Fort Lee lane closure scandal

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Fort Lee (highlighted in yellow) with George Washington Bridge marked as I-95 over the Hudson River to Manhattan, New York City

The Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal or Bridgegate,[1][2] is a U.S. political scandal in which a staff member and certain political appointees of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie collaborated to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing local lanes at an eastbound upper-level toll plaza entrance[3][4] to the George Washington Bridge.[5]

The problems began on Monday, September 9, 2013, when two of three toll lanes were closed to traffic from Fort Lee prior to the morning rush hour and reallocated to the main traffic from state and interstate expressways. The resulting massive back-ups and gridlock on local streets only ended when the lanes were reopened on Friday, September 13, 2013 by an order from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who said that the PA's procedure protocols had been subverted without his knowledge and that he believed the closures were unlawful.[6] Local area officials and emergency services officers, as well as the general public, were not notified of the lane closures. Fort Lee officials declared the unannounced closures a threat to public safety.[7] The exact motives for the traffic disruptions are unclear. One frequently cited theory is that they were political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie, a Republican, in the 2013 gubernatorial election.[8][9] Investigators are also examining other possible motives, such as whether the closures were intended to affect Sokolich's promotion of a major real estate development project that was underway at the Fort Lee bridge access point.[9][10]

Christie said in a February 2014 radio interview that he “unequivocally” had no knowledge of, and did not approve or authorize plans to close the local toll lanes, and found out about the traffic jams from a Wall Street Journal story when it reported on a leaked e-mail from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye after the lanes had reopened.[11] Christie was cleared by an investigation report prepared by a law firm hired for the governor's office.[12][13] Critics and a majority of New Jerseyans, surveyed in subsequent opinion polls, believed the report was a "whitewash" and disagreed with many of its findings.[14][15][16][17] Critics also noted that the law firm was unable to interview key participants involved in the planning or aftermath of the lane closures and related controversies, who refused to be interviewed for the report, which they claimed read like a legal brief on behalf of the governor instead of an even-handed analysis of the evidence.[18][19]

Several of Christie's appointees and aides either resigned or were forced out as investigations into their involvement in the planning or aftermath of the closures intensified.[20][21] David Wildstein, on whose direct orders the traffic lanes had been closed,[22] and Bill Baroni, who had told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures had only been for a traffic study,[23] resigned following sworn testimony by Foye and other PA officials that the two men had violated protocols and had sought to hide their plans for the lane closings from Fort Lee and other officials.[8] Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, who had e-mailed Wildstein advising him that it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee", was fired by Christie, who said she had not been forthcoming with him about her involvement in the closures. Christie's close political adviser and election campaign manager, Bill Stepien, resigned after Christie said that he was disturbed by the tone of Stepiens's emails related to the lane closures.[24][25] David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority, resigned on March 28, 2014.[26]

Christie sustained a substantial erosion in his political standing and 2016 presidential campaign prospects,[27][28] as federal prosecutor and state legislative investigations were opened and more information became publicly available about the scandal.[29][30]

As of April 2014, investigations were underway by the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, the New Jersey Legislature, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Background[edit]

GW Bridge over the Hudson River; looking east from Fort Lee to Manhattan

The George Washington Bridge, a double-decked toll bridge, is the busiest motor-vehicle bridge in the world,[31][32] with a toll to go from New Jersey to New York.[33] There are 29 operating toll lanes,[34] spread among three toll plazas.[35][36][37] At the main toll plaza for the upper level, there are twelve toll lanes and a Fort Lee entrance at Martha Washington Way (also called Park Avenue).[3] During rush hours, for the past 30 years or longer,[38](p86) the three lanes located farthest to the right (south end of the toll plaza) are ordinarily reserved for local traffic entering from Fort Lee and the surrounding communities.[4] This local traffic is segregated by movable traffic cones from the heavier traffic of the major highways.[39] There are other Fort Lee street entrances, which do not have dedicated toll lanes, to the lower and upper levels of the bridge.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ or simply the PA) is overseen by a Board of Commissioners. Under an informal power-sharing agreement, the Governor of New Jersey chooses the chairman of the board and the deputy executive director, while the Governor of New York selects the vice-chairman and executive director.[40][41]

Chris Christie, a Republican, was first elected Governor of New Jersey in November 2009 and re-elected in November 2013. During his first term, he appointed Bill Baroni as deputy executive director of the PA.[8] David Wildstein, a local politician and political blogger who had known Christie during high school, was hired by Baroni based on Christie's referral and recommendation in May 2010.[42][43] As director of interstate capital projects, Wildstein was New Jersey's second highest executive at the Port Authority,[44] and often substituted for Baroni at major meetings.[42]

Key people[edit]

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich
Person[45] Role Notes
Port Authority (PA)
Bill Baroni Deputy Executive Director
(Appointed by Christie)
Resigned on December 13, 2013; as supervisor of David Wildstein, he has been accused of collaborating in the planning and trying to cover up the toll lane closures. Baroni now works for the Hill Wallack law firm's office in Princeton.[46]
Patrick "Pat" Foye Executive Director
(Appointed by Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo)
Authored e-mail critical of closure and ordered re-opening of the local toll lanes on September 13, 2013.
David Samson Chairman of the PA Board of Commissioners
(Appointed by Christie)
Partner in Wolff & Samson law firm
Was involved in addressing the aftermath, as shown in a series of subpoenaed written communications; Samson's law practice generated complaints of conflict of interest with his PA role; resigned from the PA on March 28, 2014.
David Wildstein Director of Interstate Capital Projects
(Recommended by Christie; hired by and worked under Baroni)[42]
Resigned on December 13, 2013 since he planned and covered up the toll lane closures; gave direct orders to PA staff to implement the toll lane closures and to make no disclosures to Fort Lee officials and the public.
Office of the Governor
Chris Christie Governor of New Jersey Claimed no direct knowledge about his aides' involvement until he read news on January 8, 2014, based on subpoenaed communications; authorized an internal investigation in Dec 2013 that purportedly showed no involvement by his staff.
Michael Drewniak Press Secretary to Christie Was involved in addressing the aftermath and media inquiries at the governor's office and some at the PA, as shown in subpoenaed written communications. Testified before a federal grand jury on April 4, 2014.
Regina Egea Director of the Authorities Unit Received the Foye e-mail on September 13, 2013; was scheduled to replace O'Dowd if his nomination to State Attorney General was confirmed by the New Jersey Senate.
Bridget Anne Kelly Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Authored August 13, 2013, e-mail to Wildstein: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee"; fired by Christie on January 9, 2014.
Charlie McKenna Chief Counsel to Christie Ran Dec 2013 investigation into Governor's Office involvement (with O'Dowd); became director of NJSDA that month and was replaced by Christopher Porrino;[47] purportedly the "Charlie" in subpoenaed texts and e-mails.
Kevin O'Dowd Chief of Staff to Christie Ran Governor's Office investigation (with McKenna); nominated in December 2013 for State Attorney General; January confirmation hearing was postponed due to potential conflict since he ran Christie's investigation.
Bill Stepien Christie's political consultant and election campaign manager (including governor elections in 2009 and 2013); Former Deputy Chief of Staff for intergovernmental affairs (prior to Fort Lee scandal events) Removed by Christie on January 8, 2014, as political adviser, and nominee for Republican Party State Chairman for NJ, due to his comments about the aftermath based on subpoenaed communications. Stepien now works for FLS Connect, a Republican voter contact consulting firm in Minnesota with previous ties to Christie.[48]
State and Federal Investigators
Paul J. Fishman United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Opened an inquiry in January 2014; in 2009, sworn into his position, which had been held by Christie in 2008.
Reid Schar Special counsel to a joint special investigative committee for the New Jersey Legislature To assist the committee in the legal aspects of their investigation; Jenner & Block, Schar's law firm, represented Assembly Democrats in New Jersey's legislative redistricting battles of 2011 and 2001.[49]
Loretta Weinberg Co-chair of a joint special investigative committee for the New Jersey Legislature State Senate majority leader (Democrat); On January 27, 2014, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly voted to create a joint committee in order to take over the investigation from the Assembly Transportation Committee.
John Wisniewski Co-chair of a joint special investigative committee for the New Jersey Legislature and chair of Assembly Transportation Committee Deputy speaker and Democratic member of the Assembly; Transportation Committee began hearings in November 2013 and obtained subpoenaed documents that began to identify key figures and their actions in the toll lane closures and alleged cover-up.

Events[edit]

During the week of August 4, 2013, Christie met with David Samson, Christie's appointed chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority. The deputy speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, John Wisniewski, who, as chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee had been leading the Assembly's investigation into the closures, alleged that David Wildstein, the Christie appointee who ordered the closures, must have believed the meeting was related to the lane closures, because a reference to the meeting was included in the subpoenaed documents Wildstein submitted in which all information not pertaining to the Fort Lee lane closures had been redacted.[50]

On August 13, Bridget Anne Kelly, deputy chief of staff in Christie's office, sent an eight-word e-mail to David Wildstein, a senior official at the PA with close ties to Christie,[51] that read, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."[52] Wildstein responded to Kelly's e-mail: "Got it."[53]

On September 6, Wildstein instructed George Washington Bridge manager, Robert Durando, not to tell anyone in Fort Lee about the upcoming closure, not even the police. When he questioned the order, which he thought was "odd" since he had never been instructed in his 35-year career not to tell host town officials about an event that would disrupt traffic, Wildstein told him "it would impact the study" if people knew and Wildstein "wanted to see what would naturally happen".[54]

Wildstein sent an e-mail the same day to Kelly informing her that Christie had approved $60,000 to fund a traffic study for Springfield in Union County. The Democratic mayor, David Amlen, did not endorse Christie for re-election and was not informed of the approval of their requested traffic study until after Christie won re-election.[55]

Closure[edit]

Prior to the morning rush hour on Monday, September 9, 2013, two of the three dedicated toll lanes at one of the Fort Lee entrances[3][4] to the upper level of the GW Bridge were closed to local use, and were reallocated to the main highway traffic, on orders from Wildstein without notification of Fort Lee government and police officials. In an area that normally experiences a great deal of traffic, the lane closings caused a significant increase in traffic congestion. This led to major delays for school transportation and police and emergency responses within Fort Lee, both during and after the peak hours of travel, starting on the first day of the school year.[4][56]

According to the Fort Lee emergency medical services coordinator, traffic jams delayed paramedic response times, including a 9-1-1 call for Florence Genova, who subsequently died of cardiac arrest.[57][58] In January 2014, her daughter told The New York Times that she "wants to stay out of it. It's politics". She noted her mother's advanced age (91) and opined that "it was just her time".[59]

In at least one instance, emergency medical workers were forced to leave their ambulance and respond on foot because traffic congestion was so heavy.[60] Emergency responders were delayed nearly one hour in rendering assistance to a man experiencing chest pains.[61]

Within hours of the closure, various Port Authority officials were being told that the traffic delays posed a threat to public safety. At 9:29 a.m., Matthew Bell, a special assistant to Bill Baroni, e-mailed Baroni regarding "urgent matter of public safety in Fort Lee". Fort Lee borough administrator Peggy Thomas e-mailed the PA's director of government and community relations, Tina Lado, with her concerns, noting that police and emergency departments received no advance notice of the closures.[62] At 11:24 a.m., Lado e-mailed both Wildstein and Baroni informing them that due to the closures, police and ambulances were having difficulty responding to emergencies. That e-mail noted two specific incidents: a missing child (later found) and a cardiac arrest.[63][64] These safety warnings were reportedly ignored.[62]

Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly e-mailed Wildstein and asked about his response, if any, to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. Wildstein responded: "Radio silence. His name comes right after Mayor Fulop [of Jersey City]."[65]

On Tuesday, September 10, Sokolich texted Baroni: "Presently we have four very busy traffic lanes merging into only one toll booth.... bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It's maddening."[8] Kelly's text message exchange with Wildstein referred to the mayor's message. Kelly asked, "Is it wrong that I am smiling?" Wildstein replied, "No." Kelly then wrote, "I feel badly about the kids. I guess." Wildstein responded, "They are the children of Buono voters," referring to Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic opponent in the November election.[66][67][68]

On Wednesday, September 11, Robert Durando said in a Port Authority e-mail that if the automated toll lanes were closed permanently in favor of one manned lane for local traffic, it would be "very expensive" since annual toll-collector costs would increase approximately $600,000. This would have covered overtime, as well as stationing reserve employees when a scheduled toll collector was not able to work. He said there would be additional, but still to be determined costs, for PA police due to their coverage of traffic for a greatly extended rush hour.[69][70]

On Thursday, September 12, PA engineers said that reported delays for local traffic greatly exceeded any time savings for the major highway traffic based on reported information for vehicle travel times on Interstate 95 and local traffic counts from that week. In an internal PowerPoint presentation, it was estimated that the extra daily morning rush hour time, 2,800 vehicle-hours, endured by local traffic on a typical day greatly outweighed time savings, 966 vehicle-hours, for the I-95 traffic.[71]

Sokolich wrote to Baroni that "many members of the public have informed me that the PA police officers are advising commuters [...] that this recent traffic debacle is the result of a decision that I, as the Mayor, recently made."[72]

Re-opening and immediate aftermath[edit]

On Friday, September 13, 2013, Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority and an appointee of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, ordered that the lanes be reopened in a strongly worded e-mail to senior PA officials and staff, including Bill Baroni and David Samson. In the e-mail, Foye called the decision to close the lanes "hasty and ill-advised", said that the decision violated policy and long-standing custom at the PA, and that he believed that closing the lanes "violates Federal Law and the laws of both States." Foye asked his spokesman to get the word out. Upon learning this, Baroni attempted to prevent any disclosure in order to keep the public in the dark.[73][74] Additionally, Baroni forwarded the e-mail to Regina Egea, Christie's Director of the authorities unit overseeing the PA, three hours after it was sent by Foye.[70][75]

During and after the lane closures, "hundreds of pages of e-mails and internal documents" showed "how Christie loyalists inside the PA worked to orchestrate a cover-up after traffic mayhem" in Fort Lee. In September, as more reporters began asking about the GW Bridge problems, officials conferred on how to respond.[76] On September 13, The Record reported the outrage commuters were expressing toward the PA following days of long, inbound delays, and Fort Lee officials' unsuccessful efforts to get an explanation.[77] Then on September 16, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked PA spokesman Coleman about what had occurred after some Journal editors had been in traffic the previous week. "Coleman passed the query up the chain of command" and Wildstein forwarded it to Baroni, commenting "I call bullshit on this." Further inquiries were directed by Coleman to Baroni and Wildstein, asking how they wanted the PA to respond, and Wildstein forwarded one of these inquiries to Christie's press secretary and chief spokesman, Michael Drewniak. Coleman also wrote to Baroni and Wildstein, "I will not respond unless instructed to do so."[76]

On September 17, Wildstein informed Baroni that he had received a call from Wall Street Journal reporter Tedd Mann. "Jesus", Baroni replied, "Call Drewniak".[23]

The e-mails showed efforts by Christie appointees in the PA and his office in Trenton to respond to the aftermath and media inquiries for the toll lane closures. The participants included Christie appointees Baroni, Wildstein, and PA Chairman Samson, as well as Drewniak and Maria Comella, Communications Director. In a September 18 e-mail, Samson warned that Foye is "playing in traffic, made a big mistake" in response to a leak to The Wall Street Journal for their September 17 story citing unnamed PA officials as saying the decision to close the toll lanes had caused tensions within the bi-state agency.[20][78]

In other communications, officials used an ethnic pejorative to refer to the Fort Lee mayor. In an e-mail from Wildstein responding to Bill Stepien, he said "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian", derogatorily referring to Sokolich, who is Croatian-American.[79] Baroni referred to "Serbia" in text messages in another apparent reference to Mayor Sokolich.[80][81] Sokolich told The Huffington Post: "That slight is offensive to me, and it's offensive to me of everyone of Serbian background. If I were Serbian, I would be absolutely, positively appalled by it."[82] The Serbian remarks received the attention of Serbian and Croatian media, and was commented upon by the Serbian government's Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region.[82]

On October 9, Philippe Danielides, a senior adviser to Samson, e-mailed Wildstein a daily news summary and asked "Has any thought been given to writing an op-ed or providing a statement about the GWB study? Or is the plan just to hunker down and grit our way through it?" Wildstein replied "Yes and yes" and forwarded these e-mails to Baroni.[76] Wildstein sought advice from Drewniak, with the two meeting in person on December 4.[83] On December 6, Wildstein announced he would resign at the end of the year, saying the response to the traffic lanes closure had become "a distraction". At a December 13 press conference, Christie announced the immediate resignations of Baroni and Wildstein.[23]

Early media coverage[edit]

The first story in the media about the lane closures, and the first to bring politics into the mix, was reported by The Record's John Cichowski in his September 13, Road Warrior column that there was speculation that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was punished "either for failing to endorse Governor Christie's election bid or for pushing through a $500 million, 47-story high-rise housing development near the bridge, or for failing to support the Port's last toll hike."[77]

On September 17, Ted Mann of The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about what could have possibly prompted the Port Authority to close toll lanes to local traffic without public notifications. Citing anonymous sources, he reported that "the decision to close the traffic lanes caused tension" since "the lane closures came as a surprise to some high-ranking officials at the bi-state agency." He said that the toll lanes were reopened to local traffic based on an order from Executive Director Patrick Foye, "who argued that the abrupt shift in traffic patterns caused a threat to public safety and should have been advertised to the public ahead of time."[84]

On October 1, his newspaper report was the first to address the contents and quote some of the text from Foye's September 13, 2013 e-mail to PA officials ordering the toll lanes to be reopened, while denouncing the closures as an "abusive decision" and pledging to investigate "how PA process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged" without Foye's knowledge. The e-mail said that there were potential violations of state and federal laws. PA insiders disputed that there was a traffic study. All of this reinforced the reported rumors that the toll lanes might have been closed by political surrogates of Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, as an alleged act of political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign.[85] The Record, The Wall Street Journal, and other news media continued to investigate the matter in comprehensive reporting over the next few months, using sources and requests for public records.

The scandal broke in full on January 8, 2014, with an online story by The Record[86][87] that Christie's deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly was involved in the planning of the toll lane closures. That revelation catapulted the story into a national political event. The Record continued with details of the dialogues in the troves of e-mails and texts supplied to the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee by David Wildstein. The Record described "vindictive lane closures" that were intended to cause massive traffic jams in Fort Lee. Related news with quotes from the e-mails and texts were subsequently published the same day in other news media.[8][88]

During his January 9 press conference about the scandal, Governor Christie cited The Record as breaking the pivotal story on January 8.[24]

Investigations[edit]

According to The New York Times, the e-mails discussing the lane closure "could represent evidence that government resources were used for political purposes, a potential crime".[8] According to legal experts, federal prosecutors also could "examine whether the obstruction of interstate commerce on the bridge between New Jersey and New York" violated federal law, and either federal or state prosecutors also might "build a cover-up case, rather than one based on the traffic tie-ups themselves".[89]

On January 17, Alan Zegas, Wildstein's attorney, said that his client would offer to shed light on the scandal on the condition that he is given immunity from prosecution from the relevant federal and state law enforcement agencies. There has not been any offer of immunity from the office of the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, which is reviewing the matter.[90]

A joint legislative committee, New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, was created on January 27 to take over the original investigation by the Assembly Transportation Committee.[91]

Assembly Transportation Committee investigation[edit]

On October 2, 2013, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), said that he would open an investigation with the Assembly Transportation Committee to determine whether or not the lane closures were politically motivated.[21]

The first hearing was held on November 25, for which Bill Baroni attended on behalf of the PA. Baroni, who was not sworn in to testify under oath, said that David Wildstein had ordered a study to determine if closing two of the Fort Lee toll lanes, and assigning them to mainline traffic, would shorten delays for commuters from other parts of New Jersey. Baroni argued that it was unfair that Fort Lee drivers occupied three out of the 12 lanes on the upper level, despite being only 4.5% of all traffic. Committee members pointed out that 4.5% was based on the number of E-ZPass users from Fort Lee that use all approaches to the bridge, and that vehicles from many other towns, besides Fort Lee, use that Fort Lee entrance. He admitted the actual percentage of vehicles, which utilize that Fort Lee entrance, could be higher than 4.5% of overall traffic, and also failed to mention that there are actually 29 operating toll lanes for the bridge when comparing the three dedicated toll lanes for this entrance.[92][93]

Wildstein turned over heavily redacted documents in response to the subpoena.

Baroni said that with the reduction in Fort Lee toll lanes, traffic data showed that the mainline traffic travel times in the express lanes' approach to the bridge were about four minutes faster on two days. He apologized for what he acknowledged was the agency's failure to properly communicate with local officials and the public in advance of this project.[92][94] Following the hearing, Wisniewski called the closures at best "clumsy and ham-handed" and at worst "political mischief by a political appointee and another political appointee that they did not make available for testimony", referring to Wildstein's non-attendance.[95]

Immediately after Baroni made his presentation, the following text exchange occurred, according to subpoenaed documents from Wildstein:[96][97]

Wildstein: You did great
Baroni: Trenton feedback?
Wildstein: Good
Wildstein: [Senator Kevin] O'Toole statement ready
Baroni: Just good? Shit
Wildstein: No I have only texted brudget [Bridget Anne Kelly] and Nicole they were VERY happy
Wildstein: Both said you are doing great
Wildstein: Charlie said you did GREAT

O'Toole released a statement that day to the media, echoing various talking points from Baroni's presentation. All of this suggested that O'Toole had prior communications with Wildstein and possibly Baroni.[98]

According to a Republican source, it appeared that "Nicole" refers to Nicole Crifo (then senior counsel to the authorities unit in the Governor's office), who was served in the February 10 round of subpoenas, rather than Nicole Davidman Drewniak (Finance Director for Christie's 2013 election campaign and wife of Michael Drewniak), who was served with the round of subpoenas due February 3.[99][100] In January 2014, Crifo quietly took a job in the PA as chief of staff to Bill Baroni's replacement as deputy director, Deborah Gramiccioni.[101]

On December 9, Wisniewski subpoenaed Foye and career PA staffers to testify under oath about the lane closures. Robert Durando, George Washington Bridge manager, said that he feared retaliation if he did not follow Wildstein's orders to close two toll lanes to local traffic and not notify local officials or the public about these changes. Durando and Cedrick Fulton, director of tunnels, bridges, and terminals, both said that they were personally told by Wildstein that he would notify Foye of the change.[54][102] Foye said that he was unaware of any traffic study until he ordered its termination on September 13, and blamed Wildstein for the toll lane changes, while believing Baroni was involved in the planning.[38][103] When Wildstein called Fulton on September 6 to inform him that the lane closures would begin on September 9, Fulton explained that he thought that was unusual since planning for traffic disruptions on major facilities typically starts years in advance. He said that he told Wildstein, “This will not end well”, due to expected traffic problems.[54]

Redacted documents were turned over under a subpoena to investigators of the committee and those documents were turned over to The New York Times and other news media.[8][104] On January 8, 2014, The Star-Ledger, The Record, The New York Times, and other news media published e-mails and text messages tying Bridget Kelly, deputy chief of staff in Christie's office, to the closure. The content of the released communications said that the lane closures were ordered with the knowledge that they would cause a massive traffic jam.[88][105] Christie released a statement later that day denying knowledge of the scandal, rebuking Kelly for her role in the lane closure event, and vowing that "people will be held responsible for their actions" in the affair.[106]

A Republican member of the Assembly committee complained that the Republican members had not been given sufficient time to review the subpoenaed documents in advance of hearing testimony: "Allowing Republican committee members less than 24 hours to review more than 900 pages of information is a disservice to the bipartisan committee process.... As chairman, he [Wisniewski] should be impartial and provide committee members, regardless of their political affiliation, a reasonable opportunity to review documents he has had access to for weeks".[107]

On January 9, 2014, David Wildstein, who appeared with his attorney, Alan Zegas, refused to testify before the committee, invoking the right against self-incrimination in the federal and New Jersey constitutions. The committee voted to hold Wildstein in contempt, asserting that the right against self-incrimination did not apply in such a hearing.[108][109]

Wisniewski said "I do think laws have been broken. Public resources—the bridge, police officers—all were used for a political purpose, for some type of retribution, and that violates the law".[110] He called it "unbelievable"[111] that Christie did not know anything about his aides' plans, stating: "It's hard to really accept the governor's statement that he knew nothing until the other morning". He also raised the issue of the potential for Christie's impeachment if Christie was aware of his aides' actions.[112]

Special legislative investigative committees[edit]

On January 16, the New Jersey Assembly and Senate each created committees to take over the investigation from the Assembly Transportation Committee. The Assembly committee hired Reid Schar as special counsel, who would assist in the investigation. He is a former assistant U.S. attorney from Illinois who assisted in the prosecution of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.[113][114]

The New Jersey Assembly re-authorized the legislative subpoena powers, which were immediately used to subpoena two organizations and 18 individuals (including Christie's appointees and aides listed in the Key Figures table above) in Christie's administration, his 2013 election campaign, and the Port Authority. Those receiving subpoenas were instructed to submit by February 3 all documents and communications, going back to September 1, 2012, related to the reassignment of the two toll lanes during the week of September 9, 2013, and any attempts to conceal the activities or reasons related to that incident. While Christie himself was not subpoenaed, his governor's office and 2013 campaign organization received subpoenas.[115]

New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation[edit]

On January 21, Assemblyman Wisniewski and State Senate majority leader Loretta Weinberg, whose district includes Fort Lee, announced that the Senate and Assembly committees were being merged into a bi-partisan joint investigative committee of 12 members, and that they would co-chair the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation. While the committee initially focused on the Bridgegate scandal, it had the power to investigate other allegations against the Christie administration.[91][116]

On January 24, the members of the bi-partisan committee were announced. It consisted of eight Assembly representatives, including five Democrats and three Republicans, and four Senators, including three Democrats and one Republican. At the time, 40% of the members of the New Jersey Legislature were Republican. Besides the two Democratic co-chairs, members included Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-Bergen), Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris), Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex), Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex), Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-Bergen), Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer), and an unnamed Republican Senator.[117] On January 27, both houses voted unanimously to combine the investigations, maintaining the partisan balance, and announced Kevin O'Toole's (R-Essex) inclusion,[118] despite his mention in a December 5 e-mail from Wildstein to Michael Drewniak.[119]

As a precautionary move, the new investigative committee re-issued subpoenas that had been sent earlier, with the requested records still due on the original deadline, February 3.[120]

In a January 31 letter to Reid Schar, general counsel for the legislative committee, Kevin Marino, the attorney for Stepien, said that he would not submit anything in response to their subpoena and requested its withdrawal, citing his client's Fifth Amendment right and New Jersey common law privileges against self-incrimination, with regard to the criminal inquiry underway by the U.S. Attorney, and Fourth Amendment and New Jersey Constitution (Article I, paragraph 7) rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Wisniewski said the subpoena was perfectly sound, and that Schar would review the attorney’s objections and consider the committee's legal options.[121][122] Michael Critchley, the attorney for Kelly, submitted a letter that his client would not comply with the subpoena based on similar claims.[123]

On February 3, Wisniewski and Weinberg issued a statement, without details, that some responses to subpoenas had been received and that extensions for submissions had been granted to others. Mark Sheridan, an attorney for Christie's campaign organization, said it had been granted an extension while it awaited an opinion from the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, which on February 11 allowed the campaign to use existing funds and raise funds to pay its legal bills in response to the NJ Legislature and federal subpoenas for general evidence. It could not use those funds in response to any criminal investigations.[124][125]

On February 10, the committee voted to reject the objections raised by the lawyers of Stepien and Kelly to not comply with the subpoenas for their records, and to compel Stepien and Kelly to produce all related documents, instructing special counsel Reid Schar to "take all necessary steps" to enforce the subpoenas. All four Republicans abstained in the vote. They claimed that they did not have enough time to review the legal arguments, including Fifth Amendment rights, presented in Schar's legal brief countering the lawyers' objections.[126][127]

On the same day, the committee announced it was issuing 18 new subpoenas to individuals within the Governor's office and the Port Authority that also included new recipients, as well as the Governor's office itself and Christie's 2013 re-election campaign. The new recipients included assistants to Foye, Wildstein, Baroni, and Kelly. Other new PA recipients included Christie referral, Phillip Kwon, deputy general counsel, Christie appointee William "Pat" Schuber, a commissioner, who had served in a variety of local, county, and state elected positions in New Jersey, and Steve Coleman, deputy director of media relations.[100][128] One of the subpoenas was sent to the New Jersey State Police aviation unit for flight information records when Christie used a state helicopter during the toll lane closings. An agency spokesperson said that Christie had not used one to fly over the Fort Lee area during the lane closings.[129] The subpoenas also sought information related to any dossiers[130] compiled by Christie's re-election campaign and his Governor's office on Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich.[131]

The subpoenas sought information for records from staff at the PA and the Governor's office related to preparations for Baroni's presentation to the Assembly Transportation Committee's November 25, 2013 hearing.[131] Wildstein's attorney had claimed that Wildstein was present during some of the times when Kwon, who attended the committee hearing, helped prepare Baroni over several days for his presentation about a traffic study and other issues related to the local toll lane closures. A PA spokesman said: "Meeting with a witness prior to testimony is a routine function of any lawyer and any attempt to assign ulterior motives to this general practice is unwarranted." Kwon served as first assistant attorney general during Christie's first term as governor and previously worked for him in the U.S. Attorney General's office in New Jersey. He was also Christie's 2012 Supreme Court justice nominee, who was blocked by Democratic state legislative members.[132]

One of the subpoenas sought documents from the PANYNJ related to toll increases for the tunnels and bridges and Christie's 2010 decision to cancel the Access to the Region's Core project, specifically with regard to projected cost overruns. It also requested the names of job candidates sent by Christie's office to the agency.[131]

On February 19, it was reported that the co-chairs said that the committee would need to question Senator O'Toole about what he knew, including any communications with Baroni and/or Wildstein, prior to Baroni's November 25 presentation to the Assembly Transportation Committee. A previously redacted November 25 text message from Wildstein to Baroni said that O'Toole was ready with a statement, which was issued to the media, that echoed talking points from Baroni's same day presentation and attacked the Democrats investigating these issues. O'Toole followed up with an editorial in The Record that elaborated on these talking points and attacks. It raised further questions on whether O'Toole should continue to serve on the committee.[97][98]

On February 28, Bonnie Watson Coleman withdrew from the committee, a day after she called on Christie to resign as governor due to the culture of bullying she says was fostered under him.[133] On March 21, Assembly Speaker Vincent Pietro named Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Camden) to fill that vacancy.[134]

On March 31, Wisniewski announced the intention to subpoena notes, records, and interviews from the inquiry conducted for the Governor's Office by Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, since they had not been made available to the committee. Wisniewski said that there would be questions about the objectivity and independence of that investigation if subpoenaed items were withheld. In response, Mastro released a statement saying that the Governor's Office did not release interview transcripts because of its cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office's investigation and would respond to any subpoena request, when received. These matters could go to court if the Governor's Office tried to exercise any rights not to provide subpoenaed items.[135][136] On April 11, the committee received the list of 75 persons interviewed by Mastro's team.[137][138] Wisniewski said that he expected all existing interview materials in "whatever form", or the committee would issue a subpoena.[138] The interview notes, marked "privileged and confidential attorney opinion work product", were turned over to the legislative committee and U.S. Attorney's Office, and publicly released online on April 14, without a subpoena. Wisniewski and Weinberg said in a joint statement that the committee reserved the right to request or subpoena further information, if required.[139]

On April 9, the committee's investigation was dealt a setback when New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that Stepien and Kelly do not have to hand over subpoenaed documents since the subpoenas were written too broadly, like a "fishing expedition".[140][141] The judge also said that the subpoenas, as written, “clearly violate” federal and state protections against self-incrimination and unlawful search and seizure.[141] The ruling said that Kelly and Stepien could assert their Fifth Amendment rights because of the investigation by the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, and these documents could provide a "link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute the claimant for a federal crime".[142] The judge suggested that the committee could consider reissuing subpoenas with more limited document requests that could be acceptable. Legal experts agreed with that approach, and also suggested that electronic copies of the original subpoenaed documents could be obtained through subpoenas of system servers that store those documents since individuals do not have any personal right to bar the subpoena of a server.[140]

The judge also expressed reservations about having jurisdictional powers to compel the turnover of subpoenaed documents since "the committee has the power to enforce its own subpoenas through orders to compel and grant immunity in return." The lawyers for Stepien and Kelly have contended that the committee could grant their clients immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for the documents. Reid Schar said that the committee has no such powers.[143]

Port Authority investigation[edit]

The Port Authority announced on October 16, 2013 that it would conduct an internal review.[144] Its inspector general opened an investigation on December 10.[145]

On February 16, 2014, Executive Director Pat Foye ordered the inspector general and PA Police Chief Louis Koumoutsos to examine PA Police Lieutenant Thomas "Chip" Michaels for his role in chauffeuring Wildstein on an observation tour on the first day of the closures and allegations of PA Police officers telling frustrated motorists to direct their ire at Mayor Sokolich. Michaels had at least one day's advance knowledge of the closure.[146][147] Lt. Michaels and his brother Jeffrey Michaels (a GOP lobbyist in Trenton) are childhood friends of Christie.[66]

U.S. Attorney investigation[edit]

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman

On January 9, 2014, Paul J. Fishman, the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, opened a preliminary federal inquiry into matters related to the toll lane closures.[148] Rebekah Carmichael, public affairs officer for the U.S. attorney's office, said in a statement: "The Port Authority Office of Inspector General has referred the matter to us, and our office is reviewing it to determine whether a federal law was implicated."[149] Whether anyone will be federally prosecuted in the scandal is uncertain.[150]

The U.S. Attorney, whose office did not identify who was served, began an official investigation and issued grand jury subpoenas for documents related to the Bridgegate scandal to various people and entities. Mark Sheridan, a partner with Patton Boggs, which had been retained to represent Christie's 2013 re-election campaign organization and the New Jersey Republican State Committee in connection with investigations into this scandal, said on January 23 that both organizations had received subpoenas.[151][152] On February 3, Christie said that his Governor's Office received a subpoena. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting he U.S. Attorney in its investigation.[153][154]

Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office met with Mayor Sokolich on February 21[155] and Governor Christie's press secretary, Michael Drewniak, as a "fact witness", on February 27.[66] Drewniak, who had been subpoenaed by the legislative committee, was referenced in several previously subpoenaed documents released by the committee from others.[156]

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan, issued a subpoena to PA Chairman David Samson on March 7, but then rescinded it on March 10, because of overlap with the Fishman investigation based in New Jersey.[157][158]

As part of the criminal investigation, Drewniak testified on April 4 in Newark before the grand jury investigating the scandal. His lawyer, Anthony Iacullo, said he was not a target of the investigation. ABC News reported that this was the first confirmation of a convened grand jury, which can meet for up to the next 18 months (with further extensions possible), for interviewing witnesses. It has the power to indict, subpoena, and interview witnesses without their attorneys being present.[159] The New York Times reported that it was the same grand jury that had reviewed subpoenaed documents.[160]

On April 7, it was reported that David Wildstein met with federal prosecutors in Newark for several days during the week of March 31 and Charlie McKenna met with investigators in mid-January in Fishman's office.[161]

U.S. Senate inquiry[edit]

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation had opened its own inquiry into the closure. Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) had written Samson and Vice Chairman Scott Rechler in December 2013 to demand answers about how the Port Authority handled the closure and its aftermath. According to his letter, Rockefeller, who has long been critical about shortcomings in the PA's operations, was concerned about what seemed to be evidence of "political appointees abusing their power to hamper interstate commerce and safety without public notice." It also said that based on a review of recent testimony before the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee, it appeared that there was no traffic study underway.[162][163] Rockefeller also asked the United States Department of Transportation to conduct its own review of the incident.[164]

The PA's written response to Rockefeller's questions, signed by board secretary Karen Eastman, restated and summarized the December 9, 2013, testimony by Foye and two other PA managers before the Assembly Transportation Committee. It said that the closures had been ordered by Wildstein on September 6 despite various PA engineers expressing their concerns, particularly about more traffic congestion on local streets and no advance notice to Fort Lee officials. Wildstein, the letter said, had ordered bridge officials not to notify Foye of the closures. It also revealed that the PA's board had not approved Baroni's earlier presentation on November 25 before that committee that the closures were part of a traffic study. It showed that PA's procedures for planning and internal notifications for any traffic study were not followed. However, the letter did not reveal any reason why the closures were ordered. It characterized the incident as "aberrational".[165][166] Rockefeller declared that based on the PA's response, there was "zero evidence" that a "legitimate" traffic study had been planned. He also said that the letter revealed the PA had not followed its own procedures for lane closures.[167]

Office of the Governor investigation[edit]

In a report (commissioned by the Governor's Office) released online and presented at a press conference on March 27, 2014, a team of lawyers led by Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher found that Christie had no advance knowledge of the bridge "lane realignment." The report concluded that Christie did not know why it happened, and was not involved in the decision to close the toll lanes. The report blamed Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein for orchestrating the toll lane closures. The report revealed that Wildstein said that he informed Christie of the ongoing lane closures during a September 11 memorial event, but asserted that Christie did not recall that exchange.[12][168] It noted that according to Christie's spokesman Michael Drewniak, Wildstein appeared "anxious" during a dinner with him on December 4, 2013, and that Wildstein “had mentioned the Fort Lee traffic study to the Governor" during the lane closures. According to the report, Drewniak recounted that Wildstein told him during the dinner that the plan to shut the lanes and attribute it to a "traffic study" were Wildstein's idea, and that Kelly and Bill Stepien had "some knowledge."[169] The report said that Stepien and Bill Baroni had advance knowledge of the lane closures, but not the ulterior motives. In a pre-taped interview aired on ABC's World News Tonight, Christie reiterated that he was shocked by the actions of his former aides since he had no prior knowledge of the planned lane closures, stating that: "Sometimes, people do inexplicably stupid things."[13] Newspaper editorials noted that one of the lawyers on the investigation team was a close friend of Christie.[18]

While these actions were seen as political retribution against Mayor Sokolich, the report did not identify the specific motives, including whether it was because Sokolich did not endorse Christie for re-election. However, it noted the day before her infamous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" message, Kelly asked and confirmed that Sokolich would not endorse Christie. According to correspondence, she was also "irate" and "on fire" when a Christie aide met with Sokolich several days later.[12]

The report relied on interviews, without releasing any transcripts or identifying who was interviewed,[136] with more than 70 officials (including Christie and others from his administration, but nobody who had been at the PA in September 2013),[170] who were not under oath, and more than 250,000 documents, many of them e-mails and text messages. It has been estimated that the tax-payer funded report cost more than $1,000,000 and was produced after a 10-week investigation. A separate section of the report rejected allegations by Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, director of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, had linked release of Hurricane Sandy relief funds to approval of a project represented by David Samson's law firm.[171]

Critics attacked the report as a whitewash, which they claimed read more like a legal defense than an objective investigation.[16][18][172] Critics noted investigators could not interview any of the most important figures in the scandal and Mastro's conflict of interest since his firm was politically tied to Christie based on past work, and advocated Christie reimbursing taxpayers for the probe.[17][173] Assemblyman Wisniewski and Senator Weinberg, co-chairs of the legislature investigative committee, criticized the report as incomplete and potentially biased since it was prepared by lawyers hired by the Christie administration and reached its conclusions, while not interviewing key figures in the scandal. Baroni, Kelly, Samson, Stepien, and Wildstein were not interviewed based on their refusals.[13][169]

In advance of a subpoena that would have been issued by the legislative committee,[135] the list of 75 interviewees was provided on April 11,[138] and on April 14, the interview notes were turned over to the legislative committee and U.S. Attorney's office, and released online.[139] Gibson Dunn lawyers confirmed that that there were no recordings or verbatim transcripts of the interviews, prompting Wisniewski to characterize the conclusions from these interviews as "hearsay".[174] There were nearly 370 instances where the interviewees could not recall details about events they were asked to address.[139]

The interview notes contained information that was downplayed or left out of the originally released report. Some of the interview notes showed how the Governor’s Office coordinated with Christie’s election campaign in order to penalize mayors, who did not endorse Christie in his re-election. Notes from the interview with Christine Renna, who worked for Kelly, indicated that she believed that Stepien kept track of mayors, who were out of favor with the intergovernmental affairs group (IGA), headed by Bridget Kelly. Interview notes for other IGA employees showed that they were instructed not to return phone call or arrange meetings for mayors, who had not endorsed Christie in his re-election campaign. Interview notes for Kevin O'Dowd, Christie's Chief of Staff, mentioned that when Christie gathered his top staff, David Samson, and his new campaign chairman at the governor’s mansion on January 8, there was a discussion over whether Kelly and Stepien should hire attorneys, and someone suggested the names of two law firms, which the two eventually hired. While Christie's interview notes about this same meeting indicated that it was agreed that it was best that he and his staff not talk to either of them, Christie did not mention anything about discussions about whether either of them should retain legal counsel. The O'Dowd notes indicated that Samson, who was the Port Authority chairman, was tasked with a significant role in the Christie administration for talking to various Cabinet members to determine their second-term plans if the governor was re-elected in 2013.[139]

The report was also criticized for "sexism" for its treatment of Christie aide Bridget Kelly.[175] The attorney representing Kelly said in a statement that the report contained “venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks”. Asserting that the only credible investigation into the lane closings was being conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office, he said that if Kelly was to receive safeguards, she would cooperate to provide “truthful and complete answers to any questions” to law enforcement.[176][177]

A Monmouth University Polling Institute poll, released on April 2, found that 30% of New Jersey residents said it was a fair and unbiased investigation, while 52% said it was done to help Christie’s reputation. Only 11% agreed with the report's conclusion that only two staff members were responsible for the closures, with 77% saying that others were involved. It found that 32% felt that Christie had been completely honest about what he knows of the scandal, and 61% saying that he did not come clean. The poll also found that despite Christie's exoneration in the report, only 38% believed he was not involved in the decision to close the lanes. It said that 47% believed that he was involved. This was 3 points less than was reported in a similar February poll prior to the report, but remained significantly higher than the 34% who felt he was involved, shortly after the scandal broke in January.[15] In April 2014, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 56% of New Jersey registered voters viewed it as a "whitewash", while 36% said it was a "legitimate investigation". It said that 64% said Christie did not order the lane closures, but 51% said they believed he was aware of what his aides were doing.[14]

Legal representation for key people and organizations[edit]

Client[128][178] Legal Representatives Notes and Key Credentials
Port Authority (PA)
Bill Baroni Michael B. Himmel,[179] a partner at the New York and Roseland, New Jersey offices of Lowenstein Sandler Himmel was the attorney for Solomon Dwek, who also worked as an informant in Operation Bid Rig III that brought down several New Jersey politicians[180]
David Samson Michael Chertoff, "senior of counsel" at the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington & Burling;
Angelo J. Genova,[181] senior partner, chairman, and co-founder of the Newark law firm Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster
Chertoff is a former U.S. Attorney of New Jersey (like Christie) and former Secretary of Homeland Security; Chertoff's consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, received a no-bid contract from the PA to review its security and provided recommendations;
Genova had served on the PA's Board of Commissioners[182]
David Wildstein Alan L. Zegas, a criminal defense attorney, at Chatham, New Jersey-based Law Offices of Alan L. Zegas[183]
Office of the Governor
Christie's Office of the Governor (and six individual staff members) Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, including partner Randy M. Mastro, based in the firm's New York office[184] Hired in January 2014, after disclosure of subpoenaed documents from the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee, in order to aid in an investigation for the governor's office and respond to "appropriate" official inquiries[185]
Bridget Anne Kelly Michael Critchley, Sr.,[186] founder of the Roseland, New Jersey-based firm Critchley, Kinum & Vazquez Replaced Walter F. Timpone, who cited a conflict of interest since he was serving as Christie's appointed vice-chairman of the Election Law Enforcement Commission[187]
Bill Stepien Kevin Marino,[188] a principal and founder of Chatham, New Jersey-based Marino, Tortorella & Boyle[189]
Other Persons or Organizations
Christie's 2013 re-election campaign Patton Boggs, including partner Mark D. Sheridan, in Newark[151][190] until that office closes and moves to Florham Park, New Jersey[191] Official name for re-election campaign was Chris Christie for Governor Inc.
New Jersey Republican State Committee Patton Boggs, including partner Mark D. Sheridan Patton Boggs also serves as general counsel for the Republican State Committee[151]
Mark Sokolich Timothy M. Donohue, a criminal defense attorney and partner at Arleo, Donohue & Biancamano, LLC, in West Orange, New Jersey Donohue, to be paid by Fort Lee, has represented a number of public officials in state and federal jury trials. Mayor Sokolich acquiesced to the request by the borough attorney and council for this "prudent" arrangement as a contingency.[192]
David Wildstein

On January 24, the PA told Wildstein that they will not pay his legal bills since they contended the bills would not be covered according to its bylaws when there was fraud, malice, misconduct, or intentional wrongdoing.[193] In a January 31 letter, his attorney, Alan Zegas, asked the PA to reconsider paying Wildstein's legal bills since they had provided no specific reasons or evidence in regards to their contention. He also questioned their decision since the PA was still reviewing whether to pay the legal bills of Bill Baroni, who had made statements during his November 25 hearing with the Assembly Transportation Committee that were contradicted by sworn testimony by Patrick Foye and other PA officials at a December 9 hearing.[194]

Randy Mastro

On January 16, the Governor's office announced the hiring of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to provide assistance with their internal review and cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's investigation. Michael Drewniak, Christie's spokesman, said that the law firm: "will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation."[195][196] The final released agreement, signed on January 30, also said that the law firm would assist "with document retention and production in connection with the United States Attorney inquiry, and other appropriate inquires and requests for information"; and review its operations and information flow.[185] The lead attorney was Randy Mastro, a long time associate of Rudolph Giuliani, having also served under him as Deputy Mayor of New York City and Assistant United States Attorney.[113]

Subsequently, six staff members in the Governor's office were represented by Mastro.[178] Paul Butler, a former prosecutor and criminal law scholar, and others have suggested there can be a potential conflict of interest when an attorney acts both as the investigator and as the representative of some of the subjects of the investigation (who may have acted improperly).[197][198]

Port Authority lawyers lodged a complaint with the law firm that there would be a potential separate conflict since Mastro and his firm, while representing the governor's office for Bridgegate, are also representing the PA in ongoing disputes over the 2011 toll increases, which has been investigated by Wisniewski, who has subpoenaed their financial records in the past and as part of a separate investigation by the special committee also looking into Bridgegate. A firm's spokesperson denied that there would be any conflicts.[199] A retention letter, signed by New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Robert T. Lougy, said that the governor's office and law firm did not consider there to be any conflicts.[185] On February 19, Mastro (but not his firm) withdrew from representation of the PA in a federal lawsuit regarding toll hikes, but potential conflicts reportedly remain.[200]

Mastro requested interviews about the toll lane closures with Sokolich and Kelly, whose attorneys declined, and Wildstein.[201][202]

Other taxpayer-funded attorneys

On April 14, 2014, the New Jersey Attorney General's office announced that it had retained five law firms at $340 per hour to represent at least five current and/or former administration officials.[203][204] Marino, Tortorella, & Bayle billing for Bill Stepien is covered for his time as deputy chief of staff, but not while Christie's campaign manager.[204] The law firms known to be representing Christina Genovese Renna (who reported to Bridget Kelly as director of intergovernmental affairs and who resigned in February 2014),[205] Michael Drewniak (who changed representation from Gibson Dunn to Iacullo Martino), and Evan Ridley (a Christie aide) are also covered. The name of any client for Robert G. Stahl's firm in Westfield is not known.[203]

Other allegations concerning David Samson[edit]

As investigations found out more about Port Authority Chairman Samson's involvement in the Bridgegate scandal, there were discoveries of alleged violations of ethics and conflicts of interest from his conduct where Samson, his law firm, and their clients profited from dealings with the PA and projects with New Jersey government financing or tax incentives, and that Christie benefited politically and his allies benefited financially during Samson's term as chairman.[206] Patrick Foye, PA executive director, asserted that Samson lacked the moral authority to run the agency.[207]

Calls for Samson's resignation and/or removal came from New Jersey officials and media sources, including The Star-Ledger,[208] The Daily News (New York),[209] The Record,[210] and The New York Times.[211] On March 4, the freeholders in Bergen County, where Fort Lee is located, called for the resignation of Samson and the other five New Jersey appointed commissioners, with the commissioners faulted for failure to exercise proper oversight.[212]

In February 2014, Christie stood firmly behind his support of Samson as PA chairman.[213]

On March 28, Christie announced that Samson offered his resignation, effective immediately, from the PA. They both agreed with the recommended PA reforms in the March 26 report commissioned by the governor's office for an investigation of Bridgegate allegations. The report did not mention any involvement by Samson, who refused to be interviewed, in any Bridgegate events or any of the other allegations during his role as PA chairman. Christie thanked Samson for his service at the PA. Samson released a statement: "I am confident that the Governor will put new leadership in place to address the many challenges ahead."[18][26]

Lawsuits[edit]

In most cases of government caused traffic delays, lawsuits would not be possible. Under government immunity, governments are usually immune to lawsuits for their actions done in good faith. Secondly, under tort law, generally one can sue for personal injury or property damage, but not for economic loss, as many parties only tangentially related to a case could legitimately claim such losses. Those restrictions usually only apply to negligence. In both situations, restrictions do not apply if the plaintiff could show that the defendants acted in bad faith. New Jersey is also more open to economic loss claims than other states.[214]

In January 2014, a federal lawsuit, seeking certification as a class action, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, on behalf of six Bergen County residents, claiming that they arrived late for work and lost pay, or suffered other adverse effects, and several businesses, who lost revenue, due to traffic jams caused by the lane closures. The lawsuit alleges that the lane closures were the result of a civil conspiracy and "willful, wanton, arbitrary, and egregious official misconduct".[215] Christie, Kelly, Wildstein, Baroni, Stepien, the Port Authority, and State of New Jersey are named as defendants.[216][217]

On January 13, six Bergen County taxicab companies filed a class action lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court in Hackensack, claiming their cab employees lost money based on lost time and extra gas consumption, and suffered emotional harm due to the deliberately caused traffic jams. The lawsuit named Kelly, Drewniak, Wildstein, Baroni, and Christie's gubernatorial campaign, along with Stepien.[218]

Christie's responses[edit]

Christie's public statements, and those made by the governor's office on his behalf, on the toll lane closures have been made as more information about the scandal became public.

December 2, 2013

At a press conference, Christie said that Democrats were just playing politics by holding hearings into lane closures. "Just because [Rep.] John Wisniewski is obsessed with this, and [Sen.] Loretta Weinberg, it just shows that they really have nothing to do," Christie said.[219] Christie later credited the e-mail documents subpoenaed by the hearings as the first information he had that his staff was involved.[24] When asked about the closures, Christie dismissively joked "I worked the cones, actually. Unbeknownst to everybody I was actually the guy out there, in overalls and a hat. You cannot be serious with that question."[220]

Christie defended Baroni's claim of a traffic study, saying, "I do believe, and I told Chairman Samson this, that we should look at this policy because I don't know why one town gets three lanes. One lane? Maybe. Three lanes, for one town, I don't quite get it."[23]

Purported call to Governor Cuomo of New York

On December 12, 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported[221] that Christie was said to have called New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to complain about Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority and a Cuomo appointee, in an apparent attempt to shut down Foye's investigation of the lane closures.[222][223] On December 13, 2013, Christie denied such a call, saying, "The story is categorically wrong. I did not have that conversation with Governor Cuomo in any way, shape or form."[224] In his January 9, 2014 press conference, he also denied any such conversation.[24] Heather Haddon of The Wall Street Journal still stood by the report on February 19.[225]

December 13

At a press conference, Christie announced the immediate resignations of Baroni and Wildstein.[23][226] Nevertheless, Christie said the closure was "absolutely, unequivocally not" political retribution.[227]

Christie added: "I've made it very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this, they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it. And they've all assured me that they don't."[228] Christie reported: "The chief of staff and chief counsel assured me they feel comfortable that we have all the information we need to have."[23]

Christie then suggested that reviewing the policy for three toll lanes for Fort Lee with the related lane closures was a matter of fairness when he said, "I didn't know Fort Lee got three dedicated lanes until all this stuff happened, and I think we should review that entire policy because I don't know why Fort Lee needs three dedicated lanes to tell you the truth."[229] However, members of the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee said at their November 25, 2013, hearing that the Fort Lee entrance has been used by an even greater number of commuters from the surrounding Bergen County towns. PA officials, including Patrick Foye, confirmed that assessment in their sworn testimony at the December 9, 2013 committee hearing.[38][92]

January 9, 2014

Christie apologized at a nearly two-hour press conference for the toll lane closures and said that he was "embarrassed and humiliated" by the behavior of his staff. Christie claimed he first learned of his staff's involvement via news media reports on January 8. The governor announced that he had fired Bridget Kelly, calling her "deceitful", claiming her lack of disclosure about her actions and e-mails caused him to mislead the public.[24][230] Christie admonished his two-time campaign manager Bill Stepien and said he had asked Stepien to withdraw his name from the Republican State Party Chairman race, and to cease his consulting role for the Republican Governors Association.[231] Christie promised that he and his staff would cooperate with any government investigations, including those by the New Jersey Legislature. When asked what he would do if subpoenaed to testify on the matter, Christie said, "I'm not going to speculate on that".[24]

Christie said “I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election.” Christie was re-elected Governor on November 5, 2013.[232] During the third day of the closures, Christie, Wildstein, Samson and Baroni are photographed together on September 11, 2013 at the site of the World Trade Center during a commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.[22]

In the press conference, Christie described his earlier investigations into whether his staff were involved, saying "I brought my senior staff together I think about four weeks ago tomorrow. And I put to all of them one simple challenge: If there is any information that you know about the decision to close these lanes in Fort Lee, you have one hour to tell either my chief of staff, Kevin O'Dowd, or my chief counsel, Charlie McKenna."[233]

January 31

The governor's office issued a statement that denied the allegations about Christie that were contained in a January 31 letter, which was made public, from Alan Zegas, Wildstein's attorney, to the PA. The letter questioned the accuracy of various statements made by Christie about his client, without providing any specific references, and claimed that there is evidence of Christie being aware of the toll lane closures at the time that they were closed. The governor's office said that Christie stood by his position that he: "first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press".[194][234] Christie previously said in his December 13 press conference that this was well after the toll lanes for local traffic were reopened.[235]

February 3

During his monthly talk radio appearance, Christie said he was cooperating with subpoenas from the state legislative committee and the U.S. Attorney to his governor's office, which began turning over documents to the legislative committee earlier in the day and would continue to do so as the requested items were located.[236]

Reactions and impact[edit]

In January 2014, there was a wide range of opinion about the long term impact of this scandal on a potential Christie 2016 presidential bid.[29][237][238] By early February, national polling[27][28] showed an impact, with a substantial erosion in his political standing and 2016 presidential campaign prospects, as more information became publicly available about the scandal based on news media reports and state legislative investigations, and as several aides, appointees, and advisers for Christie were fired or forced to resign for their involvement in the scandal.[30][239]

Sokolich, a perceived target of the closures, said on January 8 that he was appalled: "How low can you go? This is insane. It's the worst example of a petty political vendetta...I'm embarrassed. And congratulations, you've just made New Jersey the brunt of every political joke for the next 25 years—again."[240]

Barbara Buono stated her belief that the incident may shed light on why it was so hard for Democrats to run against Christie. The state has gone Democratic in every presidential election since 1992, and Democrats have controlled both houses of the state legislature for more than a decade. However, she claimed that the culture of intimidation and retribution engendered by Christie and his staff made people unwilling to donate to a competing campaign at a level where their name would be made public.[241]

The New Jersey Working Families Alliance, a grassroots group, said that it had collected over 20,000 signatures on a petition calling for Christie to resign, including 6,500 from New Jersey residents.[242] The College Democrats of America responded to the scandal by releasing a statement from one of its New Jersey officers concluding "Governor Christie’s leadership is why this happened, and this shows he is not fit to hold office today in New Jersey, or nationally in 2016."[243]

On a January 16 broadcast of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Fallon and Christie hero Bruce Springsteen, both dressed as Springsteen from the 1980s, performed a parody of "Born to Run", reworded to describe the scandal. The official YouTube clip received over 4 million hits.[244]

Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarette expressed his opinion that "left-leaning elements of the media" are attempting to exploit the scandal to "clear the way for likely Democratic presidential nominee - Hillary Clinton."[245]

The Democratic National Committee released a video in December 2013 that raised questions if “Christie's political payback” was behind the toll lane closures.[246] It released a satirical video, timed to coincide with the January Assembly hearing, about what questions still needed to be answered.[247] At the beginning of February, it released an online video ad with a Super Bowl 48-inspired, football game theme.[248][249] It was followed soon after by a video that parodied Facebook's popular "Look Back" videos.[250]

On February 4, the Port Authority confirmed the elimination of David Wildstein's custom-made job title that never had a job description, Director of Interstate Capital Projects.[251]

Rudy Giuliani, whose support of Christie goes back to 2002 when Christie became U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and his successful run for New Jersey governor in 2009, has been one of Christie's strongest defenders in this scandal. However, Giuliani has also said: "If he’s not telling the truth, he’s ruined." While Giuliani has claimed that he is not acting as a surrogate on behalf of Christie, many of the media inquires for interviews with Giuliani have gone to the governor's office and are forwarded to Giuliani by Maria Comella, Christie's Communications Director. Giuliani has also updated Commella, who was served with a subpoena by the NJ legislative committee, on statements he has made on Christie’s behalf, which is usually after an interview.[115][178]

Former Republican New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, Jr. believed Christie when he told the press on January 9 that he had no idea that any of his aides were involved in the lane closures until the subpoenaed communications were revealed on January 8.[252][253] Kean said that there were still unanswered questions about: "How that atmosphere was allowed to exist and how [now-fired staffer Bridget Kelly] could give an order to the Port Authority and have it accepted — and whether or not there are more than two or three people involved."[252] In a subsequent April 2014 interview, he elaborated: "there’s another question, about whether he created an atmosphere in which some of those people thought they were doing his will because they were getting back at people." He also mentioned that he had reconsidered his support of Christie as a potential presidential candidate, and that if Christie was not telling the truth, "then he’s finished. As governor, too." Kean had been a lifelong political mentor and supporter of Christie and his political ambitions, going back to 1976, and was the first major political figure to support Christie in his successful run for governor in 2009.[253]

Polls[edit]

A Rasmussen poll, published January 10, showed that 56% believe Christie should resign "if it is proven that he approved of retaliation against an elected official who refused to support him"; only 29% disagreed. A majority reported they believed it was at least somewhat likely that Christie was aware, at the time, that the September toll lane closures were retaliation for the mayor of Fort Lee's refusal to support the governor's re-election.[254]

A Quinnipiac poll, published January 21, showed that the Fort Lee scandal had hurt Christie's national standings, including his potential run for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election. The poll showed him trailing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 46% to 38%, which is a downturn from two previous polls that showed Christie and Clinton about even, after Christie had gained considerably in the polls against her since March 2013. The December 2013 poll had shown Christie at 42% with Clinton, who is the leading potential Democrat candidate, at 41%. Nationally, peoples' view of his presidential capabilities had gone down with 35% agreeing and 36% disagreeing that he would make a good president. This was down from 49% agreeing to 31% disagreeing in a November poll. For the people, who had heard of the Bridgegate scandal, 50% said this scandal would hurt Christie's presidential hopes, and made 34% of all those polled less likely to vote for Christie. His favorability rating declined to only 33% viewing him generally as favorable with 30% unfavorable. This is down from his highest rating of 47% favorable to 23% unfavorable in December 2013. The poll did show that Christie still polled the best against Clinton among the current leading potential Republican candidates, even though he had gone from the leading potential Republican candidate in December to a statistical tie with three others.[255]

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll, published January 24, showed that the Fort Lee scandal had hurt his standings among New Jersey residents. Christie’s favorability rating, as governor, was shown to be 46%, down 22 points from just before his landslide re-election victory in November 2013, with 43% having an unfavorable view. While the majority of residents still approve his overall performance as governor, his 53% job approval was down 15 points from November. A majority, 56%, said that it was “very unlikely” or "somewhat unlikely" that Christie’s top aides acted without his knowledge in the Fort Lee scandal. Only 20% said they fully believed Christie’s explanation about this topic, while 42% did not believe his version at all and 33% only partially believed him.[256]

A Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll, published February 24, showed Christie's job approval ratings in New Jersey at 50%, which was down 9% since January and 20% from 12 months prior. Other results showed 61% believed the governor was not completely honest about what he knew about the toll lane closures, and 50% (up from 34% in January) thought Christie was personally involved in the decision to close the toll lanes.[257][258] A similar poll, released on April 2, showed his approval ratings to be nominally, but not significantly better than the February poll, remaining 14 points lower than December, before the Bridgegate scandal broke. It said that 62% said that Bridgegate and Hoboken's Sandy relief aid issues hurt his presidential prospects for 2016, up from 51% in January.[15]

Speculation as to motives[edit]

The Modern high-rise residential building under construction at the Hudson Lights redevelopment. Looking east from George Washington Bridge Plaza.

Widely held speculation is the toll lane closures, with the associated traffic jams in his town, was political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not supporting Christie, a Republican, in the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election. Sokolich had claimed he was asked for an endorsement once, during Spring 2013, months before the August order for traffic problems from Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff.[8][259] Though the two men are from different parties and an endorsement would normally not be expected, Governor Christie ran on a platform of bipartisanship and had secured the endorsement of many other Democratic officials.[8]

In an interview on February 6, 2014 with The Record, Sokolich elaborated that the Christie administration courted his endorsement over a period of time going back to around 2010 when Christie invited Sokolich and a handful of other mayors, including Hoboken’s Dawn Zimmer, to have lunch at the governor’s mansion in Princeton. Governor Christie was shown in a picture talking with local mayors in a line-up, including Sokolich, after a news conference in Teaneck on December 8, 2011. In 2012, Sokolich and his cousins were given a personal tour of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza by Wildstein, one of Christie's senior appointees at the Port Authority, who repeatedly told Sokolich, “I’ve been told to be nice to you.” Matt Mowers, regional political director for Christie's re-election campaign - who had previously worked in the governor’s intergovernmental affairs office, which was the chief liaison to towns - met with Sokolich regularly in 2013 and told him about other Democrats who endorsed Christie for governor. On at least three occasions, Sokolich said that Mowers brought up the subject of Sokolich’s possible endorsement. While Sokolich never said he would not endorse Christie, he eventually supported Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic opponent for governor in the 2013 election.[260] Christie said at his January 9 press conference that Sokolich was “never on my radar screen” and that he would not "have been able to pick him [Sokolich] out of a lineup."[24]

E-mails indicated that Wildstein and Baroni were aware the closures would harm Sokolich. In an e-mail from Wildstein responding to Bill Stepien,[73] Wildstein wrote "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian", derogatorily referring to Sokolich, who is Croatian-American.[79] Baroni referred to "Serbia" in text messages in another apparent reference to mayor Sokolich.[80][81]

Another possible motive was whether the closures were intended to affect Sokolich's promotion of Hudson Lights,[261] a "billion-dollar redevelopment" project that was underway at the Fort Lee bridge access point.[9][10][262] It has been noted that "the Hudson Lights project is a billion-dollar project because it offers unparalleled access to the George Washington Bridge. But take away that access and it's no longer a billion-dollar project."[263] In a September 12, 2013, e-mail to Bill Baroni, during the time when the closure was still on-going, Mayor Sokolich raised concerns about the redevelopment project, asking "What do I do when our billion-dollar development is put on line at the end of next year?"[264]

On January 9, Steven Fulop, Mayor of Jersey City, alleged that he was also targeted for political reprisals by the Christie administration for declining to endorse Christie in the 2013 governor election.[265] His claim may be supported by a September 9, 2013 e-mail by David Wildstein after Bridget Kelly asked about his response to Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich about the toll lane closures. Wildstein responded: "Radio silence. His name comes right after Mayor Fulop."[65]

Timeline[edit]

2013[edit]

Dates Events
Week of
August 4
  • Port Authority (PA) Chairman David Samson met with Governor Christie
    • (Investigations need to determine if and how any part of this meeting was related to the scandal since subsequent subpoenaed documents submitted by Wildstein made reference to it)[50]
August 13
August 28
  • Wildstein received e-mail from Peter Zipf, PA chief engineer, for scenario for reducing toll lanes from three to two for local traffic from Fort Lee and surrounding communities.[266]
August 29
  • Per Wildstein's request, he received e-mail (with copy to Zipf) from Jose M. Rivera, PA chief traffic engineer, for scenario for reducing those toll lanes from three to one.[266]
September 6
  • Wildstein e-mailed Kelly, "ready to do this", and instructed PA personnel to implement toll lane closures for September 9.[53][54]
Monday
September 9
  • Two of three toll lanes are closed to traffic at a Fort Lee entrance and shifted to main highway traffic; daily massive traffic jams in Fort Lee began to occur during the rush hours and well beyond.[77]
  • The first of many inquiries by Mayor Mark Sokolich and other Fort Lee officials to PA managers, including Bill Baroni, and spokespersons go unanswered during the week.[21]
  • PA Police Lieutenant Thomas "Chip" Michaels, a Christie childhood friend, chauffeured Wildstein around the Fort Lee area on an observation tour,[66] and told Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul that the toll lane changes were part of a month-long "test" to "relieve" traffic congestion on Interstate 95 approaches to the bridge at the expense of Fort Lee and surrounding towns.[267] He also suggested rerouting traffic to another bridge entrance, but Bendul proposed getting back all three regular toll lanes.[268] He updated Wildstein on traffic conditions throughout the week, via text messages.[66]
Tuesday
September 10
  • Upon seeing a Sokolich text message to Baroni about delayed school buses and traffic congestion, Kelly texted Wildstein, "Is it wrong that I'm smiling"; Wildstein responded: "No", and that the children stuck on school buses were "the children of Buono voters."[66]
Wednesday
September 11
  • Christie, Wildstein, Samson and Baroni are photographed together at the site of the World Trade Center during a commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
    • (The photo, released in January 2014, raised questions, including from Wisniewski, chair of the NJ committee investigating the scandal, about what might have been discussed, if anything, while the toll lanes were closed)[22]
  • During the memorial event, Wildstein reportedly informed Christie of the ongoing lane closures, but Christie did not recall the exchange when later questioned by his own investigators[12]
Thursday
September 12
  • The Record's John Cichowski asked PA Media Relations about the toll lane changes; this inquiry went into that evening's "media pendings" report,[269] getting the attention of PA Executive Director Patrick Foye[38](p152)
Friday
September 13
  • Foye sent e-mail that ordered toll lanes re-opened at the local entrance and said he would find out how this "abusive decision" was made; Baroni forwarded the e-mail to Regina Egea, Christie's Director of the Authorities Unit[75]
  • As they were copied on Foye's e-mail, Baroni e-mailed Samson: "General, can I call you on this now?"[64]
  • Wildstein e-mailed Kelly: "The New York side [Foye] gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning. We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate."[20]
  • The Record produced the first media coverage of the lane closures, and the first suggestion of policital retribution[77][270]
  • PA spokesman released an explanation that the lane closures were part of a week-long study to review traffic safety patterns.[84]
September 17
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that "the decision to close the traffic lanes caused tension" at the PA since "the lane closures came as a surprise to some high-ranking officials”.[84]
September 18
  • Samson e-mailed PA Vice Chairman Scott H. Rechler, criticizing Foye about what was leaked to The Wall Street Journal: "he's playing in traffic, made a big mistake.”[78]
  • Wildstein sent a communication, along with the newspaper story, to Christie's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who responded, "It's fine. The mayor [Sokolich] is an idiot, though."[21]
October 1
  • The Wall Street Journal broke the story about the contents of Foye's September 13 e-mail, including that he pledged to investigate "how PA process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged.”[85]
October 2
  • Wildstein wrote to Stepien that leaks by Foye needed to be addressed.[21]
November 5
  • Christie re-elected governor of New Jersey.
November 25
  • Baroni, who was not sworn in, made a presentation before the Assembly Transportation Committee that included his claim that the lanes closures were part of a traffic study.[92][96]
  • Wildstein to Baroni: "Charlie [purportedly Charlie McKenna, Chief Counsel to Governor Christie] said you did GREAT”.[96]
December 4
December 6
  • Wildstein announced he would resign at the end of the year.[21]
December 9
  • Foye testified under oath before Assembly Transportation Committee that he was not aware of any traffic study ordered by Wildstein, with probable supervision by Baroni.[38]
  • Two other PA managers testified that Wildstein ordered the lane closures for a traffic study, which they thought did not follow PA planning protocols, and instructed them not to inform local officials and the public.[38]
December 10
  • The PA's inspector general started an investigation.[21]
December 12
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Christie had called Governor Cuomo about Foye and the closure investigation.[221]
December 13
  • Christie announced the immediate resignations of Baroni and Wildstein; He denied speaking with Cuomo about Foye and the closure investigation.[23][224]

2014[edit]

Dates Events
January 8
  • Major break in the scandal when e-mails and texts are released in the news media showing that the closure of toll lanes for local traffic was a conspiracy to harm Fort Lee and avoid public disclosure of the reasons[8]
  • Christie withdrew his selection of Bill Stepien to head New Jersey GOP[24]
January 9
  • Christie held a press conference and said that he first learned on January 8 of his staff's involvement via news reports, including published communications from his staff, and said: "we'll work cooperatively with the investigations."[24]
    • He announced that Kelly had been fired earlier in the day for lying about having no involvement or direct knowledge, without him asking her about her actions, since he had seen her published e-mails in the news[24]
  • When appearing before the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee, Wildstein refused to testify, while invoking his right against self-incrimination[108]
  • The committee voted to hold Wildstein in contempt;[109] it referred these charges on January 13 to the Mercer County prosecutor's office for review[21]
  • United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey opened a preliminary federal inquiry into matters related to the toll lane closures[148]
January 10
  • The Assembly Transportation Committee publicly released all subpoenaed documents
    • (There was no evidence that additional administration officials, beyond those already mentioned, had advance knowledge of the toll lane closure plan, but showed that top aides to Christie were aware early on of related issues and their importance for avoiding further disclosures)[21]
January 11
  • John Wisniewski, who was leading the Assembly inquiry, said that he did not rule out possible impeachment of Christie, but only if there was a direct link between the governor and the September lane closures[112]
January 14
  • Christie pledged to "cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again" at the State of the State address[271][272]
  • In response to Christie's statement, Wisniewski expressed concern that Christie was limiting the meaning of his previously announced cooperation, and said: "I'm hoping he's not parsing his words in some way."[271]
January 16
  • A special session of the New Jersey Assembly re-authorized the legislative subpoena powers and created a bi-partisan investigative committee to continue the investigation[21][114]
  • Assembly committee issued subpoenas to 18 people in Christie's administration, his 2013 re-election campaign, and the PA, with requested submittals by February 3[115]
  • While Christie himself was not subpoenaed, his governor's office and 2013 election campaign organization received subpoenas[115]
  • Christie administration announced that New York attorney Randy Mastro, a long time associate of Rudy Guliani (friend to Christie), and his firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, had been hired to aid in an investigation of the matter[113]
January 23
  • A lawyer for Christie's 2013 re-election campaign and the New Jersey Republican State Committee announced both had received the first-known grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney for documents related to the lane closures[151]
January 27
  • New Jersey Legislature voted to create a joint bi-partisan investigative committee (with co-chairs, Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg) comprising eight Assembly representatives (five Democrats and three Republican), and four Senators (three Democrats and one Republican)[118]
January 29
  • The New York Times published an exposé about Christie's “intergovernmental affairs” operation, part of an ongoing campaign to influence mayors in certain towns for their political support and also have an impact on his 2013 election results
    • (Officials in the governor's office maintained dossiers, which were originally created by Stepien when he was Deputy Chief of Staff and regularly reviewed by Christie, on the "Top 100" list, including Fort Lee as 45, of mayors and what state government resources could be used to support and influence them)[130][273]
January 31
  • Letter from Wildstein's attorney to the PA questioned the accuracy of statements made by the governor about his client and claimed there is evidence of Christie being aware of the toll lane closures at the time that they were closed. The governor's office issued a statement that denied the allegations[194][234]
February 3
February 10
  • Legislature's investigative committee voted to compel Stepien and Kelly to produce the previously requested documents, instructing special counsel Reid Schar to "take all necessary steps" to enforce the subpoenas[274] and issued 18 new subpoenas, including to new recipients within the governor's office and the PA, and to the New Jersey State Police aviation unit[128][275]
  • Mastro filed an Open Public Records Act request with Fort Lee for documents, communications, and media interactions related to the toll lane closures, and meeting and interactions with Christie’s re-election team[276][277]
February 11
  • Governor's office informed the Senate Oversight Committee that the policy of the Christie administration is that its members are not allowed to appear before legislative committees; this set up a potential future confrontation with the legislature's investigative committee for Bridgegate[278]
February 16
  • PA Executive Director Patrick Foye requested inspector general of the PA to notify U.S. Attorney and look into what PA Police Department officers knew about the lane closures and why some told drivers stuck in the traffic jams to contact the municipal offices or mayor of Fort Lee with their inquiries[147]
  • Legislature's investigative committee announced it will investigate why there appeared to be an "orchestrated" effort by PA cops to point drivers in the traffic jams toward Fort Lee officials and the mayor[279]
February 17
  • Sokolich's lawyer sent a letter to Mastro that said the mayor would not grant his requested investigation interview or requested documents since it would not be appropriate while there were other ongoing investigations[201]
February 18
  • Attorneys for Stepien and Kelly reiterated that their clients will not comply with the legislative committee's subpoenas[280][281]
February 19
  • Fort Lee publicly released 2,211 pages of municipal records related to the toll lane closures based on Mastro's February 10 request; the borough refused to release other documents (since the request was characterized as "too broad"), including those held by Mayor Sokolich and his staff regarding the toll lane closures, and to his decision not to endorse Christie for re-election[282]
  • PA Chairman David Samson apologized on behalf of the commissioners "for inconvenience caused to our travelers" without directly stating that it was due to plans by some individuals to cause traffic jams with the toll lane closings at the GW Bridge,[283] and without acknowledging the detrimental effects on the borough of Fort Lee and its public services, mayor, and officials[284]
February 20
  • The editorial board of The Star-Ledger, a New Jersey newspaper with the largest circulation in the state, assessed Samson's apology as "too little, too late", noted a list of his failures and conflicts of interest, and called for him to resign.[208]
  • New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ordered attorneys representing Stepien and Kelly to file briefs by March 3 and appear in court on March 11 in response to a request from the joint Select Committee on Investigation to compel their clients to answer subpoenas since producing records about their involvement was not the same as requiring someone to testify against oneself.[285][286]
February 21
  • Sokolich met with prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office.[155]
February 25
  • Executive Director Patrick Foye said he does not believe Chairman Samson has moral authority to run the PA, but did not elaborate on his reasoning.[207]
February 26
  • Christie said that he "strongly, firmly" stands behind Samson as chairman of the PA and disagreed with Foye's position.[213]
February 27
  • Christie’s spokesman and press secretary, Michael Drewniak, met with federal prosecutors to answer questions about his role, as a "fact witness", in the scandal.[156]
March 3
  • Stepien's attorney, Kevin Marino, said that federal authorities appear to be conducting a criminal investigation of Stepien in connection with the lane closures.[287]
    • In his filed legal brief to New Jersey Superior Court, he restated that his client has a constitutional right not to incriminate himself and cannot be forced to produce documents that could also be used in a criminal investigation.[288]
  • Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, said his client had declined in February to be interviewed by investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.[288]
March 4
  • The freeholders of Bergen County, which includes Fort Lee and surrounding communities impacted by the lane closures, called on Samson and the other five New Jersey appointed PA commissioners to resign over the scandal.[212]
  • It was reported that federal prosecutors recently questioned Paul Nunziato, head of the PA police union, as part of their criminal investigation into the lane closures. Nunziato's lawyer had said that his client "had nothing to do with nor knowledge of the planning, implementation, or execution" of the lane closures, and his previous statements to the press, in support of the traffic study story advanced by Baroni, was "to be supportive of people who were supportive of his union; he never intended to mislead". (Baroni told the legislative committee on November 25, 2013, that Nunziato suggested to Wildstein in July 2013 to close the bridge access lanes as part of a traffic study.)[289]
March 6
  • In his filed legal brief to New Jersey Superior Court, Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, restated his client's Fifth Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights and an overly broad request by the legislative committee in not producing the subpoenaed documents that could also be used in a grand jury investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office.[290]
March 23
  • In anticipation of release of an investigation report by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Randy M. Mastro exonerated Christie.[291]
March 27
  • The report, commissioned by his governor's office, claimed that Christie was not involved in the planning and decision to close the toll lanes, while blaming Kelly and Wildstein for these actions due to retribution against Mayor Sokolich.[12]
  • Wisniewski and Weinberg criticized the report as incomplete and potentially biased since it was prepared by lawyers hired by the Christie administration and reached its conclusions, while not interviewing key figures in the scandal.[13]
March 28
  • Christie announced the resignation of Samson from the PA during his first press conference since January 9, and addressed questions about the investigation report by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.[26]
March 31
  • Wisniewski announced the intention to subpoena notes, records, and interviews from the Governor's Office investigation report it they were not voluntarily supplied by Mastro's firm.[135]
April 4
  • Michael Drewniak testified before the federal grand jury in Newark that was convened to investigate the scandal. It was the first time it was known that witnesses had appeared before the panel.[159][160]
April 9
  • Judge Jacobson ruled that Kelly and Stepien are not required to comply with the legislative subpoenas to produce documents since they were written too broadly, and by protection under the Fifth Amendment.[140]
April 14
  • Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher's interview notes, which included the list of 75 interviewees previously provided on April 11,[138] were turned over to the legislative committee and U.S. Attorney's office, and released online.[139]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bruinius, Harry (January 31, 2013). "Bridge-gate: Key figure says Chris Christie knew about lane closures (+video)". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Christie campaign seeks funds to cover Bridgegate legal costs". Daily News (New York). January 26, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Google Inc. "Satellite map of the Fort Lee entrance at the GW Bridge upper-level toll plaza". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=40.853297,-73.967114&daddr=40.854015,-73.966058&hl=en&ll=40.85378,-73.96554&spn=0.006882,0.016512&sll=40.853829,-73.964955&sspn=0.003441,0.008256&geocode=FTFfbwId9lmX-w%3BFf9hbwIdFl6X-w&t=h&mra=ls&z=17. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "For Christie, perhaps a bridge too far". The Washington Post. January 9, 2014.  Includes composite aerial images with illustrated versions of GW Bridge traffic flow around the upper-level toll plaza with one and three dedicated local toll lanes.
  5. ^ "The backstory of Christie's 'Bridgegate' scandal". USA Today. January 10, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ "PA chief Patrick Foye's email on George Washington Bridge closures". Newsday. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  7. ^ Alcindor, Yamiche (January 10, 2014). "Fort Lee traffic jam caused human debacle". USA Today. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Zernike, Kate (January 8, 2014). "Christie Faces Scandal on Traffic Jam Aides Ordered". The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Strunsky, Steve (January 13, 2014). "New subpoenas could go out today in GWB lane closure scandal probe". The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ). 
  10. ^ a b Dopp, Terrence; Voreacos, David & Jones, Tim (January 16, 2014). "Christie bridge jam inquiry to probe $1 billion projects". Bloomberg. 
  11. ^ Walshe, Shushannah & Margolin, Josh (February 3, 2014). "Chris Christie Says He ‘Unequivocally’ Had No Knowledge of Lane Closure". ABC news. Retrieved March 21, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Dann, Carrie. "Internal Probe: Christie's Account of Bridgegate 'Rings True'". NBC News. March 27, 2014
  13. ^ a b c d "UPDATE 6-NJ governor's internal investigation clears him in 'Bridgegate'". Reuters. March 27, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Cavaliere, Victoria (April 9, 2014). "New Jersey voters see Christie's internal bridge review as 'whitewash': poll". Reuters. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c "Monmouth Poll: Christie job approval at 51%". PolitickerNJ. April 2, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "On Bridgegate, a million-dollar whitewash: Editorial". The Star-Ledger. March 27, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "A Whitewash for Gov. Christie". Editorial. The New York Times. March 27, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c d Zernike, Kate (March 28, 2014). "Port Authority Official Is Out Amid Scandal Over Shut Lanes". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2014. 
  19. ^ Associated Press (March 28, 2014). "NJ Gov. Christie on major push to shed scandal". Boston Herald
  20. ^ a b c Strunsky, Steve (March 11, 2014). "Chris Christie bridge scandal: documents show Port Authority chairman blasting executive director". The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ). 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Baxter, Christopher (March 11, 2014). "Updated: Timeline of Port Authority's George Washington Bridge controversy". The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ). Retrieved January 29, 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c Mann, Ted (January 14, 2014). "Christie, official who arranged bridge closures were together during fiasco". The Wall Street Journal. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h Staff. "Timeline of events around GWB lane-closure controversy". The Record (Bergen County) (Woodland Park, NJ). Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Full transcript: NJ Gov. Chris Christie's Jan. 9 news conference on George Washington Bridge scandal". The Washington Post. January 9, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  25. ^ Gold, Matea & Costa, Robert (January 9, 2014). "Firing of Stepien deprives Christie of a key counselor". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2014. 
  26. ^ a b c Rizzo, Salvador (March 28, 2014). "Christie announces that David Samson resigned as Port Authority chairman". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  27. ^ a b Miller, Jake (February 12, 2014). "Thanks to scandal, Clinton would crush Christie in 2016, poll says". CBS News. Retrieved February 17, 2014. (Poll conducted February 4–9, 2014)
  28. ^ a b Johnson, Brent (February 5, 2014). "Chris Christie's 2016 prospects drop amid allegations, new poll shows". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved February 17, 2014. (Poll conducted January 31 to February 2, 2014)
  29. ^ a b Evans, Dave (January 9, 2014). "Gov. Christie faces political fallout from BridgeGate scandal". ABC. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  30. ^ a b Errol, Louis (December 17, 2013). "Bridge scandal tarnishes Chris Christie's image". CNN. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  31. ^ Chang, Ti-Hua (December 19, 2013). "George Washington Bridge: maintaining world's busiest span". New York: WNYW-TV. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  32. ^ Woodruff, Bob; Zak, Lana & Wash, Stephanie (November 20, 2012). "GW Bridge Painters: Dangerous Job on Top of the World's Busiest Bridge". ABC News. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
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