By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
After taking an oath to tell the truth, Michael Drewniak read a short opening statement.
“What needs to be said right up front is that I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this strange, unnecessary and idiotic episode that brings us here today,” Drewniak said.
From there, the committee’s Democratic co-chairs walked him through five months of bridge controversy.
Drewniak explained that at first the traffic tie-ups didn’t seem to him like a big deal.
It was only after a rising media chorus that he and others in the governor’s office began to take it seriously, he said.
John Wisniewski brought up the governor’s Dec. 2 press conference where Christie joked that he moved the cones on the GWB himself.
“While I understand the view that has been taken of that, I think actually his remarks that day suggest very clearly to me as someone who’s known him for 12 years that he was still operating under the assumption that this was a traffic study. And I can assure everyone that had we known what he known what we knew later, he’d have never made those remarks,” Drewniak said.
Drewniak was friendly with David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official at the center of the scandal.
At one point last fall Drewniak testified that Wildstein told Drewniak that Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien were also involved in the lane closures.
Committee Democrats pressed Drewniak on why he didn’t share that with Gov. Christie.
“I was operating with what one David Wildstein told me. I had no knowledge of the veracity of it. I did provide a little context that now I have someone throwing people into the mix that had not been previously thrown into the mix,” Drewniak said. Loretta Weinberg asked, “You mean Kelly and Stepien?” and Drewniak replied, “Yes, ma’am.”
And when Wildstein told Drewniak he’d once mentioned to the governor at a Sept. 11 ceremony that he was doing a traffic study on the George Washington Bridge, Drewniak said he did share that with the governor but that Christie had no recollection of it.
Drewniak described an uncomfortable dinner with Wildstein two nights before Christie would demand Wildstein’s resignation.
“Did you ever lean over to David and say, ‘What the hell went on there?’” asked Paul Moriarty. “Yes. He was apologetic for how badly it was handled, realized it caused more trouble, he was regretful of that,” Drewniak said.
Through six hours of testimony, Drewniak said no one high up in the governor’s office would have sanctioned such an abuse of power.