In Bridget Kelly’s Own Words

Matt Katz, WNYC | October 24, 2016 | Katz on Christie

Excerpts from Bridgegate defendant Bridget Kelly’s second day of testimony reveal much about her legal strategy, and about how the Christie Administration worked.

“Wildstein will handle it.” – When Kelly told Gov. Chris Christie about the traffic study in Fort Lee in two separate conversations during the lane closures, this is how she says the governor responded. He was referring to David Wildstein, the political operative he appointed at the Port Authority, which runs the bridge. Wildstein pleaded guilty and is a witness for the prosecution.

“What’s the endorsement status? We need to know this going into this.” – As early as Christie’s second year in office, government staffers began compiling lists of local officials who might endorse the governors’ reelection. “Endorsement status” became a guide for how the administration would deal with localities and their representatives. A desire for an endorsement from the mayor of Fort Lee led to the September 2013 Bridgegate traffic jams.

“The governor was asked a question specifically about the traffic study. And he made a joke about it and claimed he had no knowledge about it. And I thought to myself: We talked about this. Now he was laughing and joking about it and saying he had no knowledge about it.” – On Dec. 2, 2013, WNYC asked Christie if he had anything to do with creating traffic to get back at a local mayor for not endorsing him. Christie, in a moment captured on video and shown to jurors at trial, joked about “working the cones” in “overalls and a hat.”

“When everyone around me, including the governor, started denying that they had any knowledge, who am I?” – By early December, it becomes clear to Kelly that the men in Christie’s inner circle who knew about the lane closures were circling the wagons, leaving her vulnerable to be scapegoated.

“I was scared. And I have four kids and I needed to be as direct, forthright with [my bosses] as I could be, because what they were saying in the media wasn’t what I knew to be the case.” – On Dec. 13, 2013, Christie told the media at a press conference that he had no reason to believe anyone in his senior staff had any information about a political retaliation scheme at the bridge. Kelly describes fear and shock as she listens to Christie say this.

“I was petrified. Because I had — I had no one to go to talk to about what I thought was going on. [Chief of staff] Kevin O’Dowd was my boss. I had told him about the traffic study. He was now having a little bit of a memory issue. Gov. Christie’s also my boss. He’s having a memory issue, too. And everyone around the governor, or people that had either worked for him here in Newark at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, or people that were so close to him…they’re going to talk to me? And they’re going to understand what I’m telling them and not him? Everyone’s livelihood depends on Chris Christie, including mine.” – Kelly describes being isolated in the final month of her time at the Statehouse before she became the only staffer there fired and charged in the scheme.

“I told him: I did have documents, and I did delete them.” – Sensing that she needed to cover her tracks in order to avoid turning Christie into a liar, Kelly says she deleted emails about the lane closures and then told her supervisor, O’Dowd — a former federal prosecutor — what she had done. An investigation was underway at the time in the legislature, so the emails were potential evidence. 

“I was gun shy. I was scared. But he would then turn it on, and be charming. It was a confusing, frightening time. I felt both at the same time.” – Christie, as Kelly describes it, manages with both a hug and a shiv. 

“The governor said he had a conversation with Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo and he told Gov. Cuomo to tell [Port Authority executive director] Pat Foye to back the fuck off.” – Kelly said she was in Christie’s office as he recounted this conversation to a group of advisers. Foye was the Cuomo appointee who reopened the lanes to end Bridgegate. Christie and Cuomo have repeatedly insisted no such conversation took place.

“He was told to contact me. That I was going to be okay. That a job would be found for me. That I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. And that it would be okay.” – Kelly said after her smoking gun “time for some traffic problems Fort Lee” email came out on Jan. 8, 2014, she got a call from a friend of Christie’s — criminal defense attorney Wally Timpone. He was going to represent her, Kelly said, and he would take care of her. She later changed attorneys, and Timpone was nominated to the state Supreme Court by Christie.

“There was an alternate universe going on. And I just, I felt like by myself on an island.” – Kelly was ostracized, isolated and fired after her “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email was released.