Democratic Findings: New Bridgegate Docs Add to the Mystery
Most of the material in the New Jersey Legislature’s brand-new Interim report on Bridgegate is already known to the public, having been disclosed by journalists, Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers and the witnesses themselves. But the Democratic-run committee has new information from private interviews its lawyer conducted with some of the Bridgegate players, plus emails and voicemails obtained through subpoenas. Much of this has never before been disclosed – even, says the GOP, to Republican legislators on the committee. Here’s what’s new:
- A week before he ordered the lane closures, Christie appointee David Wildstein asked a police lieutenant at the Port Authority what would happen if the lanes were closed. “****ing disaster,” Lt. Chip Michaels advised him. The lane closures happened anyway. Wildstein and Michaels monitored the ensuing traffic jam before going to breakfast at a local diner, where Michaels said they talked about Christie’s 2016 presidential chances but not the traffic jam clogging Fort Lee.
- As early as the Monday after the lane closures, the Christie administration tried to quash the story. A Christie spokesman instructed a Department of Transportation spokesman to ignore an email inquiring about the mysterious lane closures.
- Christie officials ignored 13 messages via text, voicemail and email from Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich over the first four days of the traffic jam. Bill Baroni, Christie’s No. 2 appointee at the Port Authority, was the contact for the mayor in Fort Lee, where the lanes were closed. And yet Baroni ignored four anguished voicemails and two texts, including: “Help please. It’s maddening.” Sokolich got no response until he intentionally disguised himself by calling from a different phone number. Unfamiliar with the number, an aide to Christie finally answered the call and told Sokolich he'd get back to him, which he never did.
- Sokolich thought he had a good relationship with Port Authority officials. Wildstein had given him and his family from Croatia a personal tour of the World Trade Center in 2011. Wildstein repeatedly referred to the mayor, Sokolich said, “as the one I was told to be nice to.” This reinforces the perception that Sokolich’s endorsement of Christie was coveted. Sokolich decided against the endorsement, and the lanes in his town were closed thereafter.
- Christie’s office provided nearly 90,000 pages of documents to the legislative committee via their New York attorney, Randy Mastro, but about 75 percent was irrelevant, according to the commmittee's lawyer. Mastro is known in legal circles for dropping huge amounts of documents on opposing counsel. Many of the relevant documents were heavily redacted.
- As Port Authority officials gave legislative testimony last year that contradicted Christie appointees' claims about what caused the epic Fort Lee traffic jam, Christie and his incoming chief of staff, Regina Egea, exchanged 12 text messages. Egea, who monitored the hearing, has testified that there was just one text, which she then deleted. Christie said several months ago that he didn’t remember any texts at all, and his attorney refuses to turn over his phone records. Democratic committee members believe this means Christie and his staff may have deleted other communication as the scandal unfolded to hide their growing concerns.