Emails released Wednesday appear to show a senior staffer for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordering two of three lanes on the George Washington Bridge to be closed as an act of political retaliation. The emails seem to directly contradict Christie’s repeated assertions that this was a traffic study gone bad that neither he nor anyone on his staff had anything to do with.
The most damning part of the brewing scandal — above and beyond punishing innocent voters — is almost certain to be the potentially life-threatening effect the unnecessary lane closures had on first responders: [emphasis added]
But the messages, mostly sent through personal e-mails accounts, indicate that Kelly, a senior staff member in the governor’s office, was involved in the planning and received updates during the week of the traffic jams. She was also informed that week that Christie’s executives at the Port Authority were ignoring the Fort Lee mayor’s desperate attempts to get a reason for the sudden unannounced closures, as the borough’s first responders struggled to respond to emergencies and buses arrived late on the first day of school.
The Record’s Road Warrior columnist John Chicowski details the days of traffic nightmares that snarled Fort Lee and the surrounding communities. Commuters waited hours, many giving up in frustration. School busses – heading in for the first days of the new year – were stuck for hours. Police struggled to keep vehicles moving. Emergency crews fought against the man-made tide to ferry patients with the clock ticking and the traffic not moving.
It is also believed that someone close to Christie made jokes about kids being snarled in traffic for hours:
In one exchange of text messages on the second day of the lane closures, Wildstein alludes to messages the Fort Lee mayor had left complaining that school buses were having trouble getting through the traffic.
“Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” the recipient of the text message responded to Wildstein. The person’s identity is not clear because the documents are partially redacted for unknown reasons.
“No,” Wildstein wrote in response.
“I feel badly about the kids,” the person replied to Wildstein. “I guess.”
“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein wrote, making a reference to Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, who lost to Christie in a landslide in November.
Wildstein is David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority who ordered the lane closures and resigned during an inquiry into his actions. During the inquiry, Wildstein testified that the closures were caused by a botched traffic study.
Three weeks before the lane closures, Wildstein received an email from Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy on Christie’s senior staff.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she wrote.
Wildstein responded with, “Got it.”
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