Everything You Need To Know About Chris Christie’s Bridge Scandal
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is being tied to massive traffic jams that took place last fall, and documents suggest the congestion was meant to be political revenge.
It sounds like a stretch – traffic problems hurt citizens, not politicians – but emails within the Republican Christie administration back up the story.
Here’s What Happened
Back in September, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed two lanes in New Jersey leading to the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey to upper Manhattan.
The lane closures were unexpected and unplanned, with the Port Authority stating it was conducting a “traffic study.” In reality, there didn’t seem to be any reason at all.
The stunt caused a huge traffic buildup on the Jersey side of the bridge, in Fort Lee. It lasted for a full week, affecting school buses and first responders as well as daily commuters.
Behind The Scenes
Rumors quickly surfaced that the closures were part of a political stunt. As officials looked into the incident, they found that it was connected to two specific Port Authority officials, Bill Baroni and David Wildstein. Both had close ties to Christie and have since resigned and taken up criminal defense attorneys.
The Christie administration has denied any connection to the incident. However, rumor spread that the stunt was political retribution against Mark Sokolich. Sokolich is the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. who endorsed Gov. Christie’s opponent, Barbara Buono, in the 2013 gubernatorial campaign.
What’s Happening Now
Now, documents supporting the rumors are going public. In response to a subpoena, the Christie administration is providing a series of emails and text messages related to the event.
In one email correspondence, Bridget Anne Kelly, a top Christie aide, wrote to Wildstein, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein replied, “Got it.”
On the day the lanes were closed, Wildstein received a text message reading, “Is it wrong that I’m smiling?” Wildstein wrote back, “No.” The unidentified person then referenced school buses stuck in the traffic, writing, “I feel badly about the kids. I guess.” Wildstein replied, “They are the children of Buono voters.”
Gov. Christie’s Response
Christie holds that he knew nothing of these messages at the time. In a statement yesterday, he said:
“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.”
The situation is still under investigation, but it’s sure to be a bumpy ride for Gov. Christie.