NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”: Emails show Chris Christie’s office planned lane closures to punish Democratic mayor

Top aides to Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Chris Christie of New Jer­sey ordered the Port Author­i­ty to close sev­er­al lanes on the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge to delib­er­ate­ly cause grid­lock in the town of Fort Lee after its Demo­c­ra­t­ic may­or refused to endorse Christie’s reelec­tion bid, a new­ly released trove of explo­sive emails and texts show.

Democ­rats have con­tend­ed for weeks that the expla­na­tion for the lane clos­ings offered by Christie’s office (that the lane clos­ings were part of a “traf­fic study”) was a farce and a lie, and the mes­sages released today prove it.

On August 13th, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Brid­get Anne Kel­ly, sent an email from her Yahoo email address to David Wild­stein, a con­fi­dant of the gov­er­nor’s who was giv­en a plum job by Christie ally Bill Baroni, the top polit­i­cal appointee at the Port Author­i­ty. “Time for some traf­fic prob­lems in Fort Lee,” Kel­ly wrote.

“Got it,” Wild­stein replied, from his Gmail account.

Less than a few weeks lat­er, traf­fic in Fort Lee came to a stand­still when, on Sep­tem­ber 13th (the first day of school), com­muters found two of three toll lanes nor­mal­ly ded­i­cat­ed to local traf­fic inex­plic­a­bly closed.

Just as Christie’s aides had want­ed, Fort Lee became a grid­locked city dur­ing rush hour, clogged with seem­ing­ly unend­ing traf­fic jams.

Fort Lee May­or Mark Sokolich appealed to Baroni for help. In a text mes­sage, he wrote, “Present­ly we have four very busy traf­fic lanes merg­ing into only one toll booth… The big­ger prob­lem is get­ting kids to school. Help please. It’s maddening.”

In response, Wild­stein texted an unknown col­league who was in on the plot to pun­ish Sokolich. “Is it wrong that I am smil­ing?” Wild­stein asked.

“No,” said the oth­er individual.

In anoth­er set of texts, Wild­stein and anoth­er con­spir­a­tor made light of the traf­fic jams they had caused. Here is that exchange:

Received, 9/10/2013, 8:05 AM: I feel bad­ly about the kids
Received, 9/10/2013, 8:06 AM: I guess
Sent, 9/10/2013, 8:11 AM: They are the chil­dren of Buono voters
Sent, 9/10/2013, 8:13 AM: Bot­tom line is he did­n’t say safety

After offi­cials on the New York side act­ed to help Fort Lee, Christie’s aides reg­is­tered their unhap­pi­ness that their plot had been foiled.

David Wild­stein wrote: “The New York side gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morn­ing. We are appro­pri­ate­ly going nuts. Sam­son help­ing us to retaliate.”

Brid­get Anne Kel­ly wrote back, “What??”

Wild­stein then replied, “Yes, unre­al. Fixed now.”

Christie’s aides must have known that these incrim­i­nat­ing mes­sages exist­ed, even if they did not tell their boss (and it seems unlike­ly he could­n’t have known any­thing). Yet for weeks, they stu­pid­ly tried to explain away the lane clo­sures as hav­ing to do with a traf­fic study… as did Christie him­self. They can’t deny now that they tried to fab­ri­cate a false ratio­nale for the clo­sures as a cover-up.

“Can you say with cer­tain­ty that some­one else didn’t on your staff or in your admin­is­tra­tion act on your behalf for the lane clo­sures for polit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion?” Christie was asked last month by a reporter dur­ing a press brief­ing.

“Yeah, I have absolute­ly no rea­son to believe that,” Christie respond­ed, adding con­fi­dent­ly,  “I’ve made it 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.”

On anoth­er occa­sion in Decem­ber, Christie told reporters that it was “absolute­ly, unequiv­o­cal­ly, not” true that the lane clos­ings had been ordered as polit­i­cal retal­i­a­tion against the may­or of Fort Lee. It turns out that the alle­ga­tions made by Democ­rats are absolute­ly, unequiv­o­cal­ly true.

Christie has said repeat­ed­ly that Democ­rats have been try­ing to man­u­fac­ture a scan­dal where there isn’t one. But it turns out the scan­dal was man­u­fac­tured by his own peo­ple. They plot­ted out the lane clos­ings as a way to pun­ish May­or Sokolich and then they took delight in the may­hem that they had caused.

It would seem Christie’s only way for­ward now is to clean house. The mag­ni­tude of today’s doc­u­ment dump can­not be overstated.

Democ­rats are already hav­ing a field day.

“The lat­est news in Chris Christie’s bridge scan­dal indi­cates polit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion and rais­es a host of new ques­tions,” said DNC Chair­woman Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz. “What is crys­tal clear is 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 log jams, to pun­ish the Demo­c­ra­t­ic may­or who didn’t endorse Chris Christie’s reelec­tion bid.

“These rev­e­la­tions are trou­bling for any pub­lic offi­cial, but they also indi­cate what we’ve come to expect from Gov­er­nor 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.

“For 121 days, Chris Christie dis­par­aged the ques­tion­ers and lat­er lied say­ing no one in his office was involved. That was clear­ly untrue giv­en the dis­cov­ery of emails that came direct­ly from his own top staff. Time’s up, Governor.”

The Star-Ledger of New Jer­sey reports that Bar­bara Buono, Christie’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, is call­ing for a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into the scan­dal, say­ing the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice should investigate.

“It clear­ly expos­es a web of deceit and sub­terfuge and polit­i­cal ret­ri­bu­tion lead­ing straight to Chris Christie,” Buono said in remarks pub­lished by the newspaper.

“I said it in the cam­paign and it fell on deaf ears, but this guy’s a char­la­tan, he’s the worst kind of bul­ly and boss,” she added.

Refer­ring to Christie’s pres­i­den­tial aspi­ra­tions, she observed, “This is a guy who wants to be trust­ed over­see­ing the most for­mi­da­ble mil­i­tary in the world and he can’t be trust­ed to han­dle the busiest bridge in the world.”

Bridge­gate, as the scan­dal is now being called, threat­ens to destroy Chris Christie’s 2016 hopes in addi­tion to under­min­ing his cred­i­bil­i­ty and pop­u­lar­i­ty in New Jer­sey. There will sure­ly be fur­ther rev­e­la­tions and fall­out in the weeks to come.

Oper­a­tives employed by Christie’s Repub­li­can would-be 2016 rivals are prob­a­bly as sat­is­fied with today’s devel­op­ments as Democ­rats are.

If Christie isn’t a cred­i­ble can­di­date for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, then he’s out of the pic­ture and it will be eas­i­er for one of them to win.

We’re look­ing for­ward to see­ing how Jon Stew­art and Rachel Mad­dow cov­er today’s explo­sive trove of emails and text messages.

UPDATE: Chris Christie’s office has released a state­ment dis­tanc­ing the gov­er­nor from the actions of his staff. He claims he did­n’t know (just like Nixon!)

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.

Not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of me or my admin­is­tra­tion? Ha! Sor­ry, gov­er­nor, but your cred­i­bil­i­ty is in tat­ters at this point. You can try to negate the truth, but you can’t blus­ter your way out of this. You and your staff have been dis­hon­est with the peo­ple you claim to proud­ly rep­re­sent. Par­tic­u­lar­ly those affect­ed by Bridgegate.

It does sound like heads are going to roll. Baroni and Wild­stein have already resigned. Deputy Chief of Staff Kel­ly will prob­a­bly be hung out to dry next.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation

    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local politics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for money.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy journalism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time donation


  1. It looks like this may have legs and as such, the gov­er­nor could lose his one trump card of look­ing rea­son­able and able to get along with Democ­rats. Of course, if he los­es that, he can always depend on his “good looks”.

    # by Mike Barer :: January 8th, 2014 at 11:37 PM
  2. Christ­ie­gate

    # by Mike Barer :: January 9th, 2014 at 1:23 PM

One Ping

  1. […] — Holy #$%& Chris Christie. […]

    Ping from HorsesAss.Org » Blog Archive » Open Thread 1/9 :: January 9th, 2014 at 7:44 AM
  • NPI’s essential research and advocacy is sponsored by: