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.