Friday, January 10, 2014

Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge Scandal Updates - January 10 , 2014 ... News of the fast moving dy and one key question.........Here's The New Key Question For Chris Christie In The George Washington Bridge Scandal - - David Wildstein, the Former Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects and an ally of Christie, was subpoenaed to provide documents deemed specifically related to the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. Included in the documents is a reference to "what appears to be a meeting" between Christie and Samson, said John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee. "By submitting these documents, Mr. Wildstein is telling us they are related to the lane closures in some way," Wisniewski said. "The question that demands answering is, how?"



Christie-watchers say governor’s downfall is inevitable result of hardball politics, outsized ambition

chris christie
To longtime Christie-watchers, the Bridgegate scandal is the inevitable outgrowth of a governorship built on an outsized cult of personality, unprecedented hardball politics of character assassination and intimidation, and four years of putting the governor’s personal political ambitions ahead of the state’s policy needs and the interests of his own Republican Party.
For Gov. Chris Christie, the biggest problem is not the round-the-clock attacks of Democrats like Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, but the harsh critiques of Republicans like former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, whose campaign Christie worked on during high school, and Rick Merkt, Christie’s former Assembly running mate and a township committeeman in Christie’s hometown of Mendham Township.
One week ago, Christie was the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and the most powerful governor in New Jersey history, more powerful even than the popular Kean, proving Machiavelli’s axiom that “it is better to be feared than to be loved.”
Today, not only are Christie’s presidential ambitions on life support, but Wisniewski and Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) are questioning whether subpoenaed Bridgegate documents released last week are the first evidence of a coverup that could constitute obstruction of justice and ultimately lead to Christie’s impeachment.
Four top Christie administration officials have resigned or been fired in the past month, and David Wildstein, the Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who directly oversaw the George Washington Bridge lane closures, took the Fifth Amendment more than 30 times in testimony before the Assembly Transportation Committee Thursday.

Crash Landing

Christie’s stunning fall from grace has set off a national media feeding frenzy and a 24-hour news cycle scrutiny of Christie’s personality and governance that would not have occurred until he declared for the presidency. Even worse for Christie, the Bridgegate scandal has freed up his critics by undercutting his power to retaliate against his foes without confirming his stereotype as a bully.
That is why Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, the “little Serbian” who was the alleged target of the George Washington Bridge lane closures that led to the resignations or firings of four top Christie aides, finally felt free to speak out publicly on Thursday after four months of refusing interviews.
More damning, however, were the national interviews in the Washington Post and New York, in which Kean openly questioned Christie’s fitness for the White House, asserting that he created a culture in his administration in which “no one will ever say no to him, and that is dangerous,” and Merkt said publicly what many Republicans say privately -- that Christie is “vindictive” and thin-skinned, and that “he does not believe in getting mad, he believes in getting even.”
Whether Christie and/or his top aides were “getting even” with Sokolich and whether they engaged in a subsequent coverup is already the subject of investigations being conducted with subpoena power by Wisniewski’s Assembly Transportation Committee, by United States Attorney Paul Fishman, and by the U.S. Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee chaired by U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV)

Probing the Political Climate

Those probes, however, will inevitably widen to focus on the political culture created within Christie’s inner circle that led the governor's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority, to close access lanes to the world’s busiest bridge as an act of personal political retaliation.
The investigation into the coverup will ask why officials like Michael Drewniak, Christie’s chief spokesman, Port Authority Chairman David Samson, and political consultant Bill Stepien were involved in deciding how to cover up the politics behind the George Washington Bridge lane closures.
The investigators will also want to know why Samson, Drewniak, Stepien, and other top Christie administration officials listed in the emails released last week -- including new Chief of Staff Regina Egea, former Chief Counsel Charles McKenna, and Communications Director Maria Comella -- did not sufficiently investigate Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye’s allegation months ago that the lane closures were politically motivated. Investigators also will want to know whether they discussed their concerns with Christie, and if not, why not.
“I don't think it's credible for a governor to have his chief of staff, his communication director, his deputy chief of staff, all involved, his chief counsel all involved in email communications on the day this took place and the days after talking not only about the problems that were created in Fort Lee, but also talking about how to spin it to the press,” Wisniewski said on CBS’s Face the Nation</i yesterday.
“Remember, this was in the midst of his re-election campaign,” he said. “Any governor running for re-election is going to want to know about problems that come up, if for no other reason, to know how to respond when asked a question. So these people got an e-mail from the executive director of the Port Authority saying that laws were broken. His chief counsel knew; his deputy chief of staff knew; his incoming chief of staff knew. It just strains credibility that they didn't look at those documents and say, "We ought to let him know about it."



Governor’s apology, staff firings won’t blunt probes; Wildstein is first to take the Fifth

Chris Christie
Credit: Governor's Office/Tim Larsen
A chastened Gov. Chris Christie did everything he could yesterday to quell the burgeoning Bridgegate scandal, but the investigations are likely to continue for months, with an Assembly committee preparing to subpoena a parade of current and former Christie officials and with probes by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a U.S. Senate committee just getting underway.
For Christie, the slew of investigations and accompanying media scrutiny threaten not only to undercut his appeal as a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but also will distract attention from the public policy agenda he will set out for his second term in his State of the State speech Tuesday and his Inaugural Address the following week.
“We’re going to take as long as we need to get all of the questions answered,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) promised. “We’re all shocked by what has come out.”
Just two months after his ebullient, triumphant reelection speech in Asbury Park’s Convention Hall, it was a much different Christie who walked slowly out to the podium in the governor’s office yesterday to explain to three rows of reporters, two banks of news cameras, and a national TV audience why he didn’t know that one of his top aides had ordered the controversial George Washington Bridge lane closures.
Saying he was humbled, embarrassed and humiliated, Christie yesterday fired Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff, as well as Bill Stepien, the campaign strategist who managed his two winning gubernatorial campaigns, apologized over and over during an agonizing 108-minute Statehouse press conference, then traveled up the New Jersey Turnpike to personally apologize to the mayor and people of Fort Lee.
A "heartbroken" Gov. Chris Christie talks about firing top aides and apologizing to the people of Fort Lee in this excerpt from his marathon press conference.

But while Christie was apologizing in the governor’s office, David Wildstein, Christie’s political “eyes and ears” in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was preparing to take the Fifth Amendment more than 30 times before the Assembly Transportation Committee in the Statehouse Annex next door.
Christie’s personal day of atonement will undoubtedly be followed by a few more mea culpas in TV interviews and in his State of the State speech Tuesday, but it was Wildstein’s dazed expression as he was unanimously found to be in contempt of the Legislature that is the new face of the Bridgegate scandal and the investigations that promise to crowd the political calendar for the next several months:
  • Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) announced that his panel would subpoena Kelly and Stepien to follow Wildstein into the witness chair, and that Port Authority Chairman David Samson, former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak would be subpoenaed to testify later. The Wisniewski committee plans to release more than 900 pages of emails and documents subpoenaed from Wildstein today.
  • The United States Attorney’s Office in Newark, where Christie made his reputation as a corruption-busting prosecutor, announced it was launching a formal investigation at the invitation of the Port Authority’s Office of Inspector General to determine whether any federal laws were broken in the politically motivated George Washington Bridge lane closures that snarled traffic in Fort Lee for four days.
  • The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chaired by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) has launched its own inquiry into the Bridgegate scandal and is awaiting the delivery of documents due from the Port Authority by Wednesday. Rockefeller’s committee has urged U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to conduct a full investigation of the lane closures.
  • Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), whose district includes Fort Lee, has sponsored a resolution that passed the Senate State Government Committee yesterday calling upon Congress to conduct a full review of the structure and operations of the Port Authority, a bistate agency whose dysfunctional partisan divisions have been exposed by the Bridgegate scandal.
  • Six Bergen County commuters filed a class action lawsuit yesterday against Christie, Wildstein, Baroni, and Kelly charging that they were stuck in traffic, missed work, and suffered pay losses as a result of the George Washington Bridge closures.
Veteran Statehouse observers yesterday could not recall a time when a witness before a New Jersey legislative committee took the Fifth Amendment, nor could they recall a series of public investigative hearings by a committee with subpoena powers that could potentially drag on for months in the public eye. Yesterday’s hearing was the third hearing since November in which the Wisniewski committee has questioned current or former Port Authority officials on the Bridgegate scandal.

Chris Christie's woes expanding into use of Hurricane Sandy relief funds ?

Washington (CNN) -- Just days after dismissing two top advisers for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing questions over the use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds.
CNN has learned that federal officials are investigating whether Christie improperly used those relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.
The news couldn't come at a worse time for the scandal-plagued Republican, who is facing two probes into whether his staff tied up traffic near the country's busiest bridge to punish a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse his successful re-election bid.
If the Sandy inquiry finds any wrongdoing, it could prove even more damaging to Christie's national ambitions. His performance during and after the superstorm has been widely praised and is a fundamental part of his straight-shooting political brand.
In the new probe, federal auditors will examine New Jersey's use of $25 million in Sandy relief funds for a marketing campaign to promote tourism at the Jersey Shore after Sandy decimated the state's coastline in late 2012, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone told CNN
In an August letter, Pallone asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general to look into how Christie chose to spend the marketing money approved by the department.

Neither the governor's office nor the inspector general's office has replied to CNN's request for comment on the investigation.
Pallone wrote that he was concerned about the bidding process for the firm awarded the marketing plan; the winning firm is charging the state about $2 million more than the next lowest bidder. The winning $4.7 million bid featured Christie and his family in the advertisements while the losing $2.5 million proposal did not feature the Christies.
On Sunday, Pallone told CNN that the inspector general conducted a preliminary review of the spending and concluded that there was enough evidence to launch a full-scale investigation into the state's use of federal funds. The audit will take several months, and the findings will be issued in an official report, he said.
Pallone, a 27-year veteran of the House and vocal Christie critic, said this is not about politics.
"This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery. And, as you know, many of my constituents still haven't gotten the money that is owed them to rebuild their homes or raise their homes or to help," he told CNN.
 Democrats slammed Christie over the summer for starring in taxpayer-funded ads as he was running for re-election in November, arguing it gave him an unfair advantage. Christie aides said at the time that the winning bid provided more value.
Last week, Christie dismissed two top aides for their involvement in closing down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last year, a move that tied up traffic for four days. A New Jersey State Assembly committee is investigating whether the aides ordered the lane closures as political retribution, and the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey has opened a probe into the matter.
For his part, Christie has said he didn't know about the scheme and was "embarrassed and humiliated" by it. Democrats, both in New Jersey and nationally, have jumped on the scandal, saying it finally gives the nation an opportunity to see what they've known for years that Christie is a bully who governs by fear.
But as bad as the bridge scandal is for Christie, if investigators find he improperly spent Sandy funds, it could get far worse, tarnishing the signature achievement that has made him a serious contender for the White House.

( With the Bridge controversy exploding and being proven a viable cause of concern , look for older and other issues to be revisited.. )

Forget the bridge - the real danger for Chris Christie is Sandy relief funds

Bridgegate. George Washington Bridge lane closures. Political payback. Call it what you will, but the story of how two Christie appointees working for the Port Authority closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge for a "traffic study" has opponents and critics smelling blood in the Hudson River.
Many, including some of my political cartoonist compadres, already see it as damaging to Chris Christie's "brand," despite the fact that there is no evidence Christie knew anything about it. And chances are, their won't be, since Christie's keeps his well-honed image locked down tighter than Al Gore's lock box.
If you want to discuss a political situation that I think really threatens Chris Christie's chances at becoming our next president, one that he actually has put himself on the line about, then let's talk about the disbursement (or lack thereof) of Hurricane Sandy funds.
You all remember Christie, standing heroically in his well-fitting sweatshirt, promising to do whatever it takes to help the people affected by the horrendous superstorm that smashed the Jersey Shore last October. He was even willing to put aside petty political differences and work with President Obama, much to the chagrin of national Republicans and Mitt Romney.
But fast forward to today and focus the lens a bit, and you'll see the situation of thousands of New Jerseyans waiting for promised help hasn't changed much. And the transparency Christie promised is a distant memory, replaced by the administration's ever-increasing efforts to manage the Governor's image as he steps up his efforts to run for president.
If you recall, in response to criticism it was keeping the public in the dark about Sandy relief funds, the administration had promised to release "hundreds of potentially responsive documents" to the Asbury Park Press back in October, following the newspaper's Freedom of Information Act request. All the paper got was static and stonewalling, and is still waiting for the bulk of information it requested, mainly centered around the administration's decision to award a contract for the 'Stronger than the Storm' ad campaign to a politically-connected group who put Christie in the commercials during his re-election campaign.
It took a lawsuit from the Fair Share Housing Center to shake loose the first detailed information about Sandy recovery programs (information that wasn't even provided to newspapers), and what they've uncovered with just the trickle of information they've received hasn't been pretty.
As backlogs of residents waiting in line for the help continued to grow (you know, the ones Christie promised wouldn't have to wait of help), the Fair Share Housing Center uncovered a script being used by the housing assistance line. For those frustrated individuals calling up inquiring about their relief money, employees were advised to tell them: "I wish I had more time to talk with you, but I have a lot of your neighbors on hold waiting to speak to me."
There's also an added wrinkle those receiving funds - race. According to the Fair Share Housing Center's analysis of the data they were presented, blacks and Latinos in the Garden State have been turned down for Sandy relief aid at much higher rates than whites.The head of the state NAACP, Richard Smith, believes an investigation is in order, while Christie, as he often does, dismissed the criticism out of hands, calling the numbers "statistical anomalies."
"Just so it's general notice to all of you, don't ask me any questions about Fair Share Housing," said Mr. Christie. It('s) not worth "my time or my breath."
If we knew more information about who was eligible for Sandy relief funds, and where the money was going, maybe we wouldn't jump to conclusions. But don't forget, back in April Christie vetoed a bill that was unanimously approved by the state legislature that required oversight and quarterly revenue reports on the billions of dollars in federal aid for Hurricane Sandy, as well as more detailed public information. 
What was Christie's reasoning behind the veto? That it would "produce unnecessary redundancies and waste government resources." As Dr. Evil would say, "Riiiiiiiiiight."
Whether it's the politically-motivated closing of bridge lanes or the stonewalling of requests for Sandy relief information, it should come as no surprise that Christie is controlling his image. His first term exposed us to a well-crafted caricature, a man who has the reputation for saying and doing whatever is on his mind, but whose actions reveal a carefully-calculated arithmetic intended to move him up the political ladder.
The so-called "Jersey Comeback," guy vetoed efforts for more transparency of transportation finances, pushed back at answers about political patronage in the Port Authority, blocked attempts at more information about toll hikes - despiteChristie's battle against the public's right to know, he remains more popular than ever.
"Given the governor's personal popularity, the only thing that will get the public to reconsider their view of him is a smoking gun," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "And since this administration is airtight, there is no smoke."

Latino, African-American Applicants Unfairly Denied Sandy Relief Funds?

By Queen Muse
|  Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013  |  Updated 9:45 AM EST
View Comments (
Minorities Unfairly Denied Sandy Relief Funds?
Getty Images
LONG BEACH ISLAND, NJ - OCTOBER 31: A National Guard vehicle drives past homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy on October 31, 2012 in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
Local housing rights organization Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) says it has obtaineddata from the Christie Administration that shows that Latino and African-American residents applying for two major Sandy relief programs were denied by the state at higher rates than their Caucasian counterparts.
According to the FSHC, 35-percent of African American applicants and 18 percent of Latino applicants applying to the Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program were rejected by the state; while 13 percent of Caucasian applicants were denied from the same program.
Similarly, FSHC says 38 percent of African Americans and 20 percent of Latinos that applied to the Resettlement Grant Program had their applications rejected; while 14 percent of Caucasians were rejected from the same program.
President of the Latino Action Network (LAN) Frank Argote-Freyre and members of the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP reviewed the data along with FSHC and noticed inequities in both the amount of Latino and African Americans that applied for the programs, and the amount of Latino and African American residents that were approved to receive relief funds.
Argote-Freyre says he wants to know how the Christie Administration plans to correct the error.
“Given the misinformation presented to the Spanish-reading community by the Governor's relief website, I think Governor Christie should explain what he intends to do to help those who were unfairly rejected or who missed deadlines due to the administration's neglect," Argote-Freyre stated in a press release.
“We hope that these data, supplied by the Christie Administration itself, will help to shed light on why these programs are not working.”
LAN is currently in litigation with the Christie Administration. The group claims that information provided on the English version of New Jersey’s Sandy recovery web site was omitted from the Spanish version of the web site, and left many Spanish speaking Sandy victims unable to take advantage of grant program benefits.
In October, members of the LAN filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) arguing that the Christie Administration’s failure to provide equal access in English and Spanish to Sandy recovery grant information was a violation of federal law that deterred African Americans and Latinos from applying to the program.
New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III, Esq. argued that the FSHC manipulated the data and called the accusations patently false.
“This is an outrageously false implication that exposes a complete lack of credibility and integrity by Fair Share Housing Center,” Constable said.
“To be absolutely clear, eligibility and qualification for the housing recovery programs were approved by the Obama Administration, are objectively based, and do not take race or ethnicity into account in any way whatsoever.”
LAN says, due to the state's failure to properly advertise the programs—specifically to lower income communities—that there were only 849 Latino applicants and 878 African American applicants to the Resettlement Program, compared to nearly 18,000 Caucasian applicants. Similarly, the organization says a mere 432 Latino applicants and 485 African American applicants applied to the RREM Program, compared to more than 7,000 Caucasian applicants.

According to Constable, 44 percent or nearly half of the federal Sandy relief funding has "been obligated or is out the door to people in need.” Constable says nearly three-quarters of those funds were distributed to low- or middle-income renters and homeowners.

The latest on the exploding Chris Christie controversy called Bridgegate..... but first the link to my prior post - lots of items from yesterday when the controversy exploded into the news cycle in all its glory.......

Wall Street Journal...

Christie Cabinet Member Told of Bridge Lane Closures

Regina Egea, a Top Official in Gov. Christie's Administration, Received Word of Traffic Chaos, Records Show

Updated Jan. 11, 2014 1:10 p.m. ET

New Jersey released more documents obtained under subpoena concerning the George Washington Bridge lane closures, an unfolding scandal that has engulfed the administration of Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Michael Amon reports on the News Hub. Photo: Getty Images.
A cabinet-level member of Gov. Chris Christie's staff was alerted within hours of the discovery and reversal of lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, email correspondence released by legislative investigators shows.

Related Video

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie earned praise from GOP leaders for his handling of the press grilling Thursday and for terminating the aides linked to the political-retribution scandal, but concerns lingered that he not emerge unscathed. Neil King reports. Photo: Getty.
Regina Egea, then the director of Mr. Christie's Authorities Unit and now his incoming chief of staff, received word of the lane closures and resulting traffic chaos in Fort Lee, N.J., just three hours after the closures were ordered to be reversed by a New York official on Sept. 13.
Ms. Egea is a longtime member of Mr. Christie's inner circle and one of his ten most senior staff members. The emails show the highest levels of Mr. Christie's staff were made aware of the traffic problems in Fort Lee as early as Sept. 13–five days after they began and the day they were reversed. The governor said Thursday the closures may have been a "political vendetta" by his aides against the borough's mayor.
Ms. Egea received the news, records show, when Bill Baroni, then the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a Christie appointee, forwarded her an outraged message from Patrick Foye, the agency's executive director and the top appointee from New York. No response from Ms. Egea was included in the subpoenaed emails.
The same cache of records—released by the New Jersey Assembly—shows that Mr. Christie's representatives at the Port Authority worked feverishly to prevent news of the closures and the dispute they caused with New York officials from becoming public.
Ms. Egea didn't immediately return a request for comment on the email Saturday, nor did spokesmen for Mr. Christie. A lawyer representing Mr. Baroni didn't respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Christie appointed Ms. Egea as his chief of staff in December, taking over for longtime top aide Kevin O'Dowd. Ms. Egea volunteered on Mr. Christie's campaign when he first ran in 2009, and joined state government in 2010. She led Mr. Christie's authorities unit, an agency that interfaced with the Port Authority regularly.
Mr. O'Dowd was nominated in December to become the state Attorney General, with a confirmation hearing originally set for next week. Senate Democrats have said that hearing is now up in the air since the bridge emails were released.
The Assembly's subpoena power for documents and testimony related to the closures issue expires Tuesday, when the current legislative session ends. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chair of the transportation committee, has said that continuing the subpoena power is vital for the investigation to move forward, as he wants to question Mr. Baroni and Christie administration members under oath.
There had been some doubts as to whether Democratic leaders would push to renew the subpoena power, but the Assembly's incoming speaker said he would hold a session Thursday to consider legislation reauthorizing it.
"Chairman Wisniewski has done an outstanding and professional job leading this investigation, and I look forward to working with him as he continues to lead our inquiry," said Assemblyman Vincent Prieto in a statement Saturday.
Mr. Christie has said he knew nothing of the real purpose of the lane closures until Wednesday. That day, it emerged that his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, had emailed an authority operative, David Wildstein, in August, saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," a borough in New Jersey that sits at the mouth of the bridge. Mr. Wildstein replied, "Got it." The motive remains unclear, but Democrats believe the purpose was political retribution—Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, didn't endorse Mr. Christie for re-election.
In a lengthy news conference Thursday, where Mr. Christie announced he fired Ms. Kelly and cut ties to another close aide, Mr. Christie sidestepped a related question: even if he had believed Mr. Baroni and others, who told Mr. Christie that the closures were the result of a mishandled "traffic study," why had he taken no action when learning of the disruptions to emergency services the traffic jams caused in Fort Lee?
"We were told it was a traffic study," Mr. Christie said, adding, "we asked them and that's how we responded. You know, and again, I'm not somebody who's going to be, you know, getting into the details of a traffic study and whether one is done appropriately or inappropriately, certainly at that time."
"It was not something that I was personally delving into," Mr. Christie said.
The documents reveal that some of Mr. Christie's closest aides had a clear picture of the problems unfolding in Fort Lee from the first morning of the lane closures.
On Tuesday, Sept. 10, Mr. Baroni received an email from Tina Lado, the New Jersey director of government and community relations at the Port Authority. Ms. Lado was a primary contact for Mr. Sokolich as he tried in vain to learn the purpose of the lane closures and asked that they be reversed, records show.
Mr. Sokolich didn't understand what was happening, Ms. Lado wrote to Mr. Baroni, adding that the mayor "said that he is trying to 'keep a lid on this' (politically) and is getting pressure from members of Borough Council who want to take some action."
Ms. Lado went on to report that Mr. Sokolich had said that one volunteer ambulance became so snarled in traffic on Sept. 9 that its crew "had to respond on foot, leaving their vehicle, to a emergency call."

The documents show no response to the message from Mr. Baroni. Mr. Sokolich, in correspondence previously published by the Journal, has said Mr. Baroni and authority staff never responded to his appeals.
Messrs. Baroni and Wildstein resigned from the authority, one week apart, in December.

( political fallout hitting more top level Christie inner circle members .. ) 

By Salvador Rizzo and Mark Mueller

Democratic lawmakers say they will "aggressively" press on with their investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal after Friday's release of thousands of pages of documents showing key members of Gov. Chris Christie's inner circle were copied in on e-mails about the controversy as far back as September.

The documents — released a day after Christie fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, for setting the closure in motion and later lying about it — provide no evidence that additional administration officials had advance knowledge of the plan.

But the papers do show top aides to the governor were aware early on the issue proved a political threat to Christie and, in the words of Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, may have broken federal law.

The e-mails and text messages include references to Charles McKenna, Christie's chief counsel; Regina Egea, whom the governor recently named his next chief of staff; Michael Drewniak, Christie's chief spokesman; and Christina Renna, who regularly deals with legislators and local officials as director of departmental affairs.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is leading the Democrats' investigation, said it strains credulity to think the advisers did not immediately alert Christie to a certain land mine, particularly because of claims the closure was orchestrated as political payback against the mayor of Fort Lee.

"You don't get to be someone like a Regina Egea or a Bridget Kelly or a Charlie McKenna or a Kevin O'Dowd without letting the governor know the liabilities he may face," Wisniewski said yesterday. O'Dowd, Christie's outgoing chief of staff, was the governor's nominee for attorney general, but that nomination has been put on hold.

"People should understand: It's not a corporation. It's not a bureaucracy. It's a governor's office, and they operate in a unique way," Wisniewski said. "All these people being told about the chaos in Fort Lee, the press inquiries, Pat Foye's allegations about laws being broken — and all we're expected to believe is that they just filed it away and took no action. It's just not believable."

Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly transportation committee, said he wants to determine if the officials were truthful with the governor who, in his apologetic press conference last week, said his entire staff denied any advance knowledge of the plan to close lanes on the bridge's approach from Fort Lee, a move that spawned hours-long traffic jams for four straight days in September.
The assemblyman reiterated his belief that other, more senior members of Christie's office than Kelly were involved in the lane closure decision.
"It's hard to believe she woke up one morning and thought she was suddenly cloaked with the authority to order lane closures at the George Washington Bridge," he said.

Wisniewski said he expects to issue additional subpoenas Monday or Tuesday. Targets are likely to include Drewniak, the spokesman, and Kelly, the fired deputy chief of staff, Wisniewski said.

David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who ordered the lane closure, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was summoned to the committee last week. Wildstein and Bill Baroni, a former state senator and Wildstein's boss at the Port Authority, resigned last month.

"Using the George Washington Bridge, a public resource, to exact a political vendetta, is a crime."
The committee's subpoena power, granted by an Assembly resolution last year, is due to expire this week, but incoming Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said Saturday he will convene a special session of the Assembly on Thursday in a bid to extend it.

"The documents released this week related to the George Washington Bridge situation clearly show the need for a continued thorough investigation by the New Jersey General Assembly," Prieto said in a statement. "Many questions remain unanswered about this threat to public safety and abuse of power."
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said Democrats also will seek to determine why certain information in the e-mails and texts provided to the committee was redacted and who redacted it. He said investigators would go to court if necessary to find out what was blacked out.

"I want to know who and what they're hiding," Lesniak said, adding that Democrats would move "aggressively" on a number of fronts. One course of inquiry, Lesniak said, involves O'Dowd, the outgoing chief of staff and nominee for attorney general.

"It would not be credible that he knew nothing about this entire incident over the last four months," Lesniak said. "The chief of staff is in the middle of everything. Everything. There's not a key meeting that goes on in the governor's office without him being there."

A spokeswoman for the governor did not respond to a request for comment Saturday. Christie has said he had no knowledge his staff was involved before Wednesday morning, when a small sampling of documents was made public. They included the now-famous e-mail from Kelly to Wildstein with the phrase, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Wisniewski didn't accuse the governor of lying about his involvement, but he heated his rhetoric considerably in an interview with NBC News, saying that if Christie knows more than he's letting on, he could face impeachment.

"Using the George Washington Bridge, a public resource, to exact a political vendetta, is a crime," Wisniewski said. "Having people use their officials position to have a political game is a crime. So if those tie back to the governor in any way, it clearly becomes an impeachable offense."

The growing crisis marks the most significant test of Christie's celebrated political career. The U.S. Attorney's Office, the agency where Christie made his name as a tough federal prosecutor, is investigating to determine if a crime has been committed. The inspector general of the Port Authority also has launched a probe.

The political damage, meanwhile, appeared to be escalating. Former Gov. Tom Kean, in an interview with the Washington Post, publicly questioned how Christie would behave in the Oval Office, a prize Christie is almost certain to seek in if the bridge controversy doesn't cripple his political future.

"On the one hand, I think he's got a lot to offer. I think he's the most able politician since Bill Clinton," Kean, a Republican, said. "On the other hand, you look at these other qualities and ask, do you really want that in your president?"
The documents released Friday show Christie's aides were in several discussions with Baroni or Wildstein during the time the lanes were closed. They also show there had been pleas for help from the Fort Lee mayor.

The final day of the traffic jam, Sept. 13, Renna sent an e-mail to Kelly, alerting her that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was saying "he has no idea why the Port Authority decided to do this — because he has always been supportive of the governor."

"The mayor feels he is about to lose control of the situation and that he looks like a (expletive) idiot," the e-mail said, according to the subpoenaed documents.
After Baroni voluntarily testified before the Assembly committee on Nov. 25, saying the lane closings were all due to a traffic study, he texted Wildstein asking for "Trenton feedback."

"Charlie said you did GREAT," Wildstein wrote back. Within the circle of Christie's top advisers, the only person known as "Charlie" is McKenna, the chief counsel, a longtime Christie confidante from their days at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"Charlie" is also mentioned in e-mails between Wildstein and Drewniak, Christie's spokesman, as someone who approved a statement drafted for Wildstein's resignation from the Port Authority on Dec. 6.

Christie recently named McKenna as the next director of the state Schools Development Authority.

Egea, who oversees state authorities for Christie and who is in line to be his next chief of staff, received an e-mail Sept. 13 showing just how explosive the issue of the lane closures had become.

In the e-mail, forwarded to Egea by Baroni, the Port Authority's executive director rails against the unannounced closure, saying he believed it broke several laws and endangered lives.

"I believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates federal law and the laws of both states," Foye wrote in the e-mail to a group of Port Authority leaders. "I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed."

Foye, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top appointee at the authority, promptly reversed the lane closure.

Later that same day, Baroni tried to prevent Foye from addressing the lane closures in public. "We are going to fix this fiasco," Foye wrote to him, according to the documents.

"I'm on my way to the office to discuss," Baroni replied. "There can be no public discourse."

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

1. Has anyone questioned Bridget Anne Kelly ?

A month before the traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, a deputy chief of staff to the governor, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent an e-mail to David Wildstein, a Port Authority official placed by Christie’s team. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," she wrote.

Christie says he fired Kelly immediately and without speaking to her on Thursday after he saw the e-mail printed in a newspaper. Her actions were "stupid" and "deceitful," Christie said — but it remains unknown whether anyone in Christie’s office has asked Kelly to explain herself. Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), who is leading the Democrats’ investigation, says she is next on his list of people to subpoena for testimony.

2. Who gave the order to shut down the two access lanes ?

The documents released by Assembly Democrats show Wildstein exchanged many e-mail and text messages with senior members of Christie’s administration both before and after the lane closures. Kelly’s e-mail, which some have described as a smoking gun, only says, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." It is unclear whether Wildstein was acting only at Kelly’s behest when he closed down the two access lanes to the bridge, whether he did it of his own initiative, or whether the order came from someone else based on previous discussions. 

Wildstein refused to answer questions at an Assembly hearing Thursday, and the documents he turned over to Democrats under subpoena are redacted heavily, leaving it an open question who made the decision to cause the massive traffic jam.

3. What did David Samson know or do ?

Christie said at his two-hour news conference Thursday that Samson, a prominent New Jersey lawyer he appointed as chairman of the Port Authority, knew nothing of the bridge caper. Yet the e-mails reveal several instances in which Samson was helping Wildstein and Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni conduct damage control after the first reports of the bridge jam started to circulate in the news media.

Samson is also quoted criticizing the Port Authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye of New York, and accusing Foye of leaking internal documents for a story in the Wall Street Journal. "I just read it and it confirms evidence of Foye’s being the leak, stirring up trouble … in this case he’s playing in traffic, made a big mistake," Samson writes at one point. In another message, Wildstein tells Kelly, after New York officials reopened the lanes, "Samson helping us to retaliate."

4. How long will the investigations go on ?

It could take years before the bridge scandal fades away. Wisniewski has pledged to keep subpoenaing documents and calling witnesses to testify until "every question has a satisfactory answer." U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s office is reviewing the matter and could decide to pursue federal criminal charges; the ensuing court case could take years to resolve.
The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is also reviewing the lane closures and may hold hearings of its own. Some New Jersey residents are suing Christie in federal court over damages from the lane closures — that, too, could drag on for years. Separate from all that, Wildstein and Assembly Democrats already have tangled in state court and may return there if lawmakers want him to answer the questions he refused to address at last week’s hearing, which is all of them.

5. Who in the Christie administration knew about the lane closures ?
E-mails show Kelly knew a month in advance about the plan. Christie has fired Kelly, as well as his two-time campaign manager Bill Stepien, who was also included in e-mail exchanges. Michael Drewniak, Christie’s top spokesman; Charlie McKenna, his chief counsel; Regina Egea, Christie’s incoming chief of staff; Christina Renna, an aide to the governor; and Maria Comella, his communications director, also appear in the documents, but it’s not clear how much they knew. Wisniewski said he will subpoena everyone on Christie’s staff included in the documents, and he did not rule out sending one to the governor himself.

6. Will this hurt Christie’s chances at the White House?
Ever since he cruised to re-election in November, Christie has been considered a top candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Experts say part of his appeal is his blunt, straight-talking style. But now Christie, engulfed in his first major scandal, is combating skepticism from voters nationwide wondering whether he really tells it like it is.

7. What’s next for Wildstein ?

David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who ordered the lane closures, pleaded the Fifth Amendment at a state Assembly committee hearing on the controversy last week after his lawyer was unable to convince a judge to quash the summons. The Assembly panel held Wildstein in contempt for refusing to testify and is referring that misdemeanor crime to a county prosecutor.

8. Who will be the next the state Republican Party chair ?
Christie hand-picked Stepien, his campaign manager, to take over as chairman of the state Republican Party. Now the governor has banished him from his political orbit, leaving the state party without a chairman.

9. Was there ever a traffic study?
Many times over the last month, Christie said he was told the lane closures were part of a traffic study. But no study has emerged, and Port Authority experts testifying in the Assembly doubted it even existed. However, the documents Wildstein submitted under subpoena include a slideshow presentation on the effect of the lane closures. Was that it?
10. Is Christie telling the truth ?

Christie says he had nothing to do with the lane closures, yet some Democrats still question whether he is telling the truth. "It strains credibility to say that somebody in as high a position as a deputy chief of staff, somebody in as high a position as the governor’s principal press spokesperson, somebody in as high a position as his campaign manager — all those names are in these e-mails — did not ever communicate this to the governor," Wisniewski said.


The assemblyman leading the investigation of the George Washington Bridge Scandal raised the stakes tonight, hinting that if the probe finds Gov. Chris Christie knew more than he's letting on, impeachment is a possibility.

"Using the George Washington Bridge, a public resource, to exact a political vendetta, is a crime," Assemblyman John Wisniewski told NBC News. "Having people use their officials position to have a political game is a crime. So if those tie back to the governor in any way, it clearly becomes an impeachable offense."

Christie has denied any knowledge of the September lane diversions at the George Washington Bridge that snarled traffic in the borough of Fort Lee and have since cost four people their job and to date no emails or testimony have surfaced to suggest Christie knew more about the lane closures than he has so far said.

Democrats charge the lane diversions were used as political payback to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for the mayor's failure to endorse the governor in his bid for reelection.
Christie has denied the claim, adding that it makes no sense because to his knowledge, Sokolich was never asked for his endorsement.

The controversy has ignited a firestorm in Trenton as the governor seeks to head off the growing controversy and state and national Democrats seek to push the investigation as far as it will go.
Last week, emails for the first time put the controversy in Christie's office as deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly was implicated in ordering the lane closures.

Kelly was fired less than 24 hours after the emails were disclosed and Christie also cut ties with former campaign manager Bill Stepien, who presided over the governor's landslide reelection in November.

Wisniewski told NBC that Christie's denials strain credulity because emails show top aides to the governor were aware either before, during or shortly after the lane diversions were ordered.

"It's hard to really accept the governor's statement that he knew nothing until the other morning," Wisnieswki said.

"These people travel with him, these people discuss things with him every single day," Wisniewski said. "He knew there was an investigation. He knew people were looking at it, and his senior staff was involved. He expects us to believe he knew nothing? I just find that implausible."

Wisniewski's Assembly Transportation Committee already has issued subpoenas for documents to several Port Authoriry officials and last week, David Wildstein, the former director of interstate capital projects who reportedly ordered the lane closures, came before the committee but refused to answer questions exerting his fifth amendment rights.
New subpoenas are set to go out this week.
On Thursday, the newly sworn in Assembly is scheuled to meet to renew the committee's subpoena power, which Wisniewski will no doubt use to demand more information from Kelly.
A spokesman for the governor did not immediately return an email for comment.

Emphasizing the need to act "expeditiously," on the George Washington Bridge investigation, Assemblyman John Wisniewski said today that additional subpoenas are likely to go out Monday or Tuesday in advance of a special llegislative session to reauthorize his Transportation Committee's subpoena power.
Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said subpoenas could go out to Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff who was fired this week, Michael Drewniak, the governor's chief press spokesman, and possibly other administration officials.
Incoming Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said earlier today the Assembly will meet in special session Thursday to decide whether to re-authorize the subpoena power so the investigation can continue. That power expires Tuesday, the last day of the current session.
Wisniewski said a resolution reauthorizing subpoena power would include language ensuring that prior subpoenas applied to the new session and cover the gap between the final day of the current session and the reauthorization date.
"Nothing will happen until Monday," he said.
Wisniewski said he was continuing to explore possible motives for the lane closures beyond the one most frequently cited - that they were were in retaliation for the failure of Fort Lee's Democratic mayor to endorse Christie's re-election bid.

Wisniewski said one possible motive could be Democrats' resistance to Christie's judicial nominations.
On Aug. 12, the governor announced he would not nominate Supreme Court Justice Helen Hoens, a Republican, for a lifetime seat on the court because he was concerned Democrats who control the Senate would block her nomination and tarnish her name, as they had done with two of his previous nominees.
"I was not going to let (Hoens) loose to the animals," Christie said on Aug. 12.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), whose district includes Fort Lee and who was one of the earliest and most vocal critics of the lane closures, is the Senate majority leader and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which vets court nominations.
On Aug. 13, in perhaps the most stunning revelation of the bridge scandal so far, Kelly told top Port Authority official David Wildstein in an email, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
"Got it," Wildstein replied.
Kelly was fired on Thursday and Wildstein has resigned from the agency.
Wisniewski also reiterated his belief that other, more senior members of Christie's staff other than Kelly were involved in the lane closure decision.

"It's hard to believe (Kelly) woke up one morning and thought she was suddenly cloaked with the authority to order lane closures at the George Washington Bridge," he said.

Wisniewski said he was also troubled by the mention of other Christie administration officials in subsequent text messages and emails, including a Nov. 25 exchange in which Wildstein assured Bill Baroni, the Port Authority's then deputy director: "Charlie thought you did "GREAT."
The reference was apparently to Charles McKenna, the governor's counsel, on the day Baroni testified before Wisniewski's committee that the lane closures were part of a traffic study.
Taken on its own, Wisniewski said, that and other references were not necessarily an indication of any knowledge by McKenna that there was an ulterior motive for the closures. But in the broader context of what has gone on, it was just one more aspect of the closures worth pursuing, he said.
Likewise, Wisniewski said, it was "disappointing" that a Sept. 18 email by Port Authority Chairman David Samson, a Christie appointee and political ally, reflected Samson's anger that the agency's executive director, Patrick Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, might have leaked information to the press involving internal tensions over the closures.

"This investigation is far from over," Wisniewski said.
Meanwhile, Wisniewski told MSNBC earlier today that if the lane closures should be tied directly to Christie, "it clearly becomes an impeachable offense."

( Additional instances of retaliation by Christie's Team against Democrat Mayors who chose not to support Chris Christie's re-election bid or disagreed with Christie on policy  ? )

HOBOKEN — In the wake of the George Washington Bridge controversy, several Democratic mayors are speaking out saying they, too, believe they were punished by the Christie administration for failing to endorse the Republican governor's re-election in November,WNYC reports.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that after Hurricane Sandy, she applied to the state for a Hazard Mitigation Grant. In the spring, when Christie asked her to endorse him for re-election during a face-to-face meeting, Zimmer told the governor no.

"He was quite disappointed, but I wouldn't say that he was angry," she told WNYC.
When her request for grant funding came back, she said, Hoboken received $300,000 of the $100 million in grants requested — less than 1 percent.

"With 20/20 hindsight, in the context we're in right now, we can always look back and say, 'Okay, was it retribution?'" Zimmer told the station. "I think probably all mayors are reflecting right now and thinking about it, but I really hope that's not the case."

Meanwhile Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has said Christie's office apparently canceled several meetings the day after Fulop refused to endorse the governor.

In Elizabeth, Mayor Chris Bollwage claims Christie targeted the city and shut down the Division of Motor Vehicle's office there after its state legislators fought Christie on several pieces of legislation.

“The governor's retribution was to close down the Division of Motor vehicles here in the city of Elizabeth, which is the fourth largest city in the state of New Jersey,” Bollwage said in the report.

Private emails released on Wednesday sent by Christie's now-fired deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, revealed plans to shut down local access lanes of the George Washington Bridge in September, resulting in massive traffic in Fort Lee. The borough's mayor, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, did not endorse Christie for re-election.

New Jersey Governor and potential GOP Presidential Candidate ...

Now from the big document dump of Friday  , some hints as to what to expect the direction of the probes to turn next.....

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reacts during a news conference in Trenton January 9, 2014. Christie on Thursday fired a top aide at the center of a brewing scandal that public officials orchestrated a massive traffic snarl on the busy George Washingto

"See how sad I am?"
The main takeaway from Thursday's marathon press conference by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the bridge scandal that's rocked his administration, is that he's sad. Really, really sad. He said so, no less than 10 times. (And for the record, Christie was also feeling blindsided, disappointed, embarrassed, heartbroken, humiliated, sick, upset and was doing a lot of soul searching.)
But there was one thing that Christie wanted to talk about even more than his feelings, and that was the study that caused four days of massive traffic jams and delays in emergency services in Fort Lee, New Jersey, last September.
Over and over, Christie pushed the idea that there really was a study, citing Bill Baroni's—his appointee to the Port Authority who resigned last month in the wake of this scandal—testimony to the New Jersey Assembly's transportation committee last November:
We're going to find out, but I don't know, because Senator Baroni presented all types of information that day to the legislature -- statistics and maps and otherwise -- that seemed evidence of a traffic study, so why would I believe that anybody would not be telling the truth about that? [...]
I mean, I've seen, in front of the legislature statistics and other things about the traffic study, so I know there's information there. [...]
... there seemed to me to be evidence that Senator Baroni showed of statistics and maps and other things about a traffic study.
The "maps" was one picture of the Fort Lee entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the statistics can be boiled down to, "boy, that bridge gets a lot of traffic," and the "otherwise" may have been Baroni's insistence that he was all about being fair. But there was one thing that Baroni refused to present to the legislature that day ... any results from the study:

WISNIEWSKI: There are people at the PA [Port Authority] who assembled this data?
BARONI: Yeah, just look at the numbers. [...]
WISNIEWSKI: So they did a two day compilation of data ... We'd like you to make that data available to the committee.
BARONI: Uh, Mr. Chairman, I will have my counsel talk to your counsel as we have done before and discuss documents, no question. [...]
WISNIEWSKI: So you're not willing to say whether you can provide us the data.
BARONI: Again, whatever the lawyers tell me … [...]
WISNIEWSKI: You had deferred one question … we had asked for the data.
BARONI: Yeah, and I said our lawyers will talk to each other ... Nobody is saying anything about holding it back, I just want to talk to my lawyers.
So the question for Chris Christie is—unless the lawyers are still discussing it—where is the data from the study? Because so far, the only concrete evidence we have that this study ever happened comes from the governor's office itself:
Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee

Here's The New Key Question For Chris Christie In The George Washington Bridge Scandal

Chris Christie press conference
New  documents released Friday show the planning of a meeting between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Port Authority Chairman David Samson a week before one of his key aides sent out an email ordering "traffic problems in Fort Lee."
This is perhaps the key question on which New Jersey Democrats will press Christie during the ongoing investigation into the September closure of George Washington Bridge lanes.
David Wildstein, the Former Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects and an ally of Christie, was subpoenaed to provide documents deemed specifically related to the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.
Included in the documents is a reference to "what appears to be a meeting" between Christie and Samson, said John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee.
"By submitting these documents, Mr. Wildstein is telling us they are related to the lane closures in some way," Wisniewski said.
"The question that demands answering is, how?"
On Aug. 13, 2013, Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, whom he fired Thursday, sent an email to Wildstein: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." State and national Democrats have alleged that members of the Christie administration were involved in the decision to close the lanes as political revenge against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D), who refused to endorse Christie for re-election.
Samson and Wildstein were both Christie political appointees to the Port Authority.

Six questions still lingering in the George Washington Bridge fiasco

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Fort Lee, where he met with the mayor on Thursday afternoon.
It went on for almost two hours: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was blindsided, betrayed, embarrassed, heartbroken, humiliated and sad. He said he had lost sleep. He fired a top aide. He called his own staff stupid.
What he did not do is resolve the mystery behind the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge in September, creating a monster traffic jam that turned the city of Fort Lee into a parking lot for four days.
State lawmakers say it appears to be an act of political payback but want to know more. They got no help when David Wildstein, a Christie appointee whose emails and texts place him in the middle of the scandal, pleaded the Fifth at an Assembly hearing Thursday.
1. How did this start?
Christie opened a press conference on Thursday by announcing that he had fired Bridget Kelly, his deputy chief of staff, for lying to him before he told the public in December that his staff was not involved in the lane closures.
In an email from August that was made public this week, Kelly appeared to set the process in motion when she wrote to David Wildstein, an executive at the bridge-controlling Port Authority: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
“Got it,” he wrote back.
The mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, had failed to endorse Christie for re-election. The exchange reads as if it wasn’t the first time that Kelly or Wildstein had heard or thought of such a plan. But it’s not clear whose idea it was in the first place.
Christie insisted that he had no knowledge of it. Kelly has not spoken publicly since the emails surfaced. And Christie himself said that he didn’t talk to her between learning of the emails on Wednesday morning and firing her on Thursday morning.
Besides the Assembly, investigations have been promised by the Port Authority, a U.S. Senate committee and Christie himself, and the U.S. attorney in Newark has opened an inquiry. The chairman of the Assembly’s transportation committee said Thursday night on MSNBC that the committee planned to subpoena Kelly.
2. What happens to Wildstein?

The attorney for David Wildstein, a former Chris Christie appointee, tells members of a New Jersey State Assembly committee why his client is pleading the Fifth.
Christie appointed Wildstein to his Port Authority job but took pains to distance himself on Thursday, saying that while the two had attended high school together, they were not friends. The governor pointed out that there were 1,800 students there at the time.
Christie said he believed they had reconnected in 2000, when Wildstein was working on a New Jersey Senate campaign, but he said some published accounts have suggested “an emotional relationship and closeness between me and David that doesn’t exist.”
Wildstein, appearing before the transportation committee, wouldn’t even answer basic questions about his employment history, saying he had a constitutional right to silence. The committee disagreed and held him in contempt.
John Wisniewski, the Democratic assemblyman who chairs the committee, said he plans to refer the charge to a county prosecutor. But he made clear that the committee isn’t finished with Wildstein and wants to know what he knows.
“It raises even more questions about what happened with these lane closings when it comes to finding out who knew what and when,” Wisniewski said in a statement Thursday.
3. How could Christie not have known? And if he didn’t, how did his office become so poisonous?
Christie said that he thought of his office as a family: “We work together and we tell each other the truth. We support each other when we need to be supported, and we admonish each other when we need to be admonished.”
His political opponents found it hard to believe that he could have been kept out of the loop about the lane closures.
“He runs a paramilitary organization, very strict discipline,” Barbara Buono, the state senator whom Christie trounced in his re-election campaign last fall, said on MSNBC. “People don’t sneeze or go to the bathroom without asking Christie’s permission to.”
Even if Christie didn’t know, there are questions about whether his lieutenants bully his political opponents. Steve Fulop, the Democratic mayor of Jersey City, said again on Thursday that the governor’s office canceled meetings with his people after Fulop failed to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.
That seems to contradict Christie’s representation of the relationship during his press conference: “The fact of the matter is we’ve continued to work with Jersey City over the course of time since he’s been mayor.”

Fulop said on his Facebook page that it “couldn't have been a more distorted representation of the facts.” He added: “And just the start of it.”

A former New Jersey governor, Tom Kean, a Republican, questioned how it was possible that Kelly could have ordered the Port Authority to close the lanes with only a few people involved in the discussion.

On MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” he wondered “how that atmosphere was allowed to exist.”

“I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this,” he said.

4. What else is in the documents?
The emails and texts released so far are plenty damning — Wildstein referred to the Fort Lee mayor as “this little Serbian” and suggested he wasn’t bothered by schoolchildren caught in the jam because they belonged to Buono voters.

But what has been released publicly is only a small fraction of the thousands of pages of documents that the state Assembly is reviewing, and Wisniewski, the committee chair, said Thursday that he’s looking for more.

“We intend to continue our investigation, but this would all be made easier if Gov. Christie did the right thing and voluntarily released all communications so everyone could find out with certainty what happened,” he said.

It is still not publicly known, for example, whom Wildstein was texting with when he made the crack about the Buono voters.
5. What traffic study?
Bill Baroni, a top Christie appointee at the Port Authority, first told lawmakers that the lanes were closed as part of a traffic study. Police and the public were never told of such a study. Baroni later resigned.
On Thursday, Christie seemed to keep alive the possibility that a traffic study had something to do with it.
“I don’t know whether this was some type of rogue political operation that morphed into a traffic study or a traffic study that morphed into an additional rogue political — I don’t know,” he said.
He also said: “There still may have been a traffic study that now has political overtones to it as well.”
But the head of the Port Authority, who is not a Christie appointee, told state lawmakers in December that he knew of no such study, and no one has come forward with evidence of one.
6. What’s the damage for Christie among Republicans ?

Christie is widely believed to be considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. But it remains to be seen how party leaders will judge his handling of the crisis.

House Speaker John Boehner was asked whether Christie’s response was sufficient and said: “I think so. I think so.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was less charitable: He said it “reinforces a narrative that’s troublesome about the guy, he’s kind of a bully.”

Two possible opponents for Christie in the Republican primaries, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both dodged questions about the New Jersey governor on Thursday. But Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, another potential candidate, offered this as he left a White House event:

“I don’t know who emailed who and who works for whom. I have been in traffic before, though, and I know how angry I am when I’m in traffic, and I’ve always wondered, ‘Who did this to me?’”

When a reporter asked whether the episode said anything about Christie’s leadership style, Paul took a pass.

“Other people have to judge that,” he said. 

Document dump ........................

New Big Document Dump In The Chris Christie Scandal — You Can See Them All Here

Chris Christie
More than 900 pages of documents related to the closure of George Washington Bridge lanes have been released.
You can see all the documents here (they're in order).
Among the new revelations contained in the documents: officials actually did conduct a traffic study (sort of), the Fort Lee Mayor complained that Port Authority officials were blaming him for the immense surge in traffic that resulted from the lane closures, and Democrats are focusing on a new key question from the revelations.
The documents were entered into the public record Thursday, during a New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee hearing. David Wildstein, the Former Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects and an ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, refused to answer questions during that hearing, repeatedly citing his right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment.
The release of the new documents comes two days after bombshell documents detailed coordination involving top Christie aides in the lane closures. Christie held a press conference Thursday apologizing for the burgeoning scandal surrounding his administration, and he disavowed any knowledge of or involvement in the decisions.

January 10 , 2014 at 6:53 PM, updated January 10, 2014 at 8:10 PM
Chairman David Samson of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey blasted the agency’s executive director for leaking information about September’s controversial lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.
Samson accused Executive Director Patrick Foye of the leaking the information so that he could, ride in “on a white horse to save the day,” according to documents made public today.
In a Sept. 18 email, Samson, an appointee of Gov. Chris Christie, accused Executive Director Patrick Foye of “stirring up trouble” in the wake the lane closures. Foye ordered the closures lifted on Sept. 13, four days after they were implemented.
“Scott: I just read it and it confirms evidence of Foye’s being the leak, stirring up trouble,” Samson said in an email to Vice Chairman Scott Rechler. “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 horse to save the day. (If you need prior examples I will provide)–in this case he’s playing in traffic, made a big mistake.”
Samson's email was referring to a story about the closures in the Wall Street Journal published on Sept. 17, citing unnamed officials at the Port Authority as saying they had caused tensions within the bi-state agency.
Rechler and Foye are both appointees of Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Rechler defended Foye in a response to Samson’s email.
“I don’t agree with your assessment of Pat’s involvement,” Rechler wrote back. “Perhaps you or Bill have some different intelligence than mine that will change that view.”
Bill Baroni was the Port Authority’s deputy executive director at the time. He resigned last month as investigations into the lane closures intensified.
Apart from Baroni, three other officials have lost their jobs: David Wildstein, the former Port Authority operative who gave the direct order for the closures; Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff; and Bill Stepien, a former Christie campaign manager and political consultant, who had been the governor's choice for state Republican Party chairman.
Boroni told lawmakers in November that the closures were related to a traffic study. But Democrats remain unconvinced, contending that the closures were in retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor’s failure to endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year.
Samson's email was among documents made public today after being subpoenaed from current and former Port Authority officials by the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. One of them was Foye's Sept. 13 email criticizing the closures as a threat to public safety and possibly illegal, which was leaked to the press in October.
Some of the documents were made public on Wednesday, including an exchange between Kelly and Wildstein indicating Kelly took part in the planning of the closures and knew they would cause traffic problems in Fort Lee.
Another Wildstein-Kelly email released on Wednesday mentioned Samson, this time in reference to an email by Foye angrily denouncing the closures as dangerous and possible illegal, and ordering them lifted immediately.
"The New York side gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning," Wildstein wrote to Kelly that Friday, Sept. 13. "We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate."
The exchange did not indicate just what kind of help was given.

The Port Authority press office did not respond to requests for comment. Samson, Foye and Rechler did not respond to separate requests sent via email.

Following Wednesday's release of documents, Samson issued a statement saying he was "extremely upset and distressed over today's disclosures."

"To be clear, neither I nor anyone on the Board had any knowledge of these lane closures until the receipt of Executive Director (Patrick) Foye's email. We expect to get a complete picture as a result of the Port Authority's Inspector General's investigation which commenced a few weeks ago and thereafter will take appropriate action."

Christie should resign if he knew about GWB lane shutdown, new poll shows

Darryl Isherwood/NJ.comBy Darryl Isherwood/ 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 10, 2014 at 10:30 AM, updated January 10, 2014 at 3:41 PM

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A majority of New Jersey likely voters say Gov. Chris Christie should resign from office if it's proven that he knew about George Washington Bridge Lane closures before they happened, but the governor still holds high approval ratings, according to a new poll from Rasmussen Reports.
A full 56 percent of likely voters in the state say the governor should go if he knew ahead of time that staffers planned to order the traffic closure, while 54 percent say it's at least somewhat likely the governor knew it was happening. That's compared to 36 percent who say it's unlikely Christie had prior knowledge of the lane closures that snarled traffic in the borough of Fort Lee and set off a firestorm that has already claimed the jobs of four people.
The demands for Christie's resignation break out somewhat along party lines with 75 percent of Democrats polled saying it's likely the governor knew ahead of time that the lanes were to be closed against 34 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of unaffiliated voters who share that view.
But the despite the near deafening media din created by the scandal, which erupted in September after two of three local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were diverted for use by highway traffic, burying commuters coming from Fort Lee and other surrounding municipalities in traffic jams that lasted as long as four hours, Christie's approval ratings remain solid.
According to the survey, 55 percent of likely voters hold a favorable opinion of Christie, against 44 percent who view him unfavorably.
Those numbers are slightly off his ratings in an October poll, when his favorability rating stood at 63 percent.
And despite days of negative press over the issue, 60 percent of respondents still approve of the job the governor is doing against just 37 percent who at least somewhat disapprove of Christie's job performance.
It's clear that should Christie still continue to eye the presidency, the scandal has hurt him, at least in the short term. Thirty-nine percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for Christie for president as a result of the scandal that shows no signs of letting up, while 14 percent say they would be more likely to vote for him.
The vast majority of respondents (71%) to the poll conducted last night, just hours after Christie held a two hour press conference to apologize for the flap, said it's likely at least some of Christie's staffers retaliated against other local officials who refused to support his bid for another term.
Rasmussen polled 800 likely voters last night, giving the poll a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.