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More documents on GWB scandal released (UPDATE: Emails show rift at Port Authority between N.J., N.Y. officials)

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    "Thousands" of new documents tied to the George Washington Bridge scandal were released Friday afternoon. - (Thinkstock)

    “Thousands” of new documents subpoenaed by the Assembly Transportation Committee pertaining to the George Washington Bridge scandal were released Friday afternoon and made public.

    According to an Assembly official, the documents are now part of the public record and were posted online Friday afternoon. They contain "thousands of pages" of information.

    NJBIZ will update this story or publish additional information after reviewing the documents.

    UPDATE, Saturday 11 a.m.:

    A preliminary NJBIZ analysis of the documents made public Friday reveals tension between Port Authority officials from New York and New Jersey over four days of local lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last September.

    Emails released show Christie-appointed Chairman David Samson accusing Executive Director Patrick Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of leaking the issue to the press and "stirring up trouble."

    In an email dated Sept. 18, Samson wrote of his suspicions to Vice Chairman Scott Rechler, another Cuomo appointee.

    "I just read it and it confirms evidence of Foye's being the leak, stirring up trouble," Samson wrote. "This is yet another example of a story, we've seen it before, where he distances himself from an issue in the press and rides in on a white horse to save the day. (If you need prior examples I will provide) — in this case he's playing in traffic, made a big mistake."

    Rechler wrote back defending Foye, adding that it was possible that Samson and deputy director Bill Baroni, another Christie appointee at the center of the scandal, might have known something to suggest otherwise.

    Baroni resigned last month from his post as the scandal brewed.

    "I don't agree with your assessment of Pat's involvement," Rechler wrote to Samson.

    Foye was responsible for ordering the lanes to be reopened on Sept. 13, issuing a fiery email at the time to New Jersey officials promising that he would "get to the bottom of this." The decision to close the lanes, Foye added, violated "everything this agency stands for."

    That same day, an email sent by Christie appointee David Wildstein, who resigned last month, to the governor's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly indicated Foye's order was not well-received by his New Jersey counterparts.

    "The New York side gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning," Wildstein wrote to Kelly. "We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate."

    Kelly was fired on Thursday by Christie after he accused her of lying to him. Christie has maintained throughout the scandal that he had no prior knowledge of the matter.

    But Christie also noted on Thursday that Samson had informed him that he had no prior knowledge of the lane closures and was not involved. Samson also put out a statement Wednesday claiming as much.

    UPDATE, Friday 5 p.m.:

    In a statement put out accompanying the release of the additional documents Friday, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) points to a reference indicating a meeting occurring between Gov. Chris Christie and Port Authority chairman David Samson one week prior to an email exchange in which ex-deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly tells former authority appointee David Wildstein that it's "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

    By nature of the reference being submitted as part of the subpoenaed documents, Wisniewski says it pertains to the investigation and should be questioned.

    Christie expressed Thursday in his remarks that Samson informed him that he had no knowledge of the scandal.

    Wisniewski added that the documents also bring in to question just how much Christie's office knew since it had to plan for what he refers to as "spin control."

    "As with so much else we've discovered during this investigation, these documents raise many more questions," Wisniewski said. "It's obvious that senior members of the governor's staff were involved in spin control once this story broke."

    BACKGROUND:

    On Wednesday, a portion of the subpoenaed documents were released and showed for the first time a direct link between Gov. Chris Christie's office and the four days of mysterious lane closures at the bridge last September.

    After weeks of denying his office's involvement in the matter, Christie acknowledged the controversy on Thursday at a Statehouse press conference and apologized for the actions of his staffers.

    Christie maintains that he has had no knowledge of the lane closures, was not in any way involved and was lied to by his staff. Only Wednesday did he first see the messages, he claims.

    The messages indicate the move came as a form of political retaliation against Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie during his 2013 re-election campaign.

    Names linked to the scandal through the documents include Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, campaign manager Bill Stepien, Port Authority appointee David Wildstein and authority Deputy Director Bill Baroni.

    Christie announced Thursday that, as a result, he had fired Kelly and would be cutting ties with Stepien. Wildstein and Baroni both resigned last month.




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    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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