Bill Baroni, under cross-examination in the Bridgegate trial, acknowledged that he obeyed orders from Gov. Chris Christie to embarrass the governor’s enemies. The targets included a man Baroni described as a friend, Bill Lavin, then the head of the New Jersey State Firefighter’s Mutual Benevolent Association, and the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
Baroni said Christie gave him “pretty clear” orders to go after Lautenberg when he testified at a hearing chaired by the senator. He said Christie was angry because Lautenberg had criticized his blocking of plans for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River
Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Kelly, a former top aide to Christie, are charged with orchestrating lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 that caused massive traffic problems in Fort Lee. The lane closings were allegedly designed to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich for his refusal to endorse Christie’s bid for reelection, although Baroni contends he believed the cover story that they were done for a traffic study.
Adding to a picture of a vindictive governor and of himself as someone willing to carry out orders, Baroni described imposing radio silence on Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who like his fellow Democrat, Sokolich, had refused to endorse Christie. He acknowledged that cutting communications with Fulop did not directly involve Port Authority business.
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