N.J. bridge committee hears from top Christie staffer
July 17th, 2014
03:52 PM ET
1 month ago

N.J. bridge committee hears from top Christie staffer

Trenton, New Jersey (CNN) – Gov. Chris Christie's incoming chief of staff on Thursday became the fifth current or former member of the New Jersey governor's staff to go before a state legislative committee that's investigating lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last year.

The hearing came amid questions about whether the bipartisan panel, comprised of eight Democrats and four Republicans, should even proceed with its work.

Regina Egea was in charge of the governor's authorities unit, which oversaw the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the same bi-state agency that owns and operates the George Washington Bridge.

After being sworn in Thursday, Egea said she was happy to cooperate with the probe into the lane closures, which critics argue were enacted to cause massive traffic gridlock in the city of Fort Lee out of apparent political retribution against the city's Democratic mayor.

"I just want to state at the outset that I had no prior knowledge of, nor participated in the lane realignment and with that I am prepared to take questions," Egea said.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat and committee co-chair, grilled Egea on why she didn't speak with the New York appointed executive director of the Port Authority in the weeks and months after he wrote in a memo that he thought the "ill advised" lane closures may have violated state and federal laws.

"I took his comments to mean he was taking action to investigate given all of the information he had and I didn't have," Egea said. She claimed that her contact with the agency was through Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, a Christie appointee. Egea testified that at the time she was satisfied with Baroni's explanation that the closures were part of a traffic study and that the executive director's scathing memo was the result of ongoing tension between New York and New Jersey.

Egea worked closely with Baroni as the fallout from the lane closures scandal worsened. Documents obtained by the committee and notes from interviews conducted for Christie's internal investigation reveal that Egea helped Baroni craft testimony ahead of his appearance before the New Jersey Assembly's transportation committee in November of last year, roughly two months after the lane closures.

At that hearing, Baroni aggressively defended his claim that the lane closures were the result of a traffic study. He presented facts and figures with the use of several charts to show how they were supposedly measuring changes in traffic flow on the roads leading to the bridge. Documents show that Egea heavily edited his prepared testimony. She said she did so because she was tasked with helping Baroni be "as clear and concise as possible."

The Port Authority's executive director testified afterwards that there was no traffic study.

Baroni was among several Christie appointees and aides who lost their jobs in the wake of the bridge scandal. He worked closely with David Wildstein, another Christie appointee at the Port Authority who several people have claimed was the architect of the lane closures. ​

Before the hearing began, Republican members of the committee raised questions about the road ahead and whether they could continue with their work. Citing a so-called "Do not call" list, several Republicans asked if there was any point in moving forward when the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey asked them not to take testimony from at least nine people on a potential subpoena list.

Weinberg shot back that there isn't a "do not call" list, and said the committee's lawyer checks in with the U.S. Attorney's office on a regular basis. She said because of the ongoing federal investigation the U.S. Attorney sometimes asks them to hold off on questioning certain individuals and those names can change from week to week.

"This is part of our procedure. We are respectful of the apparent criminal investigation and we don't want to interfere with that," said Weinberg.

During her testimony Egea said that she texted Christie in December while the Assembly transportation committee was holding a hearing on the lane closures. Egea claims the message pertained to testimony from one Port Authority employee and was complimentary in nature. Egea said she deleted the text soon after but before the controversy became a major distraction for the governor.

Egea said she routinely cleaned out texts that she no longer needed to refer to, implying that she wasn't intentionally getting rid of any incriminating evidence. Democratic Assemblyman Paul Moriarity then asked Egea if she still used the same cell phone and service provider. When she said yes, Moriarity asked if she would allow her phone to be imaged so investigators could see whether deleted texts could be retrieved.

After a brief recess and a huddle between lawyers, Egea's counsel told the committee that he believed investigators who worked on Christie's internal probe already imaged her phone. The committee members said they would follow up with lawyers from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to see what, if anything, they were able to retrieve from the phone

Egea later testified that she believes the governor didn't respond to her text. ​

While Egea answered all the questions that were put to her, the committee was no closer to finding out who ordered the access lane closures and why.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. just asking

    While Egea answered all the questions that were put to her, the committee was no closer to finding out who ordered the access lane closures and why.
    ---

    and the waste of millions of taxpayers dollars continues on, and on, and on. they know who ordered it. they don't like it because it wasn't christie! so the democrat clown show continues to waste money the state does not have.

    July 17, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. GODZILLA1

    The STONEWALL has gone up in New Jersey. Nothing can be done about it.

    July 17, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  3. Longtimer

    Sort of like Issa's IRS and Benghazi hearings, eh?

    July 17, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Before the hearing began, Republican members of the committee raised questions about the road ahead and whether they could continue with their work. Citing a so-called "Do not call" list, several Republicans asked if there was any point in moving forward when the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey asked them not to take testimony from at least nine people on a potential subpoena list.
    --------------------------
    What is most unfortunate in this whole mess is that Christie's internal investigation of himself has already tampered with many of the key witnesses still working on his staff.

    July 17, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. ChrisM

    Just wait until Kelly get immunity and starts singing. Krispy is done and he knows it!!

    July 17, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    While Egea answered all the questions that were put to her, the committee was no closer to finding out who ordered the access lane closures and why.
    -

    and the waste of millions of taxpayers dollars continues on, and on, and on. they know who ordered it. they don't like it because it wasn't christie! so the democrat clown show continues to waste money the state does not have.
    ===============================================================
    They know who ordered it? Who? Tell us, if you know? As far as I know, of the few witnesses that have testified before the joint committee, no one has said who ordered the lane closures. Every witnesses thus far has seemed to imply that stuff was going on above their pay grade, and that they were following orders or protocols.

    July 17, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. salty dog

    This isn't the bridge he needs worry about, he'll soon need another legal team. He won't get out so easy on the next one, who would vote for him, with all these scandals he's created, I just had too!

    July 17, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  8. Left Wing Garbage Cleanup

    ChrisM
    Just wait until Kelly get immunity and starts singing. Krispy is done and he knows it!!
    ---

    blah, blah, blah, blah,..... looney lefties can't admit they got nothing and never will have anything on Christie.

    July 17, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. just asking

    Rudy NYC
    They know who ordered it? Who? Tell us, if you know? As far as I know, of the few witnesses that have testified before the joint committee, no one has said who ordered the lane closures. Every witnesses thus far has seemed to imply that stuff was going on above their pay grade, and that they were following orders or protocols.
    ---

    duh!! it was in the email!! 'time for traffic problems'!!! you got the two clowns right there. christie fired them. you got anything else to say otherwise? nope.

    July 17, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. OBAMA - THE OPEN BORDERS PRESIDENT

    Didn't sound too productive but she seems all broken up about it.

    July 17, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Looks like she just crawled out of a vat in a tannery. Probably smells like it too.

    July 17, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "Just wait until Kelly get immunity and starts singing. Krispy is done and he knows it!!
    -

    blah, blah, blah, blah,..... looney lefties can't admit they got nothing and never will have anything on Christie."
    ===

    It remains up in the air. The FBI has specifically requested that certain witnesses the NJ legislature intends to call not be called. This is after weeks of Weinstein cooperating with the FBI. The clear implication of that request is that something may be afoot with respect to those witnesses and the FBI doesn't want any sworn public testimony complicating matters with potential charges of perjury, etc.

    July 17, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "Sort of like Issa's IRS and Benghazi hearings, eh?"

    Nope. In those, there was and continues to be ZERO evidence that anything that occurred was politically motivated or that the POTUS's closest aides and advisors knew about it happening. Moreover, in those nontroversies, there is actually evidence disproving the GOP/Teatrolls' accusations of political targeting and that the POTUS was directly involved in any way. Conversely, Christie's top aides and advisors were directly involved here and we have emails proving that it was nothing but a politically motivated retribution stunt.

    July 17, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  14. Ol' Yeller

    duh!! it was in the email!! 'time for traffic problems'!!! you got the two clowns right there. christie fired them. you got anything else to say otherwise? nope.

    And, who gave the okay to send the e-mail?
    I thought christie ran a tight ship and nothing got by him?
    Are you saying his high level staff just across the hall was running willy nilly ordering highways to be closed in his state for highly partisan reasons which endangered untold thousands of his citizens he swore an oath to protect and serve and this happened right under his nose with his having no clue whatsoever?!?!
    My, my my... you are absolutley right. This sounds like someone we all want to run the country... when he can't even manage to handle his closest staff?!?!
    According to you, Presidents are directly responsible for staff in say... the IRS in another state... or Ambassadors and their staff overseas and should be held accountable for anything and everything which happens to, or is done by, any staff in any agency, in any division... anywhere in the world.
    Yet christie doesn't have a clue what his happening right under his nose with his closest aides and he gets a pass?
    Do you see how friggin' crazy you are?

    July 17, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    “I just cannot believe that no one in their right mind would want to shoot down an airliner.”
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Yup. You read it right.
    Go ahead. Read it again.
    Yepper.
    I'm hoping that this was a typo, but knowing McShames "stellar" Vietnam history with plane crashing it could just as easily have been a Freudian slip.

    July 17, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |