a press conference last month. Wildstein’s lawyer wrote a letter citing unspecified evidence tying Christie to knowledge of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge “during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly.”

Christie has virulently denied the allegations, denouncing Wildstein, and Giuliani said Sunday in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation that it’s too early to tell. “The governor has denied it. So far, there’s no evidence to suggest that he’s not telling the truth. I think the governor knows the consequences,” said Giuliani. “If he’s lying, it’s a really bad situation. If he’s not lying, then something very unfair is being done to him. So let’s see what happens.”

“If the governor didn’t tell the truth, the governor is in serious trouble,” Giuliani went on. “[But] we shouldn’t jump to that conclusion until there’s evidence to suggest that.”

Christie plays a highly visible role in the GOP as chair of the Republican Governors Association. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a former head of the association, said he supported the beleaguered governor’s chairmanship, and emphasized unification within the GOP.

“I don’t think he should step down, I think he should stay there,” Jindal said of Christie on CNN’s State of the Union. In the RGA, he said, “no one governor is more important than another… What really matters is the RGA is a place where our governors come together.”

TIME Political Ads

Democrats Target Christie With Online Super Bowl Ad

Ad recaps 'precipitous decline of Christie's political standing,' says DNC

The Democratic National Committee is keeping up the pressure on embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with a web video pegged to Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“As thousands of people head to the Meadowlands for the game, the DNC is launching its own Super Bowl ad highlighting the fall from grace of one of the GOP’s much-hyped prospects – Governor Chris Christie,” a spokesman said. “The ad won’t have a talking bullfrogs or a kid dressed as Vader like other Super Bowl ads but it will have a recap of the precipitous decline of Christie’s political standing since the scouts touted him after his November reelection.”

Christie has been under fire since documents emerged last month revealing lane closures on the George Washington Bridge were orchestrated by aides as apparent political payback for the town’s mayor not endorsing Christie’s reelection bid. Christie has apologized, fired a top aide involved and denied any foreknowledge of the closures.

According to the group, the video “will appear in online ads geo-targeted to within 20 miles of the Meadowlands which includes Fort Lee, much of New York City and many of the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl. Additional Christie-focused online ads will be added in the coming days.”

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