New set of emails, texts on N.J. bridge scandal turned over to judge
March 17th, 2014
07:46 PM ET
6 months ago

New set of emails, texts on N.J. bridge scandal turned over to judge

(CNN) – Newly revealed emails between key figures in a political scandal roiling the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were turned over to a state court judge on Monday.

Members of a legislative committee investigating whether Christie appointees deliberately orchestrated traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last year as part of a political payback scheme suggest the governor's campaign manager was kept in the loop during and after the tie ups.

Christie was close to wrapping up his successful reelection campaign last September when certain access lanes to the bridge were closed for several days.

"We are talking about documents that came from other folks that lead the committee to believe that there might be some context concerning things that might have happened before or after the lanes were closed," said State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat and co-chair of the investigative panel.

One exchange included in briefs filed in Mercer County Superior Court dated October 1 refers to questions asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter.

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie's campaign, wrote to campaign manager Bill Stepien: "Coordinating with Drewniak on this, but heads up. I'll let you know when I hear back from him on the conversations on his side of things."

Michael Drewniak is Christie's chief spokesman. In a reply two minutes later, Stepien wrote, "Awesome."

Stepien asked in another message sent later that day, "Who is writing the follow-up story on Fort Lee?"

In a text message that evening to Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, another Christie appointee, the documents show that Stepien wrote, "WSJ writing a follow-up on the Fort Lee issue. You probably know but wanted to make sure."

In a subsequent text, Stepien praised Baroni for the explanation he gave that the lane closures were part of a traffic study, which has since been called into question.

According to the brief, Stepien wrote, "Hey great job yesterday. I know it's not a fun topic, and not nearly as fun as beating up on Frank Lautenberg, but you did great and I wanted to thank you."

Lautenberg was a former U.S. senator who died the previous June.

Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the other co-chair of the investigative committee, said the emails show an attention to detail by the governor's campaign "on the management of the response to the inquiries being made by the press on the George Washington Bridge lane closures."

From other messages Wisniewski said you can assume that "Stepien is part of a team."

That assumption leads members of the investigative committee to believe Stepien can shed some light onto who knew what when about the scandal.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson was asked last week to enforce subpoenas served by the committee on Stepien and another official at the center of the scandal, former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly.

The pair are the only two asked to turn over materials who are fighting the request so far. They claim that complying with subpoenas would infringe on their constitutional right to remain silent.

"It is a foregone conclusion, based on the type of communications that are going on, that, in fact, there are additional emails that are out there," said Reid Schar, argued in court last week.

Schar is a former federal prosecutor who is leading the committee's investigation.

Stepien's name first surfaced in email and text messages around the scandal that were released in January.

Neither Stepien nor Kelly have been accused of any wrongdoing, and Christie denies any knowledge of the traffic mess until after it occurred.

Jacobson could rule on the matter by the end of the month.

The U.S. Attorney's office is also looking into the traffic scandal.

CNN's Chris Frates contributed to this report


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Wake up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! IRS! Fast and Furious!! Obama! Obama! Hillary!!

    This is getting good!!

    March 17, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    GOP guys are very pathetic, scandals., criminals, loots, cheats etc.

    March 17, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  3. Bobby

    The strange thing is niether Bridget Kelly, not Bill Stepien have received any subpoenas from the US attorney's office, vene though the same office has sent subpoenas to several others aorund the bridge scandal.

    March 17, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  4. J.V.Hodgson

    We are now beginning to see smoke around Stepien and Kelly, which would not exist without a real fire down in thier E-mails.
    Regards,
    Hodgson

    March 18, 2014 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  5. croaton999

    Dems are still fishing. No fish yet.

    March 18, 2014 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  6. salty dog

    They're innocent, that's why getting the truth from them is like giving a cat a bath.

    March 18, 2014 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  7. Marie MD

    To the haters, if you think President Obama needs to/has to and knows everything going on around the world why didn't this big bully not know for four days what his staff was doing?
    Christie is not presidential material for so many reasons. It takes more than losing over 200 pounds to be president.

    March 18, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  8. salty dog

    The gop has simply lost its way, long ago they lost their fear of God, so much so that they use Scripture to mask their true intentions. The bible is clear, worship god, not money, they attack the less fortunate, suppress their rights, keep them in servitude, while they enjoy opulence that most can't imagine, truly sad. And they in fact think they are morally superior, now I know why Jack Van Impe can't wait for it to end.

    March 18, 2014 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  9. salty dog

    They're playing loose with the fifth, Lois Lerner gave up her right to the fifth, but they didn't? Always a double standard, how did people with such low morals get to such a position?

    March 18, 2014 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  10. Enough is Enough

    Keep digging.....you haven't found one shred of evidence yet that links the Gov. to this......and conservatives will continue to investigate Benghazi, the IRS and NSA spying on Americans.....

    March 18, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    "Awesome."

    The campaign manager, Bill Stepien has no business being involved in the day-to-day affairs of the governor's office in any way because it would violate the law, and vice versa.

    March 18, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  12. Vince

    LOL. I was waiting for the Benghazi mention...LOL. There is is...at the bottom of the page. Yawn.

    March 18, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  13. salty dog

    Enough, the difference is bridge gate is still uncovering new evidence, the gop scandal machine is out of gas, they have no new evidence, and don't know what else to cry about, Lois Lerner finally agreed to testify, and issa wouldn't let her, shameless.

    March 18, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Enough is Enough

    Keep digging.....you haven't found one shred of evidence yet that links the Gov. to this......and conservatives will continue to investigate Benghazi, the IRS and NSA spying on Americans.....
    -----------------------------
    They have already found evidence of wrong doing. The governor's campaign staff and office staff should not be interacting, much less coordinating their actions. This gives the investigators, legislators, and prosecutors leverage to make deals.

    March 18, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    @Enough

    Oh, yeah. I almost forgot to comment on your ongoing investigations. All indications are that Darrell Issa has been shut down and could possibly be defanged. In other words, after Issa's most recent tyrannical display of partisanship, it is quite possible that he could be stripped of his chairmanship, which means his investigations will most likely end. That's a good thing because his investigations have wasted tens of millions of dollars. The IRS investigation alone is over $10 million with nearly 100,000 man-hours expended by IRS employees being interrogated or complying with his information requests.

    March 18, 2014 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  16. salty dog

    Issa has reduced the investigation into a partisan political campaign, think of all the wasted money, 51 obamacare repeals, IRS, benghazi. Not one if these were worthy if the cost, yet the "fiscal conservatives" had no problem doing it, knowing it was fruitless .I guess they have to do something to pass the time

    March 18, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |