September 28, 2016 NJ Advance Media reports “Who knew about Bridgegate? 6 and counting, Wildstein says.”
“Over three days of testimony in the Bridgegate trial, chief witness David Wildstein has widened the circle of people he contends knew more than they have publicly admitted about the plot to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge.
Wildstein did not explicitly say on the stand that Christie knew the lane closures were meant to punish Sokolich, but he hinted at it as he cited the governor’s apparently sarcastic response.
Philip Kwon worked as a top deputy in the state Attorney General’s Office before Christie nominated him to be a justice of the state Supreme Court. The nomination was derailed when lawmakers raised questions about his family’s business dealings.
Wildstein said he informed Kwon of the reason for the lane closures in the fall of 2013 and Kwon helped Baroni prepare for his appearance before a legislative committee investigating the lane closures. Baroni told lawmakers during the hearings the closures were part of a traffic study, a cover story swiftly determined to be false.” Read more HERE.
“Who’s telling the truth about Bridgegate? And where’s Stepien?” By WNYC. View more HERE.
September 26, 2016 NJ Advance Media reports “David Wildstein, on the stand in federal court for the second day in the Bridgegate trial, testified Monday he had long viewed Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich as an opportunity.
A high-level political appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Wildstein was working on the efforts led by the Christie administration to seek Democratic endorsements for the governor as he ran for the second term.
Wildstein said he believed Sokolich could be convinced to come on board.” Read more HERE.
“The prosecution’s star witness in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal trial said Monday that a Gov. Chris Christie Port Authority appointee to the board of commissioners had advance notice of the political revenge scheme.
David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty to his role in the Bridgegate scandal, testified he told William “Pat” Schuber, who Christie appointed to the authority’s board of commissioners in 2011, of the plan to shut down Fort Lee access lanes to the bridge.
“I told Commissioner Schuber that in a couple weeks there was going to be significant traffic,” Wildstein said, referring to the meeting he had with Schuber only weeks before the plan was put in motion.
He said he told Schuber that “the instructions come from the governor’s office.” and it was aimed at Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.
“He said he understood,” Wildstein testified.
Wildstein told jurors that weeks before the September 2013 lane closures that he sent Schuber an email telling him he wanted to discuss, among other things, a “local Fort Lee/GWB issue.”
The next day, the two met at the Riveredge Diner, Wildstein said, where Schuber was told of the plans to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid.
Prosecutors allege the move was retribution because the mayor would not endorse the governor.
Wildstein “viewed Mr. Schuber as a loyal member of Gov. Christie’s team,” he said. “Mr. Schuber said he understood.”
However, the commissioner denied he was ever told. Read more HERE.
“Wildstein: Bridgegate email about ‘traffic problems’ in Fort Lee was not a joke.” In September 2013, when Sokolich ultimately said “no” to an endorsement, Wildstein said he decided to use that leverage, by shutting down some of those lanes. The move froze traffic for days and also sent a message to the mayor, he said. He said he put it into play after receiving an email a month earlier from Bridget Anne Kelly, an aide to Gov. Chris Christie. The email stated it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
In August, he got the now famous “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee” from Kelly.
He said he did not know at the time what prompted her to send it.
“I remember thinking I was surprised this late that the leverage would be exercised,” he said. Read more HERE.
Wildstein testimony draws more people into Bridgegate web. Read more HERE.
“6 surprising revelations from Wildstein’s Bridgegate testimony”
Wildstein pulled back the curtain on Monday in the ongoing Bridgegate scandal criminal trial.
1. Stepien knew about the phony coverup
“Mr. Stepien asked about what story we were going to use,” Wildstein responded, “And I explained to Mr. Stepien that I was going to create the cover of a traffic study.”
2. Christie commissioner given heads up
3. Fort Lee mayor courted early
Shortly after the Bridgegate scandal came into public view, Christie said Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich “was not on my radar screen,” and insisted that he didn’t know what Sokolich looked like and that he had never heard the mayor’s name “until all this stuff happened.”
However, according to Wildstein, Sokolich was very much on the radar of Christie’s staff, not long after he first took office.
“In terms of the role the Port Authority would play in seeking Mayor Sokolich’s endorsement, … when did these efforts begin?” Cortes asked Wildstein.”They began in 2010,” Wildstein replied.
4. Complete shutdown
5. Joe D gets some “bank funds”
6. Baroni chose lane closure date to “maximize the impact”
Prosecutors say Gov. Christie knew about Bridgegate, view video HERE.
“Christie: I’ve told ‘the absolute truth’ about Bridgegate” Read more HERE.
Vox reports “Prosecutors say Chris Christie knew about Bridgegate. Why is he still running Trump’s transition?
“For years, New Jersey governor and Donald Trump transition chief Chris Christie has asserted that he had no idea some of his top aides were conspiring to cause a traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in the Bridgegate scandal.
But in court on Monday, federal prosecutors asserted not only that Christie knew about the plan but that he knew exactly why it had been carried out — to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for refusing to endorse Christie’s reelection campaign.
So even if Christie had truly been unaware of his aides’ Bridgegate plan, the very fact that this scandal involved wrongdoing by top Christie appointees would have cast serious doubt on Christie’s suitability for staffing the federal government, if he hired people who were so willing to go rogue.
But if prosecutors are right, the behavior of Christie’s aides wasn’t a bug but rather a feature — because Christie apparently knew they tried to exert petty revenge on a town, and endangered its residents, simply because the town’s mayor wouldn’t play ball with Christie politically.
The scandal really is astonishingly petty — at the time, Christie’s reelection already looked reassured, and he didn’t even need this endorsement. So it’s deeply revealing about Chris Christie’s approach to politics and governing and the type of people he — and apparently Donald Trump — would like to put in positions of power.” Read more HERE.
The Observer reports “Weinberg on Bridgegate: ‘The Coverup Wasn’t Even a Good Coverup’
Co-chair of the legislative panel that investigated Bridgegate comments on witness testimony. Read more HERE.
New York Post reports “Ex-aide testifies Christie laughed as Bridgegate was happening.”
“Blowing the lid off Christie’s three years of denials that he was unaware of the plot, David Wildstein, the state’s former No. 2 man at the Port Authority, for the first time publicly stated that the governor knew what was going on — and heartily condoned it.” Read more HERE.
Testimony, thus far, begs many questions…and “connects more dots.” Is the real motive behind the lane closures “retribution because the mayor would not endorse the governor”?
July 23, 2013 correspondence sent to Michael Horowitz, Inspector General, DOJ.
August 2013 Bridget Kelly sends e-mail.
September 2013 Wildstein put it into play his “scheme” after receiving an email a month earlier from Bridget Anne Kelly.
On Sept. 9, 2013, “traffic in the borough almost came to a standstill.”
September 19, 2013 a response was received from the OIG.
Prosecutor asks Wildstein “when did these efforts begin?” They began in 2010 replied Weinstein. Correspondence from Governor Christie, March 29, 2010.
If everything was fine and the perks were good, until the mayor made it clear he wouldn’t endorse Gov. Christie’s re-election bid when on Sept. 9, 2013 the administration learned he was not going to endorse the governor for re-election, why would this scheme have been suggested to others in March 2011? Bridgegate timeline: Aug. 12, 2013: Bridget Anne Kelly expresses disappointment to Wildstein that Fort Lee Mayor Mayor Sokolich is not likely to back Christie.
Also of interest is the fact that William “Pat” Schuber served as the Bergen County executive for 12 years and his attorney is a Mr. Alfano. (1:30)
Is the real reason behind the closure because the mayor refused to “play ball with Christie”? There are so many lies, contradictions, why wouldn’t the ‘mayor” motive not be true? Governor Christie “played ball” with (now former)Bergen County Prosecutor Molinelli. There is more behind the Bridgegate scheme than meets the eye…when will this investigation begin?
If Governor Christie is not held accountable in the Bridgegate scheme, he has clearly obstructed justice in covering up a criminal complaint since his tenure as N.J. U.S.A.G.
With the recent update reported “”Who knew about Bridgegate? 6 and counting, Wildstein says.”, and the “in the fall of 2013” timeframe, view e-mails to Governor Christie.
If the “traffic study” was a lie and there are two different accounts relative to this being a scheme due to the Mayor of Fort Lee not endorsing Christie – and contradictions to this reason – then what could be the motive behind this? Could the “scheme” generated have been to protect Prosecutor Molinelli in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office for cover up of criminal activity involving Fort Lee? And the County Coroner’s failure to uphold N.J. state law? Afterall, Christie was running for the Presidency and if this evidence were to surface…his public service would be over! Is there more political maneuvering behind the scenes?
Week 1 in the Bridgegate Trial
Christie’s Agenda Above All, Star Bridgegate Witness Says
By NICK RUMMELL (Courthouse News Service – Friday, September 23, 2016)
“Since Day 1 of the Bridgegate trial, disgraced former Port Authority official David Wildstein has been called Christie’s enforcer and “ventriloquist doll.” He has been called a liar and a fraud.
Today, Wildstein told the U.S. District Court that he and his former boss at the Port Authority had only one mission at the supposedly nonpartisan transportation agency: to further the agenda of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie installed Wildstein at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and is even said to have fashioned the title, director of interstate capital projects, specifically for him.
Wildstein held this position in September 2013 when he admittedly caused a four-day shutdown of Fort Lee’s three exclusive lanes leading into the George Washington Bridge.
Christie has repeatedly denied involvement in the decision to shut down two heavily trafficked lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge. Prosecutors noted Monday that Wildstein will testify that Christie did in fact know about the shutdown, and its targeting of Fort Lee, as it was happening.
Supporting the government’s case that Baroni and Wildstein were on the same page, Wildstein pointed to emails the men exchanged in December 2010.
Matt Mowers, who served on Christie’s reelection team and currently works for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, testified earlier that Christie staffers had kept a spreadsheet of potential Democratic lawmakers for whom Christie had done favors. That spreadsheet was to be used to court those Democratic lawmakers to endorse Christie, Mowers testified. Read more HERE.
“Lawmakers may move to subpoena Christie over new Bridgegate disclosures”
“Dormant for months in deference to the federal investigation into Bridgegate, the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Investigations may be reconvened in order to get answers directly from Gov. Chris Christie about what the governor knew and when he knew it.
Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said Thursday he wanted to ask Christie under oath about when he was actually informed about George Washington Bridge lane closures federal prosecutors say were made to clog traffic in Fort Lee and punish its mayor for not endorsing the governor’s re-election.
“I’d want to ask him that question: ‘Did you know?'” said Wisniewski, who’d served as the co-chair of the joint investigations committee.
Wisniewski and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the panel’s co-chair, said they have conferred about introducing a resolution to re-activate the investigative committee. Weinberg said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) told her they were inclined to allow that.
Wisniewski said “we’re strongly leaning towards” introducing the resolution to bring back the panel.
Weinberg said “probably well more than half” of New Jersey residents would want to ask Christie, under oath, “when he found out about the lane closures.”
Read more HERE.
View video – Sen. Weinberg – The Mastro Bridgegate report was a whitewash, click here.
View video – Bridgegate prosecutor: Chris Christie knew of closures, click here.
Related: Christie’s ‘defense team’ long ago anticipated he’d need the Sgt. Schultz Defense | Mulshine, click here.
September 23, 2016 NJ Advance Media reports “5 ways the Port Authority ‘stonewalled’ questions about Bridgegate.”
“Defense attorney Michael Critchley, who’s representing former Gov. Chris Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, accused the head of the Port Authority, Executive Director Patrick Foye, of “stonewalling” the public Thursday.
Here are five ways the Port Authority pushed back against anyone who asked questions:
1. Issue erroneous press releases
Despite being credited as the person who reopened the access lanes at the George Washington Bridge and thus freeing Fort Lee of days-long gridlock, Foye admitted to giving his seal of approval on a statement he knew at the time was incorrect.
The statement claimed “the Port Authority has conducted a week of study” at the bridge and the agency would “review those results and determine the best traffic patterns at the GWB.”
“And you knew that was false, according to you?” Critchley asked, referring to the traffic study.
Foye responded: “I didn’t believe it was true, yes.”
2. Stop answering press questions or ignore the press altogether
Foye’s chief of staff, John Ma, testified on Thursday he tipped off a reporter to the lane closures even before his boss ordered them reopened. Ma said he did it because he wanted the media to continue asking questions.
And they did.
In return, Foye admitted on Thursday he stopped answering press questions.
3. Call for an internal investigation
The press inquirers didn’t stop, so the agency launched an investigation.
“Now you have to come up with another strategy to deal with the media because they’re still asking questions and there’s only so many false statments you could put out, correct?” Critchely pressed Foye during cross-examination.
Foye disagreed with the assertion, but both men agreed as to what happened next: The Port Authority conducted an internal review.
“Now when the newspapers are asking questions, … you could say, ‘It’s under internal review, right?'” Critchley asked.
“That statement was made, yes, sir,” Foye responded.
Except, the review consisted of interviewing only three people — not including David Wildstein, who Foye testified he thought was the “culprit” of the lane closures — and then stopped after a few weeks.
But Foye and Port Authority officials continued to tell reporters a month after the internal review ended that they couldn’t comment on the closures because of the review.
“It was just a gimmick to say to the press,” Critchley asserted.
But he also conceded, he was still telling the press a review was ongoing even after it ended.
4. Limit responses to official inquiries
Michael Baldassare, Bill Baroni’s defense attorney, pressed Foye during cross-examination on his limited responses he gave to the legislative committee convened to investigate the closures.
“Was your goal to answer, not just truthfully, but as fully and completely as possible?” Baldassare asked.
“My goal was to answer truthfully,” Foye said.
5. Threaten budget cuts
It wasn’t just the public who was stonewalled. Thursday’s testimony revealed Port Authority employees were bullied when they asked questions.
After fielding calls from Fort Lee officials in the midst of the lane closures, Christina Lado, the director of New Jersey Government and Community Relations, testified she made repeated attempts to reach out to Baroni to relay the concerns of Fort Lee officials.
At first, her calls were ignored.
Then, she received a “rather curt” phone call from Baroni, she said.
“He said to me that they had been looking at phone bills for (her group) and had found that we had high charges on our outgoing phone calls, so we needed to be careful and not to make any unnecessary calls outside, particularly to … New Jersey,” Lado said.
She conceded it was a odd message to receive because Baroni never concerned himself with her department’s budget in the past.
“What I took from that is he did not want me to call back Fort Lee,” she said.
Read more HERE.
“Wildstein testifies at Bridgegate trial.”
“David Wildstein, the admitted architect of the Bridgegate scandal cast by defense attorneys as an “evil mastermind,” spoke publicly for the first time Friday, talking about his role in the 2013 scheme to close toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge.
Taking the stand at the Bridgegate trial in the federal courthouse in Newark, Wildstein described his focus on supporting the agenda of Gov. Chris Christie while he worked as a top political appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“My job was to advance Gov. Christie’s agenda. My expectation is that I would be tough,” Wildstein said.
He said he had a “one-constituent” rule: “The only person that mattered was Gov. Christie,” he explained.
Wildstein, 55, who has already pleaded guilty in his involvement in the scheme, is the government’s key witness in the high-profile corruption case that weighed down Christie’s ill-fated presidential run and may ultimately have doomed it.
Federal prosecutors have acknowledged that Wildstein was no angel and told the jury earlier this week that he was the one who came up with the idea to use the toll lanes to hurt the mayor— whose frantic calls abut the gridlock that had gripped his town over four days in September 2013 were allegedly ignored by Baroni.
But they said Kelly instructed Wildstein to take that action in an email a month earlier, telling him it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and that Baroni blessed the plan.” Read more HERE.
“Matt Mowers Former Christie Aide Testfies At Bridgegate Trial About How Office Handed Out Favors”
Mowers worked under Kelly in the IGA from January 2011 to April 2013. At that time, Mowers left IGA to take a role on Christie’s re-election campaign.
After Christie’s 2013 win, Mowers left New Jersey to work for the New Hampshire Republican Party, where he stayed until joining Christie’s unsuccessful presidential bid. Read more HERE.
September 22, 2016 NJ Advance Media reports “Gridlock, politics and 2 outright lies in Bridgegate trial.”
“On the third day of the criminal trial of two former Gov. Chris Christie allies charged with shutting down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, two public officials admitted, to varying degrees, of having lied to the public.
The Port Authority executive director testifies on the fallout after discovering what was going on in Fort Lee, as its mayor conceded he lied when he denied the traffic tie-ups at the heart of the Bridgegate charges might have been politically motivated.
Defense attorney Michael Critchley, who’s representing former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, pointed them out Wednesday while cross examining two of the prosecution’s witnesses: Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority.
In November 2013, two months after the traffic jams that the mayor said ground his town to a complete halt, Sokolich had an op-ed published in The Star-Ledger, challenging a news story the paper had published.
The mayor had been consistently asked for weeks by reporters about what he thought the motive was for the lane closures. In the op-ed, he wrote that he did not believe the access lanes to the bridge were closed as result of punishment for refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.
“This is simply not true, Sokolich wrote. “I have consistently and without deviation stated on the record that in no way do I believe that these lane closures are a result of my refusal to support the governor,” Sokolich wrote.
The mayor said he lied in the op-ed. Later, when given a chance to tell the court why he penned the false letter, Sokolich told jurors he wrote the letter because he was scared.
Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had ordered the lanes reopened on the morning of Sept. 15, 2013, the fifth day of the lane closures. Foye testified he gave the order because he was mystified by the closures and suspected foul play at the time.
However, a statement was released to the press the same day that claimed “the Port Authority has conducted a week of study” at the bridge and the agency would “review those results and determine the best traffic patterns at the GWB.”
Foye had approved the statement, which was sent to him by Bill Baroni.
“And you knew that was false, according to you?” Critchley asked, referring to the traffic study.
Foye responded: “I didn’t believe it was true, yes.”
Read more HERE
“Tip to press about Bridgegate lane closures came from inside P.A.”
“The first thing Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye decided after learning of a scheme to cause major traffic jams in Fort Lee was to not reopen the toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge.
Instead, his chief of staff called a reporter, urging him to look into the issue, which later sparked an investigation.
Foye, testifying in federal court Thursday for a second day in the so-called Bridgegate trial, said he distrusted and disliked David Wildstein, who he believed had been the culprit behind the unprecedented lane closures at the bridge.
In fact, he told jurors he initially had taken to calling the scandal “Wildsteingate.”
Hated by perhaps “thousands” working at the bi-state agency, Wildstein was described by Foye as “abusive,” “an enforcer,” and someone who “terrorized people.” Some employees believed him to be monitoring their calls after he had a multiple-line attachment installed on the phone in his office, Foye said.
He had few friends — except for one that counted.
“He was protected by Chris Christie, correct?” asked Michael Critchley, the defense attorney for former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly.
Foye paused momentarily. “Yes,” he finally responded.
John Ma, who serves as Foye’s chief of staff and was asked to sit in on a meeting with Baroni when Foye first confronted him over the lane closures.
“I had deep skepticism there was a study,” said Ma. “The reason I made the off-the-record call was to have to reporter ask more questions. I didn’t want my name used. It wasn’t for attribution. I wanted the reporter to keep digging.”
Not long after, a state legislative committee began a series of hearings, ultimately leading a federal investigation and charges against Wildstein, Baroni and Kelly.
Read more HERE.
September 21, 2016 NJ Advance Media reports “On Sept. 9, 2013, after the administration learned he was not going to endorse the governor for re-election, traffic in the borough almost came to a standstill.”
Five notable quotes from the mayor and others during the first day of testimony:
1. “We were completely shut down.”
2. “I immediately knew that that was not going to be good.”
3. “It was the worst traffic we had to deal with, except for 9/11.”
4. “That’s a bucket list item for a small town mayor.”
5. “I cooked for him one afternoon.”
Sokolich described his close relationship with Matt Mowers, who in 2013 worked in Christie’s administration’s IGA office. Mowers, who worked on Christie’s presidential campaign and now works with Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Read more HERE.
“Mayor admits he changed story about Bridgegate motive.”
For days, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said he tried working behind the scenes to end the nightmare of gridlocked traffic that had crippled his town, blocking ambulances, delaying school buses and angering commuters.
He sent calls, letters, texts and emails to the man at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who had held himself out as his friend — Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni.
“My frustration is now trying to figure out who is mad at me,” he told Baroni in one text.
He said he asked how they might resolve the problem “quietly, uneventfully and without public fanfare.”
But Sokolich testified he heard nothing back — what he later learned was a strategy of “radio silence” by those responsible for the traffic mess.
A week later, after the traffic finally lifted—when Port Authority higher-ups learned that several local access toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge had been blocked without warning—Sokolich finally heard from someone in Baroni’s office, offering to schedule a meeting.
“Initially I said yes,” he said “I then cancelled. After what we went through, forget the meeting.”
The frustrations he felt for four days in Sept. 2013, when political operatives tied to Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election campaign allegedly orchestrated a series of toll lane closures at the bridge for his refusal to endorse the governor, played out again Wednesday in federal court.
In his testimony Wednesday, Sokolich said he figured out early on that the lane closures were “punitive in nature,” but did not suggest that they were related to his decision not to join other Democrats who had endorsed Christie.
However, he was pressured in cross-examination by defense attorney Michael Critchley over a letter he wrote to The Star-Ledger after the 2013 election. In the letter, he publicly denied that he believed the lane closures were the result of his refusal to support the governor, objecting to a story in the newspaper on the motives of the bridge incident.
Sokolich testified he did reach out to the governor’s office in an effort to end the shutdowns when Baroni repeatedly ignored his entreaties. He told assistant U.S. attorney Vikas Khanna he did not hear back from the governor’s office.
It wasn’t until months later, he testified, that Christie contacted him after the first emails between Kelly and Wildstein leaked out about targeting Sokolich. Those emails included a message from Kelly sent a day after learning the mayor would not give an endorsement, telling Wildstein it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
In cross-examination by defense attorney Michael Baldassare, who represents Barone, Sokolich said he agreed to see the governor. After first rebuffing a request by the governor’s office, which wanted to fly Christie to Fort Lee by helicopter, the mayor met him behind closed doors in his office in municipal hall.
“Was it just a photo op?” Baldassare asked.
“What his intention were, I don’t know,” he replied.
He said the governor apologized for what happened and then told him “let’s get together in a couple of weeks.”
Did he ever hear from the governor again?
“No,” he said.”
Read more HERE.
“P.A. director: Bridgegate lane closures were ‘abusive decision’
Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority, wanted a witness when he confronted his New Jersey counterpart about a series of inexplicable toll lane shutdowns at the George Washington Bridge.
“I thought what had happened was—in my experience at the Port Authority—unprecedented,” Foye testified Wednesday in federal court.
The hidden drama that played out in the days and weeks after the lane closings came to light Wednesday as federal prosecutors and defense attorneys focused on the inconsistent stories and outright lies that were told in the wake of the bizarre goings-on at the bridge — a scheme allegedly orchestrated by campaign operatives tied Gov. Chris Christie’s 2013 re-election effort in a game of political retribution.
Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said he was mystified by the lane closures, and, more significantly, distrustful of the orchestrator, David Wildstein, a political appointee to the Port Authority who he recalled as a man feared by many at the agency.
Yet after ordering the toll lanes reopened, Foye acknowledged that he agreed to put out a press release prepared by Baroni asserting it was all part of a legitimate traffic study—despite knowing full well that the claim was untrue.
Foye, in his testimony, said the Port Authority never conducted traffic studies by actually shutting down roads. Upon learning about the toll lane shutdowns, he said sent out an email calling the move to block the lanes an “abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for.”
Foye put his order in writing, he said, because he “wanted to be clear about what had happened and about what I had been told. I wanted to have a record.”
When Baroni, a Christie appointee, quickly lobbied to have the lane closures be re-instated, Foye said the deputy executive director told him “it’s important to Trenton.” Read more HERE.
September 20, 2016 NJ Advance Media reports “5 surprising things we learned from first day of Bridgegate trial.”
1. Christie was told
2. Baroni was an FBI informant
“Baroni’s attorney, Michael Baldasarre, revealed during the trial that the former Republican state lawmaker was an FBI informant between 2006 and 2010. In essence, Baroni was an informant at the same time Christie served as U.S. attorney in New Jersey.
“The FBI wanted Bill, between 2006 and 2010, for leads on investigations that they were working on and for new investigations,” Baldasarre said.
“They wanted him to corroborate things that they had discovered and they wanted background on lobbyists and their interplay with legislators,” he told jurors. “That started in 2006 and went to 2010. Toward the end of that period, the FBI concluded that Bill had contributed significantly to the FBI’s Newark division.”
3. Christie admin really didn’t like Tom Moran
4. Wildstein lied on job application
5. Presidential politics at play
Read more HERE.
“Police Chief Keith Bendul was introduced as the first witness in the Bridgegate trial Tuesday.” Read more HERE.
“Fort Lee mayor tells of wooing by Christie campaign.”
Despite assertions by Gov. Chris Christie in the aftermath of the Bridgegate scandal that the mayor “was not on my radar screen,” and that he had never heard Sokolich’s name “until all this stuff happened,” there had been a private lunch with the governor at Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton.
In the summer of 2012, he said Matt Mowers, then an IGA staffer, began broaching the subject of endorsing the governor.
Finally, he told Mowers in August 2013 that he could not endorse.
According to federal prosecutors, it was about the same time that Wildstein behind the scenes had come up with the bizarre plan to shut down some of the local toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge to pressure Sokolich. Kelly, who was then working in the IGA office, learned from Mowers that the mayor had finally said no and she sent Wildstein the email that stands as the best evidence that the toll lane shutdowns were meant as punishment.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she told Wildstein.
On the morning of Sept. 9, 2013, Wildstein allegedly ordered Robert Durando, the general manager of the George Washington Bridge, to cut the number of toll lanes dedicated to Fort Lee traffic from three to one. He told Durando it was for a traffic study.
Sokolich said that morning, as he left his driveway, he could see that traffic in Fort Lee was at a standstill.
Police Chief Keith Bendul, in testimony earlier in the day, said he also could get no answers from the Port Authority. On the morning of Sept. 9, Bendul said he quickly learned of the traffic problems overtaking his town. “I reached out to everyone I could think of,” he said.
He finally connected with Durando, who agreed to meet him at a municipal lot, away from the Port Authority offices in Fort Lee.
“I thought it was very weird. I thought it was very cloak-and-dagger,” Bendul testified. “It just struck me as very, very odd.”
“Public safety was being compromised nobody called me on this. I couldn’t get any answers,” he testified. But he said Durando would not say much and seemed nervous, if not afraid. He told the police chief only to have the mayor call Baroni.
“He told me if anyone asked that this meeting occurred, he would deny it,” he testified.” Read more HERE.
September 19, 2016 NJ Advance Media reports “After three years, a legislative inquiry, a federal investigation and one guilty plea, the corruption trial of two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal finally gets underway today with opening statements before a jury in Newark.
On trial are Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, once a close associate and deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge. They are charged with nine counts of conspiracy, fraud and related charges in connection with the September 2013 toll lane shutdowns at the bridge—an incident that caused massive traffic problems in Fort Lee in what prosecutors called an act of political retribution targeting Mayor Mark Sokolich for his refusal to endorse Christie for re-election.
Questions remain. Will there be new revelations and will the testimony show just who knew about the scheme? Who were the unindicted conspirators who were involved in the plan, but never charged? And will former Christie aide Christina Genovese Renna—who is expected to testify at the trial—drop any further bombshells like the text she sent a colleague during a December 2013 news conference claiming that the governor “flat out lied” when he said none of his senior staff had known about the plot.”
Read more HERE.
“In opening arguments in the criminal trial of the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, federal prosecutors said Monday morning that David Wildstein would testify that he told Gov. Chris Christie about the scheme to close lanes at the bridge at the very moment traffic was at a standstill in Fort Lee.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna said Wildstein will testify that he and defendant Bill Baroni made Christie aware of the plan in September 2013.” Read more HERE.
“Assistant U.S. attorney Vikas Khanna told the jury “We’re here today because not only was that conduct vindictive and mean spirited, it was criminal.” He said that Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne Kelly, who served as Christie’s deputy chief of staff, put their ambitions over their duties as stewards for the public.
Khanna, describing the chaos of the traffic jams that paralyzed Fort Lee beginning on Sept. 9, 2013, said David Wildstein, a former Port Authority employee who plead guilty to federal charges last year, will admit he was the one who came up with that idea.
The prosecutor added that Wildstein will testify he and Baroni told Christie about the scheme at the very moment traffic was at a standstill in Fort Lee during a Sept. 11 commemoration Manhattan.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, took direct aim at the government’s star witness in the case, Wildstein, portraying him as an opportunist who was put into a powerful position for the sole purpose of fortifying the governor’s then high-flying presidential aspirations.
From initial claims that it was all a traffic study, to a political corruption investigation that reached deep into the administration of Gov. Chris Christie, a recounting of the significant events that began with four days of backups at the George Washington Bridge in 2013.
“In 2013, Wildstein took political directions from Gov. Chris Christie’s office …” It all came to a head in August 2013.
In a surprise revelation otherwise aimed at buttressing the honesty of Baroni—who is also accused of lying to the legislature when he testified that the bridge lane shutdowns were part of a legitimate traffic study—Baldassare told jurors that the former state senator had secretly cooperated with the FBI back in 2006 as an informant, at a time that agents were working on an investigation into lobbyists and legislators.
“They found again and again what Baroni told them was corroborated by evidence,” said the attorney, who did not discuss the nature of the investigation.
Wildstein also communicated with the governor when Christie was serving as U.S. Attorney, according to Baldassare. Read more HERE and HERE.
N.Y. Times reported “Christie knew about the bridge lane closings…the closings were intended to punish a local mayor and prosecutors made the assertion during opening statements in the trial of two former Christie administration officials charged with closing the lanes in 2013 and then covering it up.” Read more HERE.
Baldassare suggested Wildstein had close ties to Christie and said evidence would show the governor referred to Wildstein as “his fixer.”
“Let’s not forget, the governor knew full well who he was sending to the Port Authority,” Baldassare said.
In the immediate aftermath of the Bridgegate fallout, Christie described Wildstein as someone he barely knew. Despite going to the same high school, Christie said at the time he and Wildstein didn’t travel in the same circles and that he had nothing to do with Wildstein getting a top position at the Port Authority.
However, Baldassare suggested evidence would be presented that could contradict the governor’s public statements.” Read more HERE.
Been following this trial – and the evidence, in hand, requesting an investigation into the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office/Fort Lee, some of the officials involved; e-mails/Faxes to Christie, FBI AgentWeyson Dun, the Legislative Investigative Committee, etc. – is the “plot” given to the media a “made for tv movie”? People realize that Christie was looking for a “higher” position. But is the story behind the Mayor of Fort Lee the reason for the closure of the lanes – a diversion – from the real reason the lanes were closed? Since the tenure of Christie as N.J. USAG, he has been protecting Bergen County Prosecutor Molinelli in the cover up of a suspicious, untimely and unattended death…….and the filing of a fraudulent Certificate of Death! And the County Coroner violated N.J. State Statues on “unattended deaths.” Taxpayers of N.J. are further being “bilked” due to the refusal/failure of government officials to investigate the possible “motive” for the lane closures. A complaint to the DOJ/OIG in D.C. was forwarded to the Executive Office of US Attorneys by the Inspector General’s Office…….then dropped! Covered up! Why? The media has consistently asked “what is the reason behind the closure”? Perhaps the real motive will surface when a full and fair investigation is conducted into the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office! Is Mayor Mark Sokolich the “scapegoat” behind the closure? God forbid, Christie could not be exposed for covering up criminal activity in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office as he campaigned for the presidency!
If the “traffic study” was a lie and there are two different accounts relative to this being a scheme due to the Mayor of Fort Lee not endorsing Christie – and contradictions to this reason – then what could be the motive behind this?
The time frame of events, e-mails, etc. coincide with requests, e-mails for an investigation into Bergen County and Fort Lee. The current claim is many suspect this scheme was an act of political retaliation against the Mayor of Fort Lee. They were caught in lies…is the “retaliation” against the Mayor another “scheme” to cover up the real reason? It has been consistently reported by the media that “we want to know what the reason was?”
The convening of the legislature’s investigative committee is warranted…and e-mails to the committee is a good place to start!
Also view “Bridgegate bombshell: Christie knew all along. Say good-night | Moran”
Mr. Moran, your questions could be revealed during this trial.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Game day for Bridgegate trial: How did we get here?
“The orange traffic cones went up just before 6 a.m.
Three days earlier, David Wildstein—then one of the ranking New Jersey officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—had ordered the general manager of the George Washington Bridge, with little explanation, to cut the number of toll lanes dedicated to traffic from Fort Lee from three to one.
It was supposedly part of a traffic study.
“I was told not to discuss this with anyone,” Robert Durando would later tell a legislative committee trying to get to the bottom of the unannounced lane closures at the world’s busiest bridge—causing massive traffic jams in Fort Lee in September 2013, in what many then already suspected was an act of political retaliation.
Nearly three years later, Durando is likely to be among the first Port Authority witnesses called to testify, as trial opens this week in the so-called Bridgegate scandal, charging two former members of Gov. Chris Christie’s inner circle with illegally using the Hudson River span to play a game of political hardball.
The trial, which opens in federal court in Newark on Monday, ostensibly is focused on William Baroni, who served as deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, who was the governor’s deputy chief of staff. Wildstein has already pleaded guilty and is expected to be a star prosecution witness.
But with a cast of characters that includes a string of higher-ups going all the way to the governor’s office, in a narrative that played out against the backdrop of Christie’s failed presidential race, it is as much political theater as courtroom drama. While not charged or accused of any wrongdoing, Christie remains at its center of the story, even now, long after his hopes for the presidency crashed and burned in New Hampshire.
‘Time for some traffic problems…’
The plan to shut the lanes at the George Washington Bridge, say prosecutors, was put in play after Kelly spoke to Matt Mowers, then a campaign staffer, and got the final word: Sokolich was not going to endorse. According to the indictment, she reached out the next day to Wildstein on Aug. 13, 2013, with a message that to many represents the clearest evidence the lane diversions at the bridge were an act of political retribution.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she wrote.
“Got it,” he replied.
A state legislative inquiry was soon launched over growing suspicions that the scheme had been politically motivated to cause havoc in Fort Lee, quickly sparking a separate federal probe.
Prosecutors, following a 16-month investigation, ultimately charged Baroni and Kelly with conspiracy and fraud. Wildstein pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government.”
Read more HERE.
Bridgegate jury selection begins: A timeline of events. Read more HERE.
The Bridgegate scandal, Christie’s white whale, will smash his career to pieces By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board. Read HERE.
We will be keeping an eye on this case. The time frame of events, e-mails, etc. coincide with requests, e-mails for an investigation into Bergen County and Fort Lee, N.J. New Jersey officials’ original claim for the lane closures was due to a “traffic study” which later revealed there was no such study. Bill Baroni’s Bridgegate testimony: the traffic study story begins to fall apart. The current claim is many suspect this scheme was an act of political retaliation against the Mayor of Fort Lee. They were caught in lies…is the “retaliation” against the Mayor another “scheme” to cover up the real reason? It has been consistently reported that “we want to know what the reason was?” Well, maybe THE reason will be revealed.
During the tenure of New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) and Kelly Ayotte’s (R) tenure as Attorney General, Kelly Ayotte and Lynch covered up official corruption. The corruption and cover up extended to New Jersey, involving Fort Lee and Bergen County Prosecutor’s office. Read more and view documents HERE.
We will update this post as the trial continues.