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Analysis: Wildstein challenges Christie’s honesty in bid for immunity

Other photographs show Christie was with Kelly the next day at the scene of the Seaside Heights boardwalk fire while she is intently studying her cell phone. This would have been about the time that she and Wildstein and Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, were putting together a press release to be issued by the Port Authority explaining away the GWB lane closures as part of a secret traffic study that Wildstein ordered authority officials not to tell the agency’s executive director or Fort Lee officials about.

The following morning, on September 13, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye ordered the lanes reopened, charging in an email that laws might have been broken -- an email that Baroni forwarded to Regina Egea, the director of the authorities unit in the governor’s office. Whether Egea forwarded that email up the chain of command is one of the key questions the legislative panel wants to have answered.

Christie said in his December 13 press conference that “the first I ever heard about the issue was when it was reported in the press, which I think was in the aftermath of . . . the leaking of Mr. Foye’s email. I think that was the first I heard of it, but it was certainly after the whole thing was over.”

In his January 9 press conference, Christie said, “I had no knowledge of this -- of the planning, the execution or anything about it -- and that I first found out about it after it was over. And even then, I was told that it was a traffic study.” Christie insisted that for four months, he never dreamed that the lane closures were anything other than the legitimate traffic study that Baroni had claimed.

With various media outlets focusing on Christie’s unequivocal statements that he did not know about the lane closures during the week of September 9 to 13 when they occurred, Reed issued a followup press statement last night designed to give Christie an out. Reed quoted an exchange from the January 9 press conference in which Christie suggested he might first have learned about the lane closures from “an earlier story” that preceded the October Wall Street Journal story on Foye’s email. Asked if it was The Record’s “Road Warrior” column, which appeared the week of the shutdown, Christie said “I don’t remember exactly,” but “it was something about the traffic, yeah.”

At the same press conference, Christie said he fired Stepien, the top political lieutenant he relied upon as his campaign manager in both 2009 and 2013 and as his chief political operative out of the governor’s office in the years between, for the “attitude and callous indifference” he showed in two emails after Bridgegate with Wildstein. Just two days earlier, he had praised Stepien and said Stepien would be his choice for state Republican Party chairman.

Yesterday, Stepien’s lawyer, Kevin Marino, maintained Stepien’s innocence, and argued that one reason the legislative committee should withdraw its subpoena is because Christie’s public firing and criticism of Stepien was the sole basis for the subpoena in the first place.

Marino’s letter made no mention of the September 12 email to Stepien and Kelly from Fort Lee’s mayor protesting the lane closures and suggesting they might be punitive in nature.

“We just received Mr. Marino’s letter this afternoon. We are reviewing it and considering our legal options with respect to enforcing the subpoena,” Wisniewski and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said in a joint statement issued last night.

“We have read the letter from Mr. Wildstein’s attorney and will consider it as our investigation moves forward,” they added.

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