UPDATE 3:53 P.M.: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday afternoon denied Wildstein’s allegations: “I have not and will not say anything differently than I’ve been saying since January 2014, no matter what is said up there (in Newark federal court). I had no knowledge, prior to or during these lane realignments, I had no role in authorizing it, I had no knowledge of it, and there’s been no evidence ever put forward that I did.”
The key witness in the Bridgegate trial on Tuesday recalled how he and other officials bragged to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about the ramifications of their plot to cause a massive, multi-day traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as the gridlock was still underway in 2013.
David Wildstein, a former Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, testified under oath that he and Bill Baroni, Christie’s former top appointee at the same agency, spoke to the governor at a 9/11 memorial event about the Fort Lee, New Jersey mayor’s frustration at the lack of an explanation for the closure of several lanes leading onto the busy bridge.
“(He said) there’s a tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee … and you’ll be pleased to know Mayor Sokolich is very frustrated,” Wildstein said about Baroni, according to NJ.com.
Wildstein testified that he and Baroni informed Christie they had ignored Mayor Mark Sokolich’s multiple phone calls about the issue, prompting Christie to say he wasn’t surprised that Sokolich “wouldn’t be getting his phone calls returned,” NJ.com reported.
“Were you and Mr. Baroni bragging?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes asked, according to the news site.
“Yes, very much so,” Wildstein replied.
Wildstein last year struck a plea deal for his role in helping to carry out the lane-closure scheme, which he said was intended to punish Sokolich for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bid. Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff of Christie’s, face multiple conspiracy and fraud charges for their role in the scandal.
Christie has long denied any involvement in the plot, and said he does not remember discussing Fort Lee’s traffic problems with Wildstein and Baroni at the 9/11 event.
Wildstein testified on Monday that he informed Bill Stepien, Christie’s campaign manager at the time, about the politically-motivated plot a month before the lane closures were carried out, and that a fake traffic study would be commissioned as a cover-up.
Photos of Wildstein, Baroni and Christie from the 9/11 event that year show the group sharing a laugh.