January 10th, 2014
02:40 PM ET
9 months ago

What's in the Christie scandal documents

Updated 10:04 p.m. ET, 1/10/2014

(CNN) – A New Jersey State Assembly committee on Friday released a large batch of more than 2,000 pages of documents that are part of its investigation of top appointees to Gov. Chris Christie who closed down access lanes in September to the country's busiest bridge as an alleged act of political retribution.

CNN dug through the documents that shed more light on the scandal. Here's what we found:

Political fallout

E-mail messages between top officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reveal that another senior aide to Christie was aware of concerns that the bridge closure was not part of an ongoing traffic study.

Patrick Foye, the transportation agency's executive director, wrote a scathing e-mail that expressed concerns lane closures on the George Washington Bridge – which snarled traffic in Fort Lee – did not follow protocol or and created "dangers to the public interest."

Regina Egea, Christie's director of the authorities unit and a member of his senior staff, was forward the e-mail three hours after it was sent on September 9.

Bill Baroni, the Christie-appointed Port Authority deputy director, forwarded the e-mail to Egea.

Plenty in his own party happy to see Christie get comeuppance

Messages exchanged between two former officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey claimed that Christie's top communications adviser had been monitoring the media reaction weeks after the controversial decision to close several traffic lanes leading from New Jersey into New York in September.

"Comella didn't think much of the story. Said no one was paying attention," Baroni wrote to David Wildstein.

Wildstein was then the director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority on October 2.

Baroni immediately followed up that message with "Oh lol."

Wildstein responded, "Bridget same."

Christie, on Thursday, fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly for her apparent involvement in lane closures.

Other e-mails released earlier this week suggested the gridlock was orchestrated by top Christie appointees and was politically motivated.

Maria Comella is a Christie deputy chief of staff and well known in national political circles.

Baroni and Wildstein have since resigned their posts.

The messages were released along with more than 2,000 documents and are part of the investigation by the New Jersey State Assembly into why top Christie advisers orchestrated the lane closures.

Who's who in Christie bridge scandal

In a terse email, the executive director of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority expressed anger for not being told about the lane closures in New Jersey that lead into the George Washington Bridge and used his authority to immediately override the decision four days after the traffic patterns were altered.

He also expressed concern they may have resulted in critically slow emergency response time and may have violated the law.

"Reversing over 25 years of PA (Port Authority) GWB (George Washington Bridge) operations, the three lanes in Fort Lee eastbound to the GWB were reduced to one lane on Monday of this week without notifying Fort Lee, the communication public we serve," wrote Patrick Foye, the executive director, on September 13. "I am appalled by the lack of process, failure to inform our customers and Fort Lee and most of all by the dangers created to the public interest."

In his e-mail, which was sent to a number of high ranking officials on the Port Authority, Foye said, "I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed."

He also wrote that he believes the "hasty and ill-advised decision violates Federal Law and the laws of both States."

"I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violated everything this agency stands for," he wrote.

The email – part of the investigation into why top advisers to Christie orchestrated the lane closures on the country's busiest bridge in an alleged act of political retribution – resulted in many e-mails back and forth between Port Authority officials.

Baroni, who resigned in December over the controversy, replied to the e-mail on stating he was "on way to office to discuss" and that there "can be no public discourse" on the controversy.

In response, Foye tersely wrote, "Bill that's precisely the problem: there has been no public discourse on this."

After the Foye e-mail was leaked to the Wall Street Journal in September, David Samson, the Christie appointed chairman of the authority, wrote to another official on September 17, "I am told the ED (executive director) leaked to the WSH his story about Fort Lee issues-very unfortunate for NY/NJ relations."

Samson, in an e-mail on September 18, wrote, "This is yet another example of a story, we've seen it before, where he distances himself from an issue in the press and rides in on a white house to save the day."

Outrage over traffic jams

According to documents released Friday, drivers began complaining about the traffic near the George Washington bridge immediately after the traffic lanes were reduced.

An e-mail to GW Bridge General Manager, Robert Durando, from an associate, described the types of complaints that came in.

It details one angry resident who wrote that her husband, who had been out of work for more than a year, was 40 minutes late to his new job.

The Port Authority is "playing God with people's jobs," she wrote.

Christie: 'I knew nothing about this'

Durando acknowledged in an e-mail to a colleague that the lane closures on the bridge had become a public safety concern.

"Specifically traffic conditions required Ft Lee officers to remain out on corners, managing traffic instead of attending to public safety issues," Durando wrote in an e-mail on September 9, the first day of the lane closures. Traffic continued to be backed up in Fort Lee, New Jersey, until the lanes were opened on September 13.

In addition, the bridge general manager expressed concerns about the "inability of emergency response vehicles … to traverse the borough while responding to emergencies."

"Fort Lee is not happy," Durando said in another e-mail.

Jam delayed help to collapsed 91-year-old woman

The documents released show, local officials in New Jersey expressed anger and shock that traffic lanes from Fort Lee into New York were shut down in September during an important Jewish holiday.

Scott Rechler, vice chairman of the board of commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, e-mailed other representatives on the transportation authority that he was "disturbed" that traffic was snarled "without regard to this being the Jewish high holiday weekend."

"This is terribly disturbing and incomprehensive to me," he wrote. "How can a decision like this be made without it being discussed and considered at the highest levels?"

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich charged that Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police were telling residents of his community that he was responsible for access lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that snarled traffic for several days in September.

"Many members of the public have indicated to me that the 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," Sokolich wrote in a scathing September 12 letter to Baroni.

"This decision has wreaked havoc upon our community during the morning rush hour," Sokolich wrote. "Unquestionably this decision has negatively impacted public safety here in Fort Lee."

Recap of Christie's news conference

Sokolich ended his letter by saying: "The basis, reason, or genesis of the decision is of no consequence to me; however, its profound and adverse impact on our community is of paramount importance to me."

Christie, who has denied any involvement in the bridge scandal, apologized to Sokolich in a meeting on Thursday following a news conference where the governor said he knew nothing about suggestions top appointees orchestrated the gridlock to punish the mayor politically for not supporting Christie for re-election.

More questions arise

While the lane closings were allegedly political payback, documents released Friday show that a traffic study did in fact occur. Officials have defended the closings of access lanes to the bridge as a legitimate traffic study.

An "early assessment" of traffic patterns on the bridge was conducted. The assessment, which was released on September 12, the fourth day of the lane closures, produced findings that detailed the number of vehicles that used the Ft. Lee section of the bridge, peak traffic hours and what the impact would be if lanes were removed or added.

Traffic snarl delayed EMS, official says

Wildstein forwarded e-mails about the bridge lane closures in September from his official account to his personal G-mail.

On one occasion, Wildstein forwarded the e-mails after a member of his staff told him that a Wall Street Journal reporter was asking questions about the lane closures.

Who is David Wildstein?

He did the same when Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell sent a letter inquiring about the traffic getting onto the bridge.

A cache of newly released documents suggests Baroni sought reaction from the governor’s office on how he handled himself at a New Jersey Assembly committee hearing over the notorious traffic tie-ups in and around the George Washington Bridge in September.

After testifying in November before the panel investigating the matter, Baroni sent a message to David Wildstein asking if there was any “Trenton feedback.”

Wildstein responded “Good,” an answer that prompted Baroni to seek a more in-depth response.

After several exchanges between the two men, Wildstein wrote “Charlie said you did GREAT.”

In Christie’s inner-circle, the only Charlie is Charles McKenna, who serves as the governor’s chief counsel.

During a New Jersey Assembly committee hearing Thursday, Wildstein refused to answer any questions including communications about the traffic lane closures, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Democrats on the committee tell CNN they see no other logical explanation as to whom Wildstein was referring to, given the people involved in the conversation following Baroni’s testimony.

A high-ranking New Jersey lawmaker issued a statement amid the mass document release, saying the information in the records raises more questions in the investigation.

New Jersey Assembly Deputy Speaker Wisniewski, a Democrat, specifically questioned a meeting between Gov. Chris Christie and Port Authority Chairman David Samson that occurred one week before top aides to Christie ordered the access lane closures in Fort Lee.

"Included in these documents is a reference to what appears to be a meeting between Port Authority Chairman David Samson and the governor one week before Bridget Kelly issued the order to cause 'traffic problems' in Fort Lee," he said. "By submitting these documents, Mr. Wildstein is telling us they are related to the lane closures in some way. The question that demands answering is how?"

He also questioned how much top Christie aides knew about the lane closures.

Christie faces the music: The highlights

"How much of the full picture was the governor's senior staff given regarding the development of this lane closure project? With the tight control this administration maintains, it doesn't stretch the imagination that they were given more information than they let on. When they were preparing spin control, how could they not have been given the whole story?"

Advice for departing appointee

A spokesman for Christie had dinner with Wildstein two days before the transportation official resigned over questions around the now-notorious multi-day traffic jam in Fort Lee last September, e-mails released on Friday show.

The day after the dinner in December, Wildstein thanked Michael Drewniak, the governor's spokesman, for his "sound advice" and the two men later e-mailed back and forth about how to announce his departure from the Port Authority.

In one email, Drewniak said the governor approved the final statement.

"Can you do dinner in New Brunswick this evening," asked Drewniak on December 4. Twenty minutes later, Wildstein wrote, "Sure as long as short notice doesn't inconvenience you."

The next morning, Wildstein wrote Drewniak. "Thanks again for all your sound advice last night, I always appreciate your friendship."

The e-mail did not detail any advice given to Wildstein.

He resigned on December 6 amid controversy over the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge that snarled traffic in Fort Lee for four days.

On Wednesday, e-mails suggested top Christie appointees orchestrated the gridlock to allegedly punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not supporting the governor's re-election effort.

Wildstein refused on Thursday to testify before a state legislative committee investigating the scandal.

In an e-mail on December 6, Drewniak sends Wildstein the finalized statement with the note, "This was my revised – which I sent to the Gov and he approved."

Christie says he knew nothing of any political vendetta and was stunned by allegations clouding his administration.

To be or not to be a politician

In the end, the statement read, "Mr. Wildstein has been a tireless advocate for New Jersey's interests at the Port Authority. We are grateful for his commitment and dedication to the important work of the Port Authority and thank him for his service to the people of New Jersey and the region."


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (553 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote out the Repub/tea bag majority

    @Matt: "There is nothing in these emails that implicate Christie whatsoever."

    That remains to be seen. Noteworthy is the fact that this kind of behavior (nasty and vindictive) is completely in character with how Christie himself behaves. For him to suddenly say that the actions of his staff don't reflect the "tone" of his administration is laughable.

    January 11, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    @Sniffit: "If there ever was a REAL nontroversy, this is it. Nobody has produced ANY evidence of Christie's involvement and knowledge of it. Lies and innuendo are not proof. The Democrats are running down the rabbit hole on this one."

    Did the real Sniffit post this or a rightie pretending to be him? It doesn't sound (or read) quite right.

    January 11, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Malory Archer

    @RI_Roger
    Does this mean that after 4 years CNN will finally review the 2500 pages of the Obamacare legislation so we, the American taxpayer, will finally know what's in it?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    It's been there for all the world to see for the last 4 years. Just like the repugs in the house and senate who crossed their arms and screamed "NO!", if you're unwilling (or unable) to read it for yourself, that's on you.

    January 11, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    @PoliticiansREvil: "Fast and Furious, ObamaCare ACA, IRSgate, NSAgate, BENGHAZIgate, but a bridge is news again WHY CNN?"

    All of the above have been amply reported on by CNN – but you disagree, because the facts don't conform with your ideology. BTW, compare the launch of Obamacare with that of Medicare Part D ... note that the IRS targeted right-wing as well as Liberal groups (because of the huge influx of 401(C)(3 ) organizations after the Citizens United ruling ... NSAgate? Newsflash: Governments spy. Benghazi? 9 hearings, but you don't like the conclusions – and can't explain why President Obama would "let" 4 Americans die (when over 20 were saved), when saving them all would have been much more politically advantageous so close to the 2012 election. (While you're pondering this, please also cite ONE instance of a tragedy – everything from 9/11 to the Sandy Hook shooting – when the initial reports were 100% accurate).

    January 11, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. it must be said

    Do all you left wing clowns think Christie would fire people that he knew could implicate him in this? He'd be trying to HELP and PROTECT them because he'd go down with them. Use your heads for something besides a hat rack!

    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton sits uninvestigated and with the blood of 4 Americans dripping from her hands. Journalism is truly dead in this country.

    January 11, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Donna

    The fact that Christie has handled this entire thing perfectly, like a great leader would, is only making the left wing loons more desperate and infuriating them. Now they are in here making things up, and their lackeys in the MSM are busy investigating this like they have never investigated anything else before. And all because Christie polls above Hillary Clinton in a 2016 match up.

    Are you beginning to get it now America? Just more of the left wing/Democrat/MSM smear machine in high gear. The very same way they went after Romney. All in order to get the Liar of the Year re-elected and wrecking this country for another 4 years.

    January 11, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  7. rs

    Dear Republicans-

    This is what a real scandal looks like (unlike the nonsense you guys perpetrate against the duly elected President of the United States).
    Sure, evidence is yet to reach Mr.Christie, but there is a crime (try it! Block an interstate lane for no good reason and see what happens); we have e-mails and phone calls linking Christie's 3rd and 4th in command- one whose desk is a mere 12 feet from Christie's office; we have death of a very old woman that EMTs could not reach (not that you care- she was a woman and not rich). We have rumors of political revenge against one or two Democrats- the President of the NJ Senate,or the Mayor of Fort Lee, and a Governor with a history of petty revenge taking. Lastly- we have subpoenas from the state legislature, and perhaps a federal prosecutor coming on board and the inevitable dribble of more facts. Best of all its a "selfie" (i.e. a stupid, self-inflicted act). No matter what, either the scandal hits Christie or he looks like a raving incompetent.

    Enjoy it!

    January 11, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    The bully will now go back to eating himself silly. He will be fine and their biggest prospect for 2016 is now one of the other rejects from other elections. Good luck!

    January 11, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. rs

    Lee
    What a bunch of noise about nothing.

    Over the nine hours the Ft Lee on ramp toll went from 3 lanes to 1, only 2100 cars were impacted. Not many compared with the over 35000 cars that now had an extra two toll lanes to use.

    The entire plan was to see if the toll boths could be better utilized, rather than having 3 booths for 2100 cars and 10 booths for 35000 cars. The Ft Lee booth average around 700 cars per 9 hours of morning commute. The other booths average 3500 cars.

    Seems like the smart idea was to try and take one or two of the Ft Lee booths and give them over to the rest of the people. According to the records on the first day there was a school bus accident on the GWU and that is what caused the most problems. The three day test resulted in faster commute times for everyone else. What's the problem.
    _____________________
    A few points:
    #1- there was no study. The Port Authority did not authorize one, and did not know of any organized data gathering- and biggest, there is no recorded data.
    #2- It wasn't the bridge traffic affected, it was the surface streets of Fort Lee where traffic backed up to. The volume overwhelmed the traffic signal programming requiring police at every intersection to move traffic. The traffic was so dense and slow moving that school children were hours late to school, and at least one person died because EMTs could not reach her location.
    #3- The "study" went on 4 days.

    January 11, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    This big fat boy is big fat lie. He is not fit to WH, next....

    January 11, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    it must be said
    Do all you left wing clowns think Christie would fire people that he knew could implicate him in this?
    -----------

    Legally he has no choice but to fire them. He certainly couldn't keep them on his side either way. It doesn't matter now because the chips will fall where they fall. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Corruption is corruption and this man is as corrupt as they come.

    January 11, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Donna
    The fact that Christie has handled this entire thing perfectly, like a great leader would, is only making the left wing loons more desperate and infuriating them.
    -------------

    I don't think so, Donna. I watched the nearly two hour charade he put on for the media. He did not come out "looking like a great leader". To the contrary, he came out looking defensive, petty, and completely ill informed on an event that most governor's ought to have had a clear idea of what happened, either as it was happening or shortly thereafter. In other words, he should have gotten to the bottom of it long before he gave that press conference. He wants us to believe that he just didn't care what caused that gridlock for four days enough to stop it on the first day? That's a big stretch to accept. I believe he had a very clear understanding of what happened and choose to remain silent in an effort to protect himself from the fallout. Once those e-mails became public, he had no choice but to try and victimize himself. Someone else on here termed it "I knew nothing; I saw nothing; I heard nothing; I know nothing." Great for a previous District Attorney to whine about. The traits of a "good leader"? I think not.

    January 11, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Just more proof that the republican do not believe any laws apply to them. That they can abuse the citizens anyway they want. Then again this is no surprise. They were the ones who tried (and failed thank god) to redefine rape so it was no linger a crime. In other words- these good old "Christian conservatives" support rape.

    January 11, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. Bob

    No surprise here. The republicans consider themselves above any laws. They hate the citizens of this country and do not care if their actions kill someone. Remember folks- these "Christian" republicans tried to pass a bill that would redefine rape to make it legal. In other words- they support rapists and believe the victim should be the one held accountable.

    January 11, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  15. Smitty

    @ Obammy supporters calling Christie a liar. He probably is, however keep in mind Obammy just won BIGGEST LIAR OF THE YEAR, sucks for you, but he won it. The new norm just like 93mil people not working, congrats to Obammy.

    January 11, 2014 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  16. Terry

    Why does everyone have to see this as a left or right issue? It's not! I liked Christie and I might have voted for him for Pres. but not now! He should go to Hollywood after that performance at the press conference. Of course the media didn't ask the right questions, they never do! Of course he knew about the traffic problems, and the "traffic study", he knew when he was questioned about it on Dec. 6th when he sarcastically said, "I was the one who put up the traffic cones", and then he berated the person who asked the question by asking "What kind of stupid question is that". He absolutly knew that there was a problem, and he didn't bother to investigate it at all! I didn't go over the bridge at that time, but I do go over it when I take my daughter to NY Presbyterian Columbia for her oncologist's appointments, and all I can say is if I had been there on those days, there would be hell to pay!

    January 11, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  17. Thomas

    The Governor was last seen going into an all you can eat Serbian Buffet in Fort Lee .

    He won't anser calls at this time .

    January 11, 2014 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  18. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @it must be said
    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton sits uninvestigated and with the blood of 4 Americans dripping from her hands. Journalism is truly dead in this country!

    Uninvestigated? Where have you been for the last year? The career criminal, Darrel Issa has turned over every rock on Earth and can't find a reason to LEGALLY go after Clinton, Rice or Obama. By the way, nice touch with the "Blood dripping from her hands" nonsense. So melodramatic!

    January 11, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. Larry in Houston

    guess the big white hope – ends up being the big white dope – sorry, but I just had to say that -

    January 11, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  20. Obama and Democrats destroying America one piece at a time. America

    rs

    Dear Republicans-

    This is what a real scandal looks like (unlike the nonsense you guys perpetrate against the duly elected President of the United States).
    Sure, evidence is yet to reach Mr.Christie, but there is a crime (try it! Block an interstate lane for no good reason and see what happens); we have e-mails and phone calls linking Christie's 3rd and 4th in command- one whose desk is a mere 12 feet from Christie's office; we have death of a very old woman that EMTs could not reach (not that you care- she was a woman and not rich). We have rumors of political revenge against one or two Democrats- the President of the NJ Senate,or the Mayor of Fort Lee, and a Governor with a history of petty revenge taking. Lastly- we have subpoenas from the state legislature, and perhaps a federal prosecutor coming on board and the inevitable dribble of more facts. Best of all its a "selfie" (i.e. a stupid, self-inflicted act). No matter what, either the scandal hits Christie or he looks like a raving incompetent.

    Enjoy it!
    __________________________________
    No you are wrong the real problem is the blood of 4 dead Americans on Clinton's hand, and Obama defending her, instead of acting like a man and fire her. At least Christie took responsibility and fired the ones responsible. Of course Liberals like you only see things one way.

    January 11, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  21. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Just the typical day to day backstabbing, all to overlooked by the electorate. The fact that it came out before the midterms is a plus for many, and a millstone around the neck of the rest. The one item everyone needs to remember before going to the polls is as follows. He's placed faith in people he soon found he couldn't trust. Will he be as inept when surrounding himself with minions if/when he gets the go ahead to run for president? It's doubtful. He may not be as deceitful as some believe him to be, but the people he hires/appoints may be deceitful enough for any and all.

    January 11, 2014 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  22. Erick Holmes

    He's done. I expect months from now for him to be impeached.

    January 12, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  23. pay US debt in teabags

    he is a post Lincoln republican, what do you expect?

    January 12, 2014 04:03 am at 4:03 am |
  24. Robert

    once a bully and thug always a bully and thug. Time for him to go away. Take Hillery with u.

    January 12, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  25. Anonymous

    "Uninvestigated? Where have you been for the last year?"

    Who's to say where Republicans get their talking points from these days. They are all very strange and bewildering, these stooges of the right wing media corps.

    But, but, but .......................................................... Benghazi.

    January 12, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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