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

Pterocarya frax...

Say goodbye to Christie's presidential aspirations.

rbenn

Christies new scandal Fat and Furious

pntbutterandjelly

With two years left before the next presidential election gets serious...

there will be ample time for fact finding to begin and to dig deep into every politician's background. Although very few Americans' past history is squeaky clean...fewer still politicians can pass the smell test. With that being said...the truth of Chris Christies' temperament, governance and possible less than stalwart background will come to the public's light. If his current Bridgegate fiasco is any indication of what WILL be uncovered...then he won't have a snowball's chance in _ell of continuing to run.
On the other hand...if it is discovered that he DID have some involvement in this affair...his goose is pre-maturely cooked. The down side of that will be that we'll have people like Rand Paul running and that is really scary. Marc Rubio can't carry the flag far enough down the political trail either. So....what is the Republican party to do???? HEY! I have an idea! Why don't they nominate somebody who has class, sound character, intelligence, common sense and an eye out for the average Mr./Mrs. American?
"The middle of the road is ALWAYS the best place to drive on bumpy, curvy and pothole-filled roads."

Pterocarya frax...

"Why don't they nominate somebody who has class, sound character, intelligence, common sense and an eye out for the average Mr./Mrs. American?"

But instead they will nominate Rafael "Ted" Cruz...without even asking for his birth certificate.

The Big Dog's back

True Repub, not only try to beat your opponent, punish them too.

getit right be4...

This pig is no true Repub!

mikeylikesit

big dog drank the kool aid. he likes it!

bondgirlM

He is a R.I.N.O. He has proved his liberal self over and over again. Just like McCain, Graham, ect. Ect.

coasterfan

Christie is a liberal!?!?!?! To even think that (much less say it), you have to be so incredibly far to the Right that you've fallen off the game board. Please wait until you gain realistic perspective before returning to this conversation.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the people who get labeled RINOs are simply traditional conservatives... The reality is that the so-called RINOs have not changed. It's just that the teaparty fringe has moved to the extreme Right.

Contango

Re: "Is it just me,"

Yes.

Moderate Repub, i.e. RINO, country club Repub, Democrat-lite, Progressive-lite.

Pterocarya frax...

So what you are saying is that to be considered a true Republican nowadays, you must be a fascist tea partier?

“But he saw too that in America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty.”....Sinclair Lewis

Contango

Re: "fascist tea partier"

You use the political terms, but per usual you don't understand their meaning.

BTW: Sinclair Lewis was a socialist; little wonder that you would quote him.

I've read "Elmer Gantry," (twice) "Babbitt" and "It Can't Happen Here."

How much Sinclair Lewis have you read?

deertracker

Wow! You actually read something other than the label on the Kessler's bottle. Who knew?

44846GWP

lol!

Pterocarya frax...

Saying that I don't understand the term fascist is pretty rich coming from you Winnie. You have called me a communist, a socialist, and a raft of other names.

Several of your conservative buddies on here (and maybe you too, but I don't recall for certain) throw the fascist word and Hitler references at liberals regularly. Those are the ones you should be criticizing for not understanding the word.

Contango

Re: "Saying that I don't understand the term fascist,"

You don't.

Hint, see: Marxism.

Or, read von Mises' scholarly work, "Socialism."

Pterocarya frax...

So now you are saying the Tea Party is marxist. Okay...got it. Thanks.

Contango

Re: "Tea Party is marxist."

Obviously only in your fit of confusion.

Again:

You use the political terms, but per usual you don't understand their meaning.

PirateBacker1975

Yes, Ptero, Christie is considered an evil Moderate Republican because he won't jump on the anti-evolution bandwagon (" All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." - Republican Rep Paul Brown, a member of the House Science Committee), immigration reform and was against the government shutdown. Worst of all, he showed President Obama some respect during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. All big no-no's in today's Republican party. Oh, and he also banned ex-gay therapy in his state ("The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientations can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts." - Chris Christie) which ticked off the Right because everyone knows that we all wake up every morning and decide what our sexual orientation is going to be that day (sarcasm, for those of you with a low ceiling).

He's a conservative in most of his views - against women's reproductive rights, against an increase in the minimum wage, against the millionaire's tax, against actions aimed at climate change, against responsible gun control, against gay marriage (he won't try to change gays, but he also won't give them the same rights as straights), and very much against public schools (he'll even berate teachers to their face when they ask him a question) - but that's not enough for today's Republicans. Either you're a Todd "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" Akin Republican or you're out.

Contango

Re: "Christie"

On the plus side, he's an improvement over the ex-Goldman Sach's, one percenter, former Dem. gov. who should be in prison for securities fraud.

JMOP

Yeah, the republicans denounced this RINO a long time ago.

Big Dog, I'm disappointed, I thought you Libs kept up with politics.

SamAdams

I agree: This is appalling on every level. That Christie didn't know might be believable, but that his administration is of the kind that would foster any belief at all that such behavior would be acceptable is troubling at BEST!

Now...what about Obama and his targeting of conservative non-profits via the IRS? Pretty much the same thing, isn't it? Don't remember you finding THAT objectionable, Big Dog!

The Big Dog's back

Because your rushit was unfounded.

bondgirlM

Ohhhh big dog you just got bit!

meowmix

Hardly bondgirl... rushit...good one BD!! Gotta remember that one.

coasterfan

Sam: It's not the same thing. Here's the whole story on the fake IRS scandal: the Obama administration targeted both Democrat AND Republican non-profits. As a matter of fact, the only group that received censure was a Democrat-leaning non-profit. Don't feel bad - I don't hold it against you for not knowing; obviously Fox only told half of the story, as they often do.

Just as Obama takes blame from conservatives for misdeeds by his subordinates, Christie should get blame for this situation. After all, he chose his staff. I share your thought - it IS appalling, especially considering that this was a close aide-de-camp.

Donegan

What planet are you on? Obama does not take the blame for anything, Even when he is caught red handed. Lord knows he has plenty of drones who will through themselves under the bus to come up with excuses. You are a prime example of one of those willing to throw themselves under the bus, Your credibility already has.

deertracker

Turn the channel donegan.

Donegan

I do not watch MSNBC, Sorry. I like to actually know whats going on. If I wanted to watch cheerleaders I would watch a football game.

meowmix

That's exactly why Faux News hasn't said a peep about Tony Soprano, oops, Chris Christie. It wants it sheeple to ensure their "fair and balanced approach to life.

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