Chris Christie's "Bridge-gate" Explained 

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 8 2014 1:11 PM

Did Chris Christie Really Use Traffic to Get Back at His Political Foes? Probably.

ASBURY PARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 05: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks at his election night event after winning a second term at the Asbury Park Convention Hall on November 05, 2013 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Update, January 8, 4:40pm: Governor Christie has released a statement responding to documents linking him to lane closures around the George Washington Bridge. Via the Washington Post:

"What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable, and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions."

Original story, January 8, 1:10pm: Can’t get a Democratic mayor to endorse you for governor? Make residents of his town sit in gridlock traffic, brag about it by email and text message, then see what happens. That’s what newly obtained documents, subpoenaed from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, suggest took place in New Jersey last fall.

The governor? Chris Christie, a Republican with his eye on a 2016 presidential bid who claims bipartisan appeal. The mayor? Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who did not endorse Christie. The traffic? Three access lanes leading from Fort Lee, N.J., to the George Washington Bridge, mysteriously shutdown for four days in September of 2013. The result? Half hour bridge commutes were stretched into several hours, kids were late for school, one angry mayor, and a lot of questions.

Governor Christie claimed the closures were simply part of a local traffic study and his campaign office had nothing to do with them. In any case, Mayor Sokolich was not informed prior to the closings. Emails from his Christie’s staff to Port Authority officials show not only were they aware of the upcoming shutdown, but may have ordered it.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff in Mr. Christie’s office, emailed to Port Authority official David Wildstein weeks prior to the lane closures.

“Got it,” Wildstein, an appointee and close high school friend of Mr. Christie, wrote back. Then later, as the lanes were shutdown, via the New York Times:

“Is it wrong that I am smiling?” Mr. Wildstein texted Ms. Kelly.
“No,” she texted back.
“I feel badly about the kids,” he texted.
“They are the children of Buono voters,” she said, referring to Mr. Christie’s Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, who was trailing consistently in the polls and lost by a wide margin.

The Star-Ledger reports Wildstein, along with his supervisor, former Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, resigned from the Port Authority last month amid the growing controversy. Governor Christie’s office has been unavailable for comment on the latest revelations. According to the New York Times, Christie cancelled his one public event today, an update on New Jersey's Hurricane Sandy recovery.

You can read the full stash of heavily redacted documents yourself, care of the Bergen Record.

Elsewhere in Slate: Will Chris Christie Apologize?

Correction, January 8, 2013: The original article attributed the full set of newly revealed email and text documents to the Star Ledger. It was actually posted by the Bergen Record. The text has been corrected.



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