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Report: Christie's office involved in GWB lane closures

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Sign on the George Washington Bridge
Sign on the George Washington Bridge - (Shinya Suzuki / http://flic.kr/p/9FMsrP)

Gov. Chris Christie's deputy chief of staff and two executives at the Port Authority had knowledge of plans to close local lanes on the George Washington several weeks before the lanes shut down, a series of email and text message exchanges obtained and published by the Bergen Record show.

Those messages (embedded below) also point towards the move as political retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not issuing an endorsement of Christie in his reelection campaign.

Though Christie has repeatedly denied involvement in the four-day September closures and has specifically shot down the notion that the move was politically motivated, the newspaper's report indicates otherwise.

Messages obtained by the newspaper between Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein, a former Christie appointee at the Port Authority who resigned in December after others testified that he ordered the move, show that both knew of the closures and intended them to wreak havoc on local traffic in the town.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly wrote in an email to Wildstein three weeks before the closures, the newspaper reported.

Wildstein replied, "Got it."

Wildstein is scheduled to testify on the matter Thursday before the Assembly Transportation Committee.

The newspaper also revealed that when Kelly sent an email to Wildstein on the first morning of the lane closures asking if the Fort Lee mayor's phone calls to the Port Authority were being returned, Wildstein replied, "Radio silence." In the same email, Wildstein went on to note that the mayor's name "comes right after Mayor Fulop," indicating a likely jab at Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat who has been critical of the governor.

The newspaper also included a text message exchange between Wildstein and an unknown party, with the unidentified person asking, "Is it wrong that I'm smiling?" It went on to say, "I feel badly about the kids." Wildstein reportedly replied with, "No," and then said, "They are the children of Buono voters," the newspaper reported.

The message indicates a clear reference to State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen), who challenged Christie in last year's gubernatorial election.

Further messages published by the newspaper between Wildstein and other top Christie confidants reiterate the notion that the governor's office had involvement in the matter.

Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien called the Fort Lee mayor an "idiot" in one exchange with Wildstein, who then replied by saying, "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian," the newspaper reported.

Christie spokesperson Michael Drewniak did not reply to an email request for comment.

Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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