A new batch of subpoenaed documents related to the George Washington Bridge lane closures were made public on Monday, thanks to a court fight being waged by two former top aides of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
A couple new points of information contained in the documents nudged forward the publicly-understood story of the scandal, but on first read the pages did not contain any bombshells, smoking guns, or major revelations. The documents showed Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, was looped-in on internal email conversations about the lane closures. They also show former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni apparently describing his November testimony about the September lane closures as the “counter narrative.”
The documents were filed in state court in New Jersey by the state legislative committee that has been investigating the scandal and were in response to a request from Stepien’s attorney. The lane closures led to days of traffic jams in Fort Lee, N.J., which some Democrats in the state have alleged were ordered as political retaliation against the mayor there.
Stepien and Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, have refused to comply with subpoenas for documents issued to them by the committee. The fight has gone to court where, during a hearing last week, the special counsel representing the committee made reference to “additional documents” in the committee’s possession that made Stepien central to the investigation. Stepien’s lawyer then demanded that those documents be turned over.
On Sunday, before the public release of the documents, one of the lawmakers leading the investigation told The Bergen Record that the documents would not contain “anything earth shattering.” What they do show, according to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), is that Kelly and David Wildstein, the former Port Authority executive who orchestrated the closures, “ran a lot of stuff by Stepien to keep him in the loop.”
The documents also contain text messages exchanged Nov. 26 between Stepien and Baroni. The previous day, Baroni had appeared before state lawmakers, where he said that the lane had been closed as the result of a traffic study — an explanation that has since been dropped by both the Port Authority and the Christie administration.
On the morning of Nov. 26, Stepien texted Baroni: “Hey, great job yesterday. I know it’s not a fun topic, and not nearly as fun as beating up on Frank Lautenberg, but you did great, and I wanted to thank you.”
Lautenberg was one of New Jersey’s U.S. senators until he died in June 2013.
Less than an hour after the text message, Baroni responded: “Thanks William. Loretta and wis [an apparent reference to Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D)] will keep their nonsense but at least we have explained the counter narrative.”
You can read all the documents online here.