WSJ: Christie Ally 'Prepped' Bridge-gate Official on Testimony

Image: WSJ: Christie Ally 'Prepped' Bridge-gate Official on Testimony

Monday, 03 Feb 2014 08:35 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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A Port Authority lawyer – and a Christie ally – spent days prepping the authority’s deputy executive director before he testified to a New Jersey legislative committee that lanes of the George Washington Bridge were closed for a traffic study, The Wall Street Journal reports.

For “four or five days,” according to an unnamed person close to the situation, Port Authority Deputy General Counsel Philip Kwon met with Port Authority Deputy Executive director Bill Baroni, who testified Nov. 25 that lanes were closed in September to determine whether Fort Lee, N.J. needed three local-access lanes.

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Baroni, a Christie appointee who earned $289,667 a year, resigned in December — three weeks after testifying — as the scandal gained steam. Emails indicated Christie aides and allies orchestrated the lane closures as an act of political retribution because Fort Lee’s mayor did not endorse Christie in his re-election bid.

Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye and other authority officials said “there was no study, the closures were unlawful and Baroni and David Wildstein, who ordered them, had violated protocols and sought to hide their plans from officials,” UPI reports.

An authority spokesman disputed the purported five-day prep time and defended Kwon’s work, explaining that conferring with a witness before testifying is “a routine function of any lawyer.”

The bridge-closing scandal has tainted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s second term and many pundits believe the governor’s presidential aspirations have been extinguished as result.

New Jersey legislators now want more information about why Kwon allegedly spent so much time with Baroni, who it turns out gave false testimony, according to The New York Daily News.

“Why did a Port Authority attorney need that length of time preparing him to tell what turned out to be a ‘once upon a time’ story” asked New Jersey Sen. Loretta Weinstein. “If it’s true, I’d like to know more.”

Kwon worked under Christie in the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office, which Christie ran before becoming governor in 2009. He served as first assistant attorney general during Christie's first term as governor.

Christie nominated him for the state Supreme Court in 2012, but Democrats blocked the nomination and Kwon was hired at the Port Authority in July 2012 as its first deputy general counsel, according to the Journal.

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