Emails and text messages published by NorthJersey.com appear to implicate Governor Chris Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Ann Kelly in the planning of the George Washington Bridge lane closures that disrupted traffic in Fort Lee for a week last September. The documents support contentions by Democrats in the legislature and media reports that the lane closures were executed as political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for failing to endorse Christie’s reelection.
NorthJersey.com’s extensive coverage can be found here.
Prior to today’s revelations, the Christie Administration’s official story was that the lane closures were order by Christie’s top appointees to the Port Authority of NY/NJ, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, as a traffic study regarding the appropriateness of Fort Lee having three dedicated toll lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
The documents show that Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and the Governor’s chief spokesperson, Michael Drewniak, participated in conversations on how to respond to media inquiries about the lane closures. Stepien was named Christie’s choice to replace Sam Raia as Chairman of the NJ GOP yesterday. The documents also indicate that Baroni was very concerned about how Christie’s staff evaluated his testimony before the Assembly Transportation Committee on the lane closures in November.
Part’s the the emails, which were provided by Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who ordered the lane closures, in answer to a subpoena from the Assembly Transportation Committee, were redacted. Unless the redacted portions reveal otherwise or other evidence comes forth, it does not appear that any Christie staffer or campaign personnel other than Kelly are implicated in the planning or execution of the lane closures. The committee is holding hearings on the matter tomorrow. Wildstein has been ordered to testify.
Today’s revelations appear to contradict Christie’s repeated assertions that he official and campaign staff had no prior knowledge of the lane closures and the official explanation by then Port Authority Executive Director Bill Baroni that the lanes closures were part of a traffic study.
The emails also lead credence to earlier stories that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop was the subject of political retribution for failing to endorse Christie’s reelection.
Christie canceled a public appearance scheduled for this morning in Manahawkin related to Superstorm Sandy Housing Recovery.
State Senator Loretta Weinberg told PolitickerNJ that it’s time for Christie to “come clean” about Bridgegate. Weinberg is right.
Christie needs to get to the bottom of what happened here. Tell the public the whole truth and take corrective action. Otherwise, this scandal over stupid and petty actions will dog his second term and derail his presidential ambitions.