Messages link Christie aide to traffic jam

Emails suggest deputy chief of staff took punitive action against N.J. mayor
Associated Press
Jan 8, 2014

A political furor surrounding Gov. Chris Christie intensified Wednesday with the release of emails and text messages that suggest one of his top aides deliberately created traffic jams in a New Jersey town last September to punish its mayor.

An "outraged and deeply saddened" Christie said he was misled by his aide, and he denied any involvement in the apparent act of political payback.

The messages were obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations Wednesday amid a statehouse investigation into the whether the huge traffic backup was 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 engineered.

"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 traffic jams 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.

 

Comments

Contango

Have a nice day Derpy.

The Big Dog's back

Quit lying pooh. Such a shame.

Julie R.

Is it my imagination or does this guy look just like the Cuyahoga County crook Democrat Jimmy Dimora? When I first saw his picture, I thought it WAS Dimora!

There you go again

Democrats will soon be making this the "Benghazi of 2014!" Hardly the same thing, though....

Contango

Re: "An 'outraged and deeply saddened' Christie said he was misled by his aide, and he denied any involvement in the apparent act of political payback.

Reads similar to the Obama "nobody tol' me" excuse:

"I was not informed directly that the website (Healthcare.gov) would not be working the way it was supposed to.

Had I been informed, I wouldn't be going out saying, 'Boy, this is going to be great,'" the president told reporters during a White House press briefing.

"I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opened if I thought it wasn't going to work."

In the final analysis, outside of NJ, NO ONE cares.

----------------------

BTW: "Boy, this is going to be great," - Pres. Obama

Isn't that a line similar to what the character Flounder says in the movie "Animal House"?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N...

President Flounder?

deertracker

How did this get to be about the President? I'd be willing to bet this happens in both the political parties. Katrina comes to mind. It's wrong regardless of who does it because it is the normal every day person that is affected by these childish acts. A website not working and shutting down lanes on a major bridge are quite different. One was deliberate while one was not. The usual suspects on here need to stay on topic. Real people's live and kids were all put in danger!

Darwin's choice

"Real people's live and kids were all put in danger!"

No babies, homeless, priests, nuns, or anyone else to throw in there?

But you look right past the incompetence in the white house that has done 1000 times more damage to those same listed people! Huh!

The Big Dog's back

Exactly deertracker. One was deliberate (bridge closing), one was not.

meowmix

Give it time deertracker--the die hard teabaggers will somehow find a way to blame this on the POTUS. Unfortunately, they aren't big fans of CC either but knows he was maybe their only chance to regain the WH. Guess the neo-cons are going to have to go back to the drawing board for 2016. Hey, maybe Rick Sanchez and Sarah Palin won't have anything going on then!!

OSUBuckeye59

In the past, before smartphones and the like, all of these actions weren't traceable because plain ol' phone calls in the privacy of offices or homes or wherever weren't necessarily recorded. But what continues to amaze me in this day and age of all-things social media is the chutzpah of any/all elected officials and their staffs. Bad enough the Obama or Christie or whoever staff personnel engage in these blatant politically-charged actions against opposition party personnel, but even worse that their "bosses" don't immediately take swift, public action against these same staff members. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the age-old political tactic of the "boss" sharing in public how they are "outraged and deeply saddened" by what has occurred because in truth the feelings are only because they are "outrage(d) and deeply saddened" that they were caught. Any how these people can continue to believe they're immune to public outing of their actions is silly at best and plainly stupid at worst.

kURTje

It certainly will be interesting with the next election.

OSUBuckeye59

Never a dull moment in the presidential political arena, eh? :)

PirateBacker1975

This Bridgegate affair is a non-scandal. Christie's cronies handed out political retribution, were caught and are going to face the penalties. I don't agree with his politics but I really have no reason to believe that the Governor had any knowledge of what they were up to. End of story.

The so-called IRS Scandal is a non-scandal. Issa has turned that whole deal every which way but inside out and the only results shown are that the IRS targeted both conservative and liberal non-profits. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Benghazi Scandal is another non-scandal. Again, Issa and his friends have held hearing after hearing with no results. Investigations have taken place and nothing of "guilt" has been found. It was a tragedy - we should learn from the incident and move on.

Everyone is looking for a political "gotcha" so they can further their political agenda and the internet trolls want to feel good about the party that they follow. How about everyone start facing the real problems that this country has: remember Boehner's "jobs, jobs, jobs"?

Contango

Re: "Bridgegate"

Why must every political scandal manufactured and otherwise end with the word "gate" ?

IMO, it demonstrates lazy thinking so common today.

NJ: One of the three top states losing residents.

http://www.businessinsider.com/2...

A good place to be FROM.

Donegan

"we should learn from the incident and move on." What have you learned? I can tell you what most have learned whether they admit it or not. Hillary and Obama ignored the red phone and watched TV while people died. CNN made it to the compound before the government did and then stood around screaming "What does it matter". It shows that no one in this admin knows how to do anything beside campaign so they can give handouts to their friends and dodge responsibility. My bet is if Hillary runs you'll be first in line to put her in office. In other words My bet is you have learned NOTHING.

Darwin's choice

+1

The Big Dog's back

You right wingers should stick with the Benghazi story. Oh, wait a minute, darrel "Grand theft auto" issa got blown out of the water on that so called "scandal".

Contango

Newsflash:

Gov. Christie fires aide.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/...

NOW if Pres. Obama would fire 'someone,' ANYONE in a high level position over his admin. screw-ups, e.g. Healthcare.gov, Benghazi, et. al, there MIGHT be an adequate comparison.

grumpy

The press conference went on for nearly 2 hours. He answered every question. The reporters were tweeting that they ran out of meaninful questions and the conference needed to end. Much different from how obama press conferences have gone for his scandals.

I'm not particularly fond of christie, or more accurately some of his policies and stands. But then I don't expect to agree with any politician on everything. I don't imagine I would back him for POTUS, depends on who all is running in his party. I haven't voted for a republican for president for well over a decade or so. Don't really care one way or another unless he is actually tied to this incident directly. He at least fired the person directly responsible the first day, and held a press conference and answered EVERY question. Some politicians could take a lesson for how to deal with pi$$ poor reactions/decisions of subordinates.

OSUBuckeye59

The IRS abuse story broke on the afternoon of Friday, May 10, 2013. Obama addressed the controversy in a press conference on May 13, and on May 15 he announced the ouster of the IRS commissioner.

grumpy

Obama fired no one, the IRS commissioner was allowed to resign and keep their retirement benefits. Not the same. And his press conference he answered 4 questions on that scandal a few on Benghazi, during a shared press conference with England's Prime Minister that lasted about half an hour. Do you consider that the equal of 107 minutes, by himself, answering questions on the bridge closing? He answered every question asked, without a prompter, even when they asked the same questions a second time cause they ran out of questions. You consider those things equal? Really?

Christie gave all the emails and records over already and obama still hasn't done so for the IRS scandal. Again do you consider these two reactions anywhere near equal?

OSUBuckeye59

Contango asked why didn't Obama fire anyone. Not to haggle over words, but I have to believe the conversation with the former IRS commissioner was something along the lines of, "You're going to provide your resignation. We'll allow you to resign so you'll get your retirement benefits. Understand?" I was merely responding to Contango's request.

Lest you think I'm an Obama supporter, I'm not. Obama sidesteps and dances with the worst of them. IMHO, he has proven to be an ineffective leader. I voted for him the first time he ran for POTUS but certainly did NOT the second time. His "hope and change" message turned out to be anything but.

As for Christie, even though he did a great job in front of the camera today, why did it take over 4 months for him to reach today's Q&A session? Why didn't Christie attack this immediately when the reports first came out months ago?

Contango

Re: "Contango asked why didn't Obama fire anyone."

I'll give you an "A" for effort. :)

However; Ms. Lerner "retired" AFTER 'taking the fifth' before Rep. Issa's committee.

Gov. Christie's actions were far more decisive and demonstrate a much greater sense of leadership.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/201...

In Mr. Obama's defense, he did "fire" the political hack who oversaw the US Minerals Management Service following the BP Gulf spill.

http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Head...

IMO, with the number of screw-ups in this admin., the frequency and number of high level firings is 'seriously' lacking.

Pres. Obama came into office with no mgmt. experience and it sadly shows.

The new mayor of NYC also has no mgmt. experience; should be interesting.

The Big Dog's back

There's a pork roast going on in New Jersey.

Dr. Information

Amazing how Obama doesn't know anything and it is ok. Left, good liars.

Babo

So from what significant government event/policy/law is this latest "scandal" meant to distract the nation?

coasterfan

There are only 2 good reasons to vote Republican: either you're rich and heartless, or poor and brainless.

When stories came out about Romney mistreating a classmate when he was in school, and mistreating his dog during a family vacation, it was apparent that he clearly lacked any semblance of empathy. All the reports and video clips of Christie bullying and belittling everyday people makes it apparent that he is cut from the same cloth.

Romney obviously belongs to the Rich and Heartless Club. With Christie, time will tell, but it's not good news for Republicans that a blowhard like him is their best chance in 2016.

Contango

Re: "only 2 good reasons to vote Republican"

#3. The only other choice on the ballot is a progressive-big govt.- statist.

----------------------

Re: "When stories came out about Romney,"

"I think he (Obama) can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training." - Joe Biden

His lack of managerial experience still sadly shows.

Contango

@ coasterfan:

Bonus:

"Rolling Stone Resurrects Karl Marx (And No - It Was Not Satire)"

"Be that as it may, there is definitely a great deal of economic ignorance out there. Partly it is actually furthered by statist propaganda and obfuscation."

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/20...

http://www.rollingstone.com/poli...

Dr. Information

Benghazi, Fast and Furious, that killed innocent Americans are not a scandal because they involved a Democratic leader. What do dead bodies matter now? A bridge closure in America is a bonafide scandal because a Republican leader is involved.

Pretty par for the course.

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