Christie Ally: He Knew About Bridge Closing

Image: Christie Ally: He Knew About Bridge Closing David Wildstein

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 09:08 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last September, still says he told New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Sept. 11 that lanes on the George Washington Bridge were shut down.

According to the internal report released Thursday on the Bridge-gate scandal,  Wildstein, a long-time political ally of the governor's, said he told Christie Press Secretary Michael Drewniak that he had spoken with Christie during a Ground Zero memorial ceremony, telling him about the lane closures, reports The New York Times.

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Wildstein's assertion continues to cast doubt on Christie's statements that he did not know about the lane closures until after they happened.

The conversation with Drewniak occurred during a December dinner, just before Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that operates the bridge, the report noted.

The lanes were closed from Sept. 9-12, blocking traffic for commuters on the western end of the bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., for hours and sparking the Bridge-gate scandal.

The inquiry blamed Wildstein and Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, for the closings, while noting that the governor said he did not recall Wildstein telling him about the closures.

The internal investigation, commissioned by Christie, cost taxpayers at least $1 million and reviewed emails, text messages, and descriptions of confrontations between Christie and his staff as the scandal unfolded this past fall. Initially, the closures were blamed on a retribution plot against Fort Lee's Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse Christie's re-election campaign.

But while Christie's internal investigation has wrapped, other probes by the New Jersey Legislature and federal prosecutors, that are still not finished.

The internal report noted Wildstein's claim, but said not much weight was given to it.

"Whatever brief exchange they had occurred in a public setting where they were surrounded by many, including other Port Authority officials, the governor’s wife, and a steady stream of spectators requesting photographs and handshakes with the governor," said the report. "Not surprisingly, the governor has no recollection of such an exchange."

But an attorney for Wildstein had said previously that "evidence exists" that the governor knew about the lane closings while they occurred.

Wildstein, Kelly, and former Christie campaign official Bill Stepien — who investigators suggested was romantically linked to Kelly — all refused to be interviewed for the internal report.

In addition, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer refused to be interviewed. The Democratic mayor accused Christie staffers of threatening to withhold Hurricane Sandy recovery money unless she backed a real estate project. The review found her claims to be without merit, reports The Times.

The reviewers did not reveal a motive for the lane closures, but noted Wildstein had called Fort Lee's access lanes unnecessary for years.

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