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Emails Tie Top Christie Staffer to GWB Lane Closures

1-8-14

By Mike Schneider
Managing Editor

What did Gov. Chris Christie know and when he didn’t he know it? That’s what political observers are asking tonight after emails emerged that one member of the governor’s top staff members to those controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Her name is Bridget Anne Kelly, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Christie. On Aug. 13, she emailed David Wildstein — Christie’s number two man at the Port Authority — saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” And Wildstein, an old friend of the governor, replied, “Got it.”

Three weeks later, most of the lanes from Fort Lee suddenly closed, causing massive traffic jams, and prompting Mayor Mark Sokolich to call the Port Authority, asking for an explanation.

Kelly texted Wildstein, asking if the mayor got a call back. Wildstein’s response: radio silence.

His name comes right after Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, another Democrat who refused to endorse Christie.

The next day, Mayor Sokolich texted Bill Baroni — Christie’s top man at the Port Authority — describing the problems in his town: “Four busy lanes of traffic merging into only one toll booth. Help, please. It’s maddening.”

A week later, the mayor emails Baroni asking for a private meeting to dispel rumors he’s heard that the closures were political punishment aimed at him. Baroni shares that information with Wildstein, who in turn shares it with Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, writing that it will be a tough November for this little Serbian, referring to Mayor Sokolich who is actually of Croatian heritage.

Stepien’s emailed response: “It’s fine. The mayor is an idiot, though.”

What does Christie think about all that? Late today, he issued a statement saying: “What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear,” the governor said. “This type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my administration in any way and people will be held responsible for their action.”