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  • elk_1l elk_1l Jan 14, 2014 6:21 PM Flag

    OT || DRIP: CHRISTIE CAUGHT WITH CAPO DURING BRIDGE DEBACLE...

    GOV. LAST WEEK: 'I Have Had No Contact With Him In Long, Long Time'...

    Christie, Official Who Arranged Bridge Closures Were Together During Fiasco

    Ted Mann | Wall Street Journal | 1/14/2014

    Gov. Chris Christie was photographed with David Wildstein, in red tie, on Sept. 11, 2013, before a ceremony on the 12th anniversary of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks in Manhattan, in a photo obtained by The Wall Street Journal. Sept. 11 was the third day of the lane closures in Fort Lee, N.J.

    UPDATED | Gov. Chris Christie was with the official who arranged the closure of local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11, 2013 — the third day of the closures, and well after they had triggered outrage from local officials beset by heavy traffic.

    It isn’t known what, if anything, Mr. Christie discussed with David Wildstein that day, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official was among the delegation of Mr. Christie’s representatives who welcomed him to the site of the World Trade Center for the commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks there.

    Christie spokesman Colin Reed said, “Of course, Governor Christie attended the September 11th ceremony as he has done every year since he took office. He had numerous interactions with public officials that morning, including representatives of the Port Authority. They were all there for one reason – to pay tribute to the heroes of 9/11.”

    Director of Interstate Capital Projects David Wildstein, Port Authority Chairman David Samson, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, Gov. Chris Christie, and Mary Pat Christie, arriving at the site of the Sept. 11 Memorial, Sept. 11, 2013, in this photo obtain by The Wall Street Journal.
    Mr. Wildstein did not respond to a request for comment through his attorney.

    Also present with Mr. Christie that day were Bill Baroni, the authority’s deputy executive director, who was helping Mr. Wildstein manage the fallout from the closures among local officials, subpoenaed documents show. Also there was David Samson, the Port Authority chairman and close Christie ally, who has said he didn’t learn of the lane closures and traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., until an email from a New York port official ordered the lane closures reversed. Messrs. Samson and Baroni didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Mr. Christie addressed Mr. Wildstein in a news conference last week, saying he had not encountered him “in a long time.”

    “I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election,” which was held Nov. 5, Mr. Christie said last week. “You know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had with David since he worked at the Port Authority. I did not interact with David.”

    When exactly Mr. Christie learned of the traffic problems is an unsettled question likely to figure in investigations of the matter. Mr. Christie said in December that he learned only after the Journal published an internal email from the Port Authority’s top New York official reversing the closures. That email and the accompanying news article appeared Oct. 1.

    Mr. Christie and Mr. Wildstein, in striped tie, in June, with Port Authority officials Bill Baroni and David Samson, in a photo obtained by The Journal, at a ceremonial announcement of the raising of the Bayonne Bridge roadway in New Jersey. Mr. Baroni stands to the left of Mr. Christie, and Mr. Samson is to the right of Mr. Wildstein.
    But Mr. Christie said last week he had learned of the matter earlier, from unspecified news reports about the traffic the closures had caused in Fort Lee.

    Meanwhile, subpoenaed documents show that several of Mr. Christie’s closest aides knew the closures had caused heavy traffic and allegations of political retribution during the week when they were going on. Mr. Christie has said he believed the entire incident was the result of a traffic study, until documents released on the matter indicated it was engineered as possible political retribution against Fort Lee’s mayor.

    When the bridge scandal widened last week, Mr. Christie announced the firing of Bridget Kelly, his deputy chief of staff who wrote to Mr. Wildstein on August 13, telling him “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

    Mr. Wildstein replied “Got it,” and set in motion a series of secret conversations with staff at the port authority to close off two of three local access lanes to the bridge from Fort Lee, with strict instructions not to tell Fort Lee police and officials, or executives on the New York side of the Port Authority, which is jointly controlled by New Jersey and New York.

    WHO, IF ANYONE, AUTHORIZED BRIDGET KELLY TO SEND HER MESSAGE AND HOW MR. WILDSTEIN KNEW WHAT SHE MEANT ARE CENTRAL QUESTIONS IN THE PARALLEL LEGISLATIVE AND CRIMINAL PROBES NOW INVESTIGATING THE MATTER.

    THE PHOTOGRAPH OF THE MEN TOGETHER RAISED NEW QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT THE CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION KNEW ABOUT THE LANE CLOSURES AND WHEN, SAID ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI, THE DEMOCRATIC CHAIR OF THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE THAT ISSUED SUBPOENAS OVER THE LANE CLOSURES.

    “IT BUTTRESSED THE SKEPTICISM THAT MANY HAVE HAD ABOUT HIS STATEMENT,” SAID MR. WISNIEWSKI, ABOUT WHEN MR. CHRISTIE LEARNED OF HIS AIDES’ INVOLVEMENT IN THE CLOSURES. “I CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER WHAT CONVERSATION TOOK PLACE BETWEEN THEM.”

    Gov. Chris Christie greeting Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority, in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2013, in this photo obtained by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Baroni was helping an associate, Mr. Wildstein, manage the local fallout from controversial lane closures in Fort Lee, N.J., which were in their third day.

    Mr. Wisnewski said lawyers for the Assembly and Mr. Wildstein could decide as soon as Wednesday to remove some redacted areas of the correspondence he supplied in response to a subpoena, which has escalated the scandal. The blacked-out sections obscured who Mr. Wildstein was communicating with in some exchanges.

    MR. WISNIEWSKI ALSO SAID HE INTENDS TO ISSUE SUBPOENAS FOR MORE RECORDS RELATED TO THE SCANDAL, INCLUDING TO MS. KELLY AND MR. STEPIEN.

    “THE LIST GETS BIGGER AND BIGGER,” MR. WISNIEWSKI SAID. “THERE’S POTENTIALLY DOZENS OF OTHER NAMES.”

    On Thursday, Mr. Christie announced Ms. Kelly’s firing and cut ties to his former campaign manager and close aide, Bill Stepien. He also distanced himself from Mr. Wildstein, noting that while they had attended the same high school and risen in political circles at the same time, the two had not been longtime friends.

    Photographs also shows Messrs. Wildstein, Baroni, and Samson strolling and chatting at an event in June, when Mr. Christie staged a ceremonial announcement of plans to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge. That $1 billion project is a key priority of New Jersey-based shipping and construction interests, and a major initiative of the New Jersey side of the Port Authority, which is paying for the project.

    Sentiment: Strong Buy

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