By Jueseppi B.
Bridgegate: Messages tie Chris Christie aide to George Washington Bridge lane closures
By ANGELA DELLI SANTI Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. – January 8, 2014 (WPVI) — A political dirty-tricks investigation of Gov. Chris Christie’s inner circle broke wide open Wednesday with the release of emails and text messages that suggest one of his top aides engineered traffic jams in a New Jersey town last September to punish its mayor.
An “outraged and deeply saddened” Christie responded by saying he was misled by his aide, and he denied involvement in the apparent act of political payback.
The messages were obtained by Action News, The Associated Press, and other news organizations Wednesday amid a statehouse investigation into the whether the lane closings that led to the tie-ups were retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for re-election last fall.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote in August in a message to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“Got it,” Wildstein replied. A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the heavily traveled George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City.
The messages do not directly implicate Christie in the shutdown. But they contradict his assertions that the closings were not punitive and that his staff was not involved.
Democrats seized on the material as more evidence that the potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 is a bully.
The messages “indicate what we’ve come to expect from Gov. Christie – when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his administration, he bullies and attacks,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, Christie said: “I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”
“People will be held responsible for their actions,” he added, but gave no details.
Kelly had no immediate comment.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich called it “appalling” that the traffic jams appear to have been deliberately created.
“When it’s man-made and when it was done with venom and when it was done intentionally, it is, in my mind, the prime example of political pettiness,” he said. He said the gridlock put people in danger by holding up emergency vehicles, and he added that those responsible should resign.
While Sokolich is a Democrat, Christie sought bipartisan support during his re-election campaign to bolster his image as a pragmatic leader willing to work with his political opponents.
Democratic state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who has been leading the investigation, said the material in the documents is “shocking” and “outrageous” and calls into question the honesty of the governor and his staff.
The tie-ups occurred between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13. Port Authority officials later said the closings were part of a traffic study. But no study has been produced.
As the controversy heated up over the past few weeks, Wildstein resigned, as did Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni, another Christie appointee. Wildstein, a childhood friend of the governor, is scheduled to testify on Thursday before a state Assembly committee but is fighting the subpoena.
One of the released texts came from Sokolich, who pleaded on the morning of Sept. 10: “The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It’s maddening.”
Within minutes of Sokolich’s plea, an unidentified person commented in a text message: “Is it wrong that I am smiling?” Someone joked in another text that the youngsters referred to by Sokolich “are the children of Buono voters” – a reference to Christie’s Democratic opponent for governor, state Sen. Barbara Buono.
Also among the correspondence, some of which was blacked out, is an email from Wildstein to Kelly on Sept. 7, two days before the lane closings. He said he would call her “to let you know how Fort Lee goes.”
Most of the emails were sent using private accounts rather than government ones, which would be subject to open records laws and therefore public.
The Democratic National Committee seized on the disclosures, releasing a web video that details Christie’s prior assurances that neither he nor his staff had anything to do with the lane closings.
“I’ve made it to very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it, and they’ve all assured me that they don’t,” Christie said in mid-December.
Wasserman-Schultz said the new material proves that “the governor’s office ordered lane closures that were intended to make first responders experience delays, kids sit gridlocked on the first day of school, and commuters hit logjams, to punish the Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Chris Christie’s re-election bid.”
Sokolich said that because of the traffic backup, emergency calls that average a two- or four-minute response time took up to 16 minutes.
“To me it’s appalling and I got to tell you, somebody owes a lot of people a lot of apologies,” he said. “Somebody ought to contact families waiting two, three, four times the response times when their loved ones had chest pains. Someone has to apologize to the thousands of families who couldn’t get their kids to the first day of school on time.”
Fort Lee Councilwoman Ila Kasofsky said she knows of one woman who couldn’t get over the bridge to be with her husband, who was undergoing a stem cell transplant, and another who couldn’t get to New York to be with her son as he went through kidney dialysis.
Also, she said, the heavy traffic delayed the search for a missing child, who was later found.
“I think this is 10 times worse than Watergate. Because this affected so many more lives and their health and safety,” she said.
Full statement from Governor Chris Christie:
“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”
Associated Press writers Katie Zezima in Newark, N.J., and Steve Peoples in Washington contributed.
Thank you Associated Press.
S.E. Cupp: If Chris Christie Is Involved in ‘Bridge-Gate,’ He Should ‘Resign Now’
Published on Jan 8, 2014
Appearing on Wednesday’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN host S.E. Cupp offered some surprising advice to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Cupp said that, if it does turn out that Christie was personally involved in the decision to exact revenge against a political foe by ordering lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, he should “resign now.”
Tapper began by noting that Christie’s statement does not accept responsibility for the incident but instead blames staffers who “misled” him.
“I hope that’s true,” Cupp replied. “I hope that he wasn’t involved.”
You realize when a politician removes their Twitter account…..some big doings are coming down.
Bridget Kelly (BridgetAnneK) on Twitter has been deleted.
Leaked emails from Chris Christie staffer Bridget Anne Kelly reveal that the New Jersey governor’s office had a hand in shutting down traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Kelly’s emails were the source of the leak, but how much do we know about the woman who inadvertently revealed the scandal?
Who Is Bridget Anne Kelly? Chris Christie Aide Who Revealed His Hand In George Washington Bridge Traffic Meltdown
By Eric Brown
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote to Port Authority official David Wildstein on Aug. 13, 2013, The Record reports. About a month later, two of Fort Lee’s lanes on the George Washington Bridge into New York City were closed, causing huge traffic backups for the next week. At the time, it was rumored that Christie’s administration sabotaged the bridge’s traffic flow after Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refused to support Christie’s re-election. Kelly’s email all but confirms the rumors.
Christie said Wednesday afternoon he is “outraged” by the documents.
“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge,” read a statement from the governor. “One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”
The staff member in question has maintained a rather low profile in social media, and deleted her Twitter account immediately after the scandal broke.
According to the Star-Ledger, Kelly joined Christie’s staff in 2010 as director of legislative relations, managing the Christie administration’s relationship with the New Jersey Legislature. Since then, she has been promoted to Christie’s deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, for which she is paid $114,000 annually.
The Star-Ledger also reported that Kelly received a political science degree from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. Kelly reportedly began her career in government working as a legislative aide for Assemblyman David C. Russo. In 2002, she was promoted to Russo’s chief of staff. In the past, Kelly has served on several municipal government boards and on the parent faculty board at her children’s school.
A Google cache of Kelly’s now-deleted Twitter account reveals few personal details about the Christie staffer, except that she routinely interacted with officemates and friends, and enjoyed posting photos of her children on Twitter. No results for Kelly turned up on Facebook or LinkedIn, indicating that Kelly either never maintained profiles there or that she deleted them around the same time she deleted her Twitter account.
Eric Brown is an IBTimes political reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn. Thank you Eric Brown.
From NJ.com :
Today, the Democratic National Committee has released as new video calling Gov. Chris Christie’s answers on the controversy, which erupted in September when two of three dedicated local lanes at the George Washington Bridge were diverted for use by highway traffic snarling traffic in the borough of Fort Lee for nearly a week, “incomplete.”
The video begins with high school pictures of both Christie and former Director of Interstate Capital Projects David Wildstein, who resigned over the scandal, on a blackboard around the caption “Tomorrow, Christie’s appointee (and high school buddy) will testify on the George Washington Bridge scandal.”
The video then riffs on a school quiz, asking if Wildstein can answer questions on “history” – “Why were the lanes on the bridge closed,” – geography – “Where is the traffic study we’ve heard about” – and “math” – “121 days + 2 resignations = 0 answers.”
This is the third video from the DNC on the issue, which has gained national headlines as it has played out. Christie’s status as the early front-runner in the 2016 presidential race has placed a target on his back as both state and national Democrats hope to tie him to the controversy.
Both Wildstein and former Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni – the highest ranking New Jersey representative at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have resigned over the issue, but Democrats have signaled they are unwilling to let it go until all questions have been answered.
For his part, Christie has dismissed the flap as much ado about nothing, joking with reporters that he placed the cones to divert traffic and telling a reporter from the Wall Street Journal the paper would owe both Baroni and Wildstein apologies when all was said and done.
Wildstein is scheduled to testify tomorrow after handing over more than 900 pages of documents in answer to a subpoena from the Assembly Transportation Committee. Committee chairman John Wisniewski hinted to reporters this week that the impetus for the lane closures, which Baroni explained was done in order to study traffic, came from outside the agency.
A spokesman for the governor did not return an email seeking comment on the video.
Thank you NJ.com
Fort Lee Mayor Responds to Chris Christie’s Bridge-Gate
Rachel Maddow: Chris Christie ‘Rotten And vindictive’ Political Payback Scandal Deepens
Published on Dec 16, 2013
Not only did a high school friend of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) lack both a resume and a job description for work at the center of a political mystery, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Monday, but the man has become a nuisance for people reporting on his suspected activities.
“Something rotten and vindictive and petty has been going on in New Jersey,” Maddow said.
Maddow explained that David Wildstein, who resigned on Dec. 6 after being revealed as the person who ordered the suspicious closing of two lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, was paid more than $150,000 a year to serve as Christie’s “director of interstate capital projects” at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a position that had no job description attached.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported that no resume for Wildstein was turned over by the Port Authority in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by the newspaper for state employees in Wildstein’s salary range.
“A man with no resume, hired to do a six-figure job that has no job description,” Maddow said. “So who knows why Chris Christie hired him or what Chris Christie hired him to do.”
Speculation has mounted that Wildstein’s order was a rebuke to the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mark Sokolich (D) after Sokolich refused to endorse Christie during his recent re-election campaign. The move strangled traffic in Fort Lee for nearly a week.
“Governor Christie has been insistent from the begining that the idea that this was political retribution is just a ludicrous idea,” Maddow said. “I mean, can you imagine, someone in the Chris Christie administration being so petty just over politics? Can you imagine that kind of a petty, vindictive, nasty little abuse of power? Can you imagine it? It’s getting easier to imagine now.”
North Jersey.com has obtained a letter sent by EMS coordinator Paul Favia to Mayor Mark Sokolich on September 10, 2013, noting four instances in which emergency medical services were delayed due to the lane closures. In two instances, response time doubled, including the case of a 91-year-old woman who lay unconscious for seven minutes, before paramedics were able to reach her ambulance.
Heavy traffic prevented the paramedics from treating the woman on the scene, and she ultimately died of cardiac arrest after reaching the hospital. Considering the woman’s age, its seems doubtful that three and a half minutes would have meant the difference between life and death in this instance, but it may have. Regardless, the case illustrates the grave consequences Kelly’s alleged conspiracy could have wrought.
‘Bridge-Gate': CBS News Digs Into Scandal ‘National Democrats’ Think Might Sink Christie
On Wednesday morning, the Bergen Record reported on private e-mails sent between Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority, that make quite clear that Kelly ordered the closure of some of the lanes to the George Washington Bridge as an attempt to make life more difficult for Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote to Wildstein in an e-mail just weeks before the closures began.
As the Record’s Shawn Boburg writes:
The documents obtained by The Record raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority. Instead, they show that one of the governor’s top aides was deeply involved in the decision to choke off the borough’s access to the bridge, and they provide the strongest indication yet that it was part of a politically-motivated vendetta — a notion that Christie has publicly denied.
The e-mails add to the burgeoning controversy that has already led two Christie picks — including Wildstein — at the Port Authority to step aside. They also raise all sorts of questions in our minds — some that Christie will have to answer, others that we just don’t get. Here are three:
1. How can Christie hang on to the idea the Fort Lee traffic wasn’t politically motivated? Amid the resignations, Christie has steadfastly stood by the idea that while these officials made poor judgments, there was nothing political about it. (He said the resignation of Bill Baroni, deputy director of the Port Authority, had been long coming and had nothing to do with the bridge controversy.) While the e-mails between Kelly and Wildstein don’t make clear why the mayor of Fort Lee is being targeted, they do make crystal clear that the traffic study was simply a guise for a bit of old-school bare-knuckled politics. (Democrats have alleged that the closures were payback because the mayor refused to endorse Christie for reelection last November.) What does Christie say now?
2. Can he keep this from making it all the way to him? Prior to these e-mails, the story was — in the Christie retelling — a case of Port Authority officials acting badly. Well, now, one of his top aides is caught red-handed delivering a bit of political payback. Even if Christie jettisons Kelly — and it’s hard to see how he can avoid doing so after today’s stories — that won’t end it. This thing just got a lot closer to Christie than is comfortable for someone who is looking very seriously at running for president in three years.
3. Who puts these sort of things in e-mails/texts? Kelly and Wildstein quite clearly thought that their private e-mail accounts couldn’t be subpoenaed and that texts, too, were off limits. Otherwise, why would you write “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” which sounds like a line out of the “Godfather”? The assumption of privacy in this day and age is a fallacy, and people who work at such high levels for someone as high-profile as Christie should know better.
As recently as early December, Christie was joking about the closures; “I worked the cones,” he told reporters. “Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones.”
The controversy over the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September ramped up today with the revelation that a top aide to Gov. Chris Christie was involved in the decision.
Here’s a timeline of how the scandal has unfolded:
Aug. 13: A deputy chief of staff to Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, e-mails David Wildstein, the governor’s appointee to the Port Authority, saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein responds, “Got it.”
Sept. 6: Wildstein, the Port Authority’s director of interstate capital projects, orders the bridge’s general manager to carry out the closures.
Sept. 9: The Port Authority closes two of three local access lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge, the nation’s busiest crossing, bringing traffic to a halt and turning borough streets into a parking lot.
Sept. 12: Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich writes to Christie appointee Bill Baroni, the deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and expresses the belief that the closures were “punitive” and asks they be lifted. Some suspect they were put in place because Sokolich, a Democrat, did not endorse Christie for re-election.
Sept. 13: Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, directs bridge managers to lift the closures, saying they violated agency policy and jeopardized public safety as well as the agency’s “credibility.”
Sept. 16: The Port Authority claims the closures were due to a traffic safety study.
Oct. 2: Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, says he will convene a hearing to determine who ordered the lane closures and if they were politically motivated.
Oct. 16: The Port Authority announces it will undertake an internal review to determine why the lanes were closed and whether proper procedures were followed.
Nov. 5: Christie is re-elected governor in a landslide victory over Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, a state senator from Middlesex County.
Nov. 13: The Port Authority remains mum on the lane closures despite mounting criticism and a barrage of questions from reporters at its board meeting in Jersey City. Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) files a public records request seeking information and documents related to the lane closings.
Nov. 20: With the threat of subpoenas, Wisniewski requests that top Port Authority officials including Baroni, Foye and Wildstein testify before the transportation panel about the closures.
Nov. 25: At a hearing held by the Assembly transportation committee, Baroni says the closures were ordered by his direct subordinate, Wildstein, as part of a traffic study and acknowledges making a mistake by not notifying Foye, police or the public.
Nov. 27: Wisniewski subpoenas Foye to testify before the Assembly committee, and Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) writes a letter to Port Authority Inspector General Robert Van Etten requesting an investigation into the lane closures.
Dec. 2: Christie brushes aside speculation that the bridge closures were politically motivated, joking at a new conference, “I worked the cones. Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones.” The governor said he had nothing to do with situation.
Dec. 6: Wildstein announces his resignation, saying that the controversy over the lane closures has “become a distraction, and I’m going to move on.”
Dec. 9: Foye testifies before the transportation committee that he was unaware of any traffic safety study being conducted on the bridge in September, despite the testimony of Baroni two weeks earlier. After the hearing, Wisniewski calls for Baroni’s resignation.
Dec 10: The Port Authority’s inspector general launches an investigation.
Dec. 11: A Democratic group connected to Hillary Clinton attacks Gov. Chris Christie over the Port Authority’s closure of lanes leading to the nation’s busiest bridge.
Dec. 12: Wisniewski issues seven more subpoenas as his investigation into the closures widens. The requests seek documents and communications from Port Authority officials to determine what they knew about the traffic-snarling lane closures.
Dec. 13: Christie announces the resignation of Baroni and appoints his trusted staffer, Deborah Gramiccioni, to the post. The governor says the change was planned regardless of the controversy, and reiterates he had nothing to do with the lane closures.
Dec. 17: U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, asks the federal transportation secretary to investigate and determine what oversight the government has over the Port Authority.
Dec. 18: Baroni and Wildstein hire prominent lawyers and request more time to respond to Wisniewski’s subpoenas. The assemblyman grants to the two men an extension until Dec. 23, but subpoenas for five other officials still due Dec. 19.
Dec. 19: Wisniewski announces he has received documents subpoenaed from five Port Authority officials. Christie again dismisses questions about the bridge scandal as nothing more than political gamesmanship. Weinberg and Wisniewski introduce a resolution in state Legislature calling on Congress to do a top-to-bottom review of the authority.
Dec. 20 Sokolich, the Fort Lee mayor, refutes Christie’s assertion that no one called to complain about the traffic tie-ups caused by the lane closures. He says local officials reached out to the Port Authority multiple times for help.
Dec. 23: Baroni and Wildstein submit documentation requested by Wisniewski.
Dec. 26: Weinberg says the Port Authority has delayed its response to her request for more information about the closures made through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Dec. 29: Port Authority e-mails show the traffic jams caused by the lane closures delayed emergency responders.
Dec. 31: Wisniewski issues another subpoena ordering Wildstein to testify before the Assembly transportation committee Jan. 9.
Today: Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, was aware of a plan to shut down the lanes and knew the closures would snarl traffic on Fort Lee streets, remarking in an e-mail, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wisniewski says Christie has lost all credibility on the scandal, calls it a coverup and pledges to seek answers from Kelly and others. Christie says in a statement he was misled by a member of his staff, had no knowledge of the closure and calls the actions unacceptable. He promises to hold people responsible, but gives no details about who or how.
Thank you Christopher Baxter/The Star-Ledger.
Jon Stewart NAILS IT on NJ Gov. Chris Christie Bridgegate Scandal
Published on Jan 8, 2014
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