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Christie's bridge scandal, Part 3

Last fall's George Washington Bridge lane closures have opened up a series of stories and developments linked to Governor Chris Christie.
Last fall's George Washington Bridge lane closures have opened up a series of stories and developments linked to Governor Chris Christie.
NY Post

As previously discussed, the next development in the ongoing George Washington Bridge scandal was the release of thousands of pages of documents related to this matter.

A fair amount of the documents presented were given to the panel by David Wildstein's attorney. The documents presented included internal communications among Port Authority traffic officials regarding a traffic study conducted when the bridge's Fort Lee lanes were closed last September. There were extensive conversations commenting on the outrage over the lane closures, the delays, and potential costs financially that could come from the lane closures. Within the traffic study files is also a "Conclusions" final page. That page however was left blank, which would lead one to further wonder what was truly going on.

Additionally, David Samson of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey outlined his criticisms for the agency's executive director, Patrick Foye, for leaking information related to the lane closures. Samson saw Foye as someone "stirring up trouble". Samson ultimately saw Foye as the person who provided the spark that has unleashed the fire that has transpired related to this matter. Much like what has been the case as early findings were released, a blame game continued to take place as those on Foye's side of the argument deflected blame back to Samson. Then blame began to circulate to other members of the Port Authority as well as those in Governor Chris Christie's administration.

Probably not too surprising, the exchange between David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly about a need to cause traffic problems was also part of the lengthy documents. A new wrinkle to their conversations was showcased in terms of the discussions and infighting between Samson and Foye and how its developments were potentially going to impact any conversations they were having related to the lane closures.

Clearly the biggest takeaways from the documents involve conversations from September 8th (the day before the lane closures) through the 9th-13th (the days that the lane closures took place).

One of the biggest statements comes from Foye when talking about the lane closures.

For Foye,

I am appalled by the lack of process, failure to inform our customers and Fort Lee and most of all by the dangers created to public interest, so I am reversing this decision now effective as soon as TBT and PAPD tell me it is safe to do so today. This hasty and ill-advised decision has resulted in delays to emergency vehicles. I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed. ... I believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates Federal Law and the laws of both States. To be clear, I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for; I intend to learn how PA process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged to say nothing of the credibility of this agency.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), along with multiple other Democrats, were far from satisfied or felt like enough had been proven or revealed in the wake of the documents being released. As these documents only continued to crack the surface. It still rubbed him the wrong way that someone like Kelly, a close aide and important member of Christie's cabinet, made these decisions and never mentioned anything before or after the lane closures to Christie.

As he would state,

Hard to believe that Bridget Kelly came up with the idea by herself to close the lanes on the George Washington Bridge. So we need to know who else on the governor’s staff — or campaign — started that process that gave her the belief or feeling that she could issue that. You have an administration that is very hands-on. It strains credibility to say that somebody in as high a position as a deputy chief of staff, somebody in as high a position as the governor’s principal spokesperson, somebody in as high a position as his campaign manager, all of whose names are in these emails, didn’t ever communicate this to the governor.

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) would add,

It took four months and a series of subpoenas to flesh this out. The lack of accountability, beginning at the very top levels, is what I have found very, very frustrating. It's time for everyone to come clean on what went on here. Residents in the state of New Jersey were being punished for some political reason, apparently. That starts with the Governor's office, works its way through the Port Authority commissioners and down to the people who apparently gave the direction to do this. If in fact they gave the order to do that, then the Governor is implicated either by being directly involved, or by having set up an environment that his staff felt free to do this kind of stuff. People feel bullied. That's not an atmosphere that New Jersey residents should be subjected to.

The documents and what was revealed also led Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) to openly discuss the necessity for more studies and hearings in the Assembly.

For Prieto,

The documents released related to the George Washington Bridge situation clearly show the need for a continued thorough investigation by the New Jersey General Assembly. Many questions remain unanswered about this threat to public safety and abuse of power. I expect to call the Assembly into special session to consider legislation that would reauthorize subpoena power so this investigation can continue. Chairman Wisniewski has done an outstanding and professional job leading this investigation, and I look forward to working with him as he continues to lead our inquiry.

With the all of these documents to discuss in addition to what was already revealed, it looked like this process of hearings and studies was still in its early stages with legislators like Wisniewski looking to continue push for more details and information especially from the governor.