New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has found himself in the middle of what is developing into a huge political scandal.
Back in September 2013, two of the three lanes in Fort Lee that lead to the George Washington Bridge were closed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The bridge is one of the busiest in the world and connects New York City to Fort Lee.
The lane closures were abrupt and lasted for four days, causing major headaches for commuters, school buses, and emergency personnel.
Now emails and text messages have been released that that incriminate a top Christie aide and one of his long-time buddies in the orchestrating of the lane closures in an act of political retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and Port Authority executive David Wildstein exchanged emails that show they played key roles in the lane closures. Kelly e-mailed Wildstein before the closures, telling him, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein replied “Got it.” Wildstein, who was appointed to his position by Christie and is a long-time confidante of the governor, ordered the closures.
In another message sent during the gridlock, an unidentified author wrote: “Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” and Wildstein responded: “No.”
In September, Democrats speculated that the lane closures were an act of political retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who declined to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. That led to hearings in New Jersey’s state legislature. Wildstein, who had said the closures were part of a traffic study, resigned in December, and Bill Baroni, New Jersey’s top Port Authority official, resigned as well.
Yesterday Christie announced that he fired Kelly for her involvement in the incident, calling her “stupid” and “deceitful,” adding: “I’ve terminated her employment because she lied to me.”
But some say they don’t believe that Kelly would have planned the closures on her own:
“The administration doing this doesn’t surprise me. Bridget Kelly — that does surprise me,” said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who has worked closely with Kelly for years.
“I don’t believe she would do this on her own,” added Tittel. “I just don’t see her having this kind of side to her.”
State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D) said he doesn’t believe the closures were Kelly’s idea either:
“It’s very hard for me to accept that Bridget Kelly is the key person or that this was her idea. She may have pushed the button, but we need to know about the other names that have so far been redacted.”
David Wildstein isn’t talking. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and has been charged with contempt by the New Jersey State Assembly for refusing to answer the committee’s questions.
The New Jersey Assembly will release 907 pages of documents related to the lane closures today. A group of citizens has already filed a class-action civil lawsuit against Christie for stress and lost wages caused by the traffic jam.
Christie claims to have been blindsided by the whole ordeal. He accepted responsibility as the state’s top official, but insisted he was not involved in the plan to cause massive gridlock in any way and had no knowledge of Kelly or Wildstein’s involvement:
Wildstein and Christie had a close relationship, so why didn’t the governor call his Port Authority buddy to find out why the closures were ordered?
Christie’s insistence of his lack of knowledge or involvement in the scandal could come back to haunt him if contradictory information is revealed.
Did he know about – or order – the lane closures? Or is this a case of plausible deniability? Has Christie created a culture of vindictiveness and bullying in his administration that led his staff to believe he would appreciate an act of political retaliation?
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow offers an alternate theory about what induced the Fort Lee traffic jam if it wasn’t retaliation against Sokolich:
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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”