January 10th, 2014
02:40 PM ET
3 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. atty23

    Seriously, if ONE more person brings up Benghazi.....over THREE THOUSAND PEOPLE died in the U.S. on 9-11. Bush was warned about the use of planes in a terrorist attack. I cannot even believe y'all have the audacity to keep spouting BS about Benghazi.

    January 10, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Frank

    I don't understand why CNN is making a bigger story of this than Benghazi and other Obama scandals. Well, ok I do..

    January 10, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. Woody's Hay

    Gotta love all these RW tards screaming "where's the investigation of " fill in the blank.

    The only reason why thy know the names Benghazi, Fast & Furious, IRS, etc. is because the "liberally-biased media" (/sarcasm) had darn near every Republican on the air screaming all about their manufactured outrage.

    I'm surprised any of these people screaming about the "lack of coverage" of any Dem scandal can spell IRS ... or know the number for 911 ... without copying and pasting it from the "liberally-biased media".

    January 10, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. Bytemeagain

    Republicans going wild! They can dish it out, but can't take it.

    January 10, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  5. Eagle0842

    Weakest and slowest recovery from a recession in decades. Record debt, record in poverty, record on food stamps, record on SSI, lowest labor participation in 40 years,n wages dropping, IRS scandal, Fast & Furious scandal, journalist warrant scandal, Benghazi "it was a video" scandal, less jobs created in 2013 than 2012" etc. etc. The media attention........drum roll.......a traffic jam! FOWARD!

    January 10, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. maemae

    now the reporters can let the Embassy reports rest ... a new investigation...more gossip...more allegations...more lies...do we really need this?

    January 10, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. scarf

    Herewe Goagain

    I'm finding it hard to care about a lane closure. Its not like he send guns to Mexican drug lords, or is using the IRS to target his political foes. Call me when he actually does something like that.
    ============================================================================================
    Another urban legend. The Federal Government did not provide a single gun to any Mexican drug lord during Fast and Furious. They were ALL obtained by straw purchasers who took advantage of the lax laws in the US about who can buy guns and how many they can buy.

    January 10, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. Bytemeagain

    Christie knew all about this. It'll come out. I hope the feds are watching the bank accounts all the ones that are "fired" or "resigning". It would be interesting to find out how much their silence is worth. Follow the money.

    January 10, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. Jackson

    Arya Bagherpour

    Amusing how much effort CNN seems willing to expend on this issue, compared to issues that come up on Obama. Thank you for once again proving you are nothing more than a bunch of propagandists.

    _____________

    Amazing how much money the GOP spent investigating Whitewater, but want this to be ignored.

    I.O.I.Y.A.R. right?

    January 10, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. PtBarnumBoy

    My dad can whip your dad!!!

    January 10, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  11. sly

    Y'all BenGayZ conspiracy folks – go to that blog, we really don't care about that.

    In fact, I don't care if they investigate ChristieGate at all. The Fat Lady has sung. Big Boy is already toast, stick a fork in him. Cooked.

    So ... story done. Democrats got what they want (8 more years), most Republicans got what they want (TeaBillies hate Christie) ... so story over, lets move on.

    "I was misfed"

    January 10, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. chris

    this seems to be VERY telling of the motivations of the republican party. from the sequesters, the shutdowns, the lack of concern for the suffering of others and the active will to stick it to those (in and out of the party) who don't agree with them or fit their brand of conservatism or ideology. it's plain to see that today's republican party is the bane of every kind of citizen... i can't see how they can stay in power, well there ARE those out there who approve of this kind of draconian heavy-handed vendettas and obstructionism, THESE ARE THEIR ACTIONS OVER AND OVER... WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

    January 10, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. ja

    this is an act of terrorism, and should be treated as such

    January 10, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  14. statiststumps

    Lol, once again, another political ticker article so you wouldn't see a top comment with 3,000+ upvotes about how this is getting more attention than NSA spying, IRS, Benghazi, etc. I really, REALLY hate CNN. So do a lot of people. It's why you have AWFUL numbers.

    Also, it's hilarious people call the Issa committee a right wing witch hunt. They went hunting, got lied to and laws were broken in front of cameras and everyone else, and no one went to jail! Reverse parties and gee, I wonder what the coverage would be like.

    January 10, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. tom l

    @Sniffit,
    ""Where was this kind of scrutiny on Benghazi? "

    It was 100% unavoidable. The MSM, CNN and its Ticker and every newspaper in the country reported constantly about it, reported every idiot bobblehead pundit's opinion about it, drooled over the hearings and paperwork that was produced, filled their pants over every tidbit of video footage they could obtain of it, plastered pictures of the compound all over their front pages and one of them even ran and hyped a story from some guy who turned out to be lying about the entire thing. If you missed it, you must've been in a bath salts coma."

    =====

    Were the people on the ground interviewed by Congress? Nope. Did CNN go in there and find the diary to the slain ambassador 4 days later? Yep. You're delusional and so partisan you can't even see straight. Were there 20 ticker articles about it over 2 days? Nope. Do we know what Obama did after he found out about the attack? Nope. How about Hillary? Where was she and what did she do? We don't know. If the press was this aggressive with Benghazi as they are with this then you would have a point. But none of those questions have been fully investigated nor answered. You can say what you want til you're blue in the face but you're too busy doing everything your power to back Obama so you have no desire to know what really happened either.

    January 10, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Malory wrote:

    "You must have been in a coma for the last few years. All the so-called "Obama scandals" you listed have been investigated to death by car thief issa and his rightwing witch hunt committe, and they came up with nothing but egg on their faces."
    ---------------------------
    Bill O'Reilly has been promising an upcoming report about a 'new' Fox News investigation into all of the scandals, most particularly Benghazi. In fact, Fox has been blowing the Obama scandals horns louder than ever. The day the emails hit the news, their prime time line up of Bill, Greta, and Sean did not even discuss the emails until they were well into the second half hour of their one hour shows. Fox has its' viewers so fired up that BridgeGate is lost in the cosmic background radiation.

    January 10, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  17. Jackson

    Arickzona

    Laughable CNN. Have you even thought of doing this level of research on events surrounding Our President and his cabinet? Me thinks not, and me thinks this automatically invalidates this research. No wonder you are reduced to determining if wee-wee (Your term, not mine) freezes in sub zero temps.

    _____________

    Just out of curiosity, how much investigating did FOX News do into the war crimes committed by Bush Jr?

    January 10, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  18. Bud

    The truth will not come out until those involved are facing jail time. At that point, it will be every man/woman for themselves. And we will find out is Christy knew or not.

    January 10, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  19. B_Lebowski

    "What difference does it make??!!" -HRC

    January 10, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. MICK

    hey CNN, when do we get to see the CIA Scandal docs?

    January 10, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  21. Justin S.

    Dear CNN,

    It is NOT news that you are reading emails. It IS news if you find something.
    Advertise accordingly.

    January 10, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  22. Mete Kroo

    Prople talking about IRS, NCA etc please shut up. Now the time is to talk about the closure of Fort Lee bridge

    January 10, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. Doom Shepherd

    Hey, it's not like he had the IRS go after them.

    January 10, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Bobby

    Good-bye Governor! You are done!

    January 10, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  25. Matt

    54StarryNights...The New York Times? The same media outlet that published the fluff piece on Hillary a week or two ago? I'd sooner listen to The Globe.

    January 10, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23