Another of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's childhood friends witnessed the George Washington Bridge lane closures up close, MSNBC reports
Lt. Thomas "Chip" Michaels, a Port Authority police officer, drove Port Authority official David Wildstein on a tour to inspect the effect of the lane closures in September and sent him text messages updating the situation over the next days.
Michaels' family has known Christie's family since both men's childhoods in Livingston, N.J. Michaels joined the Port Authority Police Department in 1998, MSNBC reports.
Wildstein also is a long-time associate of Christie. The two went to high school together, though Christie has downplayed how well they knew each other then. Still, Christie appointed Wildstein to an executive job at the Port Authority that was created specifically for him.
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According to documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey State Assembly's Transportation Committee, Michaels picked up Wildstein and took him on tour of the area on Sept. 9, the first day of the lane closures. He also sent him text messages suggesting he might know of a way to fix the problem.
But no solution came about until Sept. 13, when Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority ordered the lanes reopened.
In early January it was revealed that the closures were ordered by close associates of Christie, supposedly as part of a "traffic study."
Christie Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly sent an email to Wildstein
reading, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," to which Wildstein replied, "Got it."
The closures were reportedly political retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not supporting the Republican Christie's re-election campaign.
Sokolich at the time wrote to Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni that residents were telling him "Port Authority Police Officers are advising commuters in response to their complaints that this recent traffic debacle is the result of a decision that I, as the Mayor, recently made." There is no evidence that Michaels was one of those officers.
Christie has denied any knowledge of the closures and fired Kelly for not telling him about her involvement. Wildstein and Baroni have resigned.
Wildstein has said he can point to evidence
that Christie was aware of what was happening.
Michaels, the police officer, has had contact with Christie after childhood. He has coached Christie's son in little league hockey, and his brother, Jeffrey Michaels, is a powerful Republican state lobbyist.
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