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Mounting 'Bridgegate' Investigations Undercut Christie’s Clout

However, when Fulop decided not to endorse Christie for reelection, all of the Christie administration officials who were scheduled to meet with the Jersey City mayor called his office one after the other to cancel and did not offer the possibility of any alternative dates.

Fulop emailed Baroni on both August 1 and August 15 seeking to reschedule the meeting and got no response.

“I am not sure if it is a coincidence that your office cancelled a meeting several weeks back that seemed to be simultaneous to other political conversations that were happening,” Fulop wrote in the second email. “Prior to that you were always very responsive and I sincerely hope the two issues were not related as it wouldn’t be in the PA, Jersey City, or the residents of the state’s best interest.”

Baroni, who played a central role in the George Washington Bridge lane closures and actively participated in covering up the political motives, resigned last month, and Christie replaced him with Deborah Gramiccioni, vowing that she would implement necessary reforms within the agency.

Fulop wrote to congratulate Gramiccioni on December 18 and she promised to meet with him shortly. Three weeks later, on January 8, the mayor’s appointments secretary reported, “I have made many attempts on this but am not getting anywhere.”

The Best Defense

Colin Reed, a Christie administration spokesman, did not comment on the meeting cancellations by Cabinet officials in the wake of Fulop’s decision not to endorse the governor, but instead attacked Fulop, Sweeney’s chief rival in the 2017 Democratic race for governor in the early handicapping, for his personal ambition.

“The Christie Administration has and continues to work with Jersey City officials on numerous issues, including taking criminals off the streets, Sandy recovery aid, and improving local roads,” Reed said. “However, Mayor Fulop’s words and actions must be viewed through the lens of partisan politics and his attempt to advance his own personal agenda. Fulop’s relationship over time with both the governor and Democrats in the legislature has been inconsistent as he has made clear his future political aspirations.”

Wisniewski’s steady and determined chairmanship of the Assembly Transportation Committee’s investigation of Bridgegate adds him to the top tier of contenders for 2017 with “North Jersey Steve” Fulop and “South Jersey Steve” Sweeney, according to Murray.

Prieto announced yesterday, as expected, that Wisniewski would chair the special Assembly committee probing the Bridgegate scandal after the new Legislature is sworn in today. Both the Assembly and the Senate are expected to vote to give their committees subpoena powers at special legislative sessions tomorrow, Prieto and Sweeney said.

Witness for the Prosecution

Wisniewski yesterday referred the contempt charges against Wildstein to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, and said Kelly and Stepien would be the next two witnesses subpoenaed to testify before his committee. Weinberg and Lesniak urged the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the lane closures.

“This was a political dirty trick that had potentially dangerous consequences,” said Lesniak. “The police, ambulances, and other first responders were caught in the traffic, slowing their response time to emergencies. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and why. The county prosecutor should open an investigation and get at all the facts.”

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich confirmed that he had been approached by a Christie campaign staffer seeking his endorsement. Sokolich did not identify the staffer, but sources confirmed that the campaign aide was Matt Mowers, whose focus was Bergen County.

Mowers was named executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party following Christie’s reelection, which political analysts viewed as Christie’s effort to place a loyalist in a key early primary state.

Yesterday, the Bridgegate scandal reached up to the Granite State, as New Hampshire Democratic Party Communications Director Harrell Kirstein demanded that the GOP “come clean about what role Mowers played in the scheme that put people’s safety at risk to exact political revenge.

“Matt Mowers spent years working under now-disgraced aides of Chris Christie, and we are all left to wonder what dirty tricks they taught him and what plans he has to use them in New Hampshire,” said Kirstein. “Granite Staters deserve to know about Mowers’s role in Christie’s growing bridge scandal. Did he bully the mayor of Fort Lee when he declined to endorse Christie? Was he a part of the scheme to shut down the George Washington Bridge?”

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