It was a crazy day today, with the Christie news busting out mid-morning and then a few lesser stories (that would have been big ones any other day) coming as the day went on. My role in the Christie story was largely limited to keeping up on the topline developments (of which there were many) and trying to put it into perspective for readers. But I went back just now and reread our original piece on the emails release – revised after initial publication with additional quotes and details. There’s no question Bridget Anne Kelly’s quote (“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”) is the one that rips the story open and is the appropriate headline for every publication keeping readers current on the story.
But read through the rest of our report. The totality of the other emails – though no individual one is as damning as Kelly’s – are perhaps even more devastating for Christie than that one simple quote. It’s not just Kelly and the aptly named Wildstein. There are extensive back and forths between the two of them, clearly a very specific effort, closely monitored and important to both. But there are lots of others.
Wildstein and Baroni (the other Christie Port Authority appointee who resigned last month) were in contact with Christie’s Press Secretary, Michael Drewniak, as well as Kelly and other administration officials while Fort Lee’s Mayor was increasingly publicly begging for help.
Wildstein also discussed media about the road closures with Bill Stepien, Christie campaign manager. He texted with others (whose identities aren’t clear in the documents) about the traffic jam, joking about the delays and inconveniences.
That message appears to have been passed on to Wildstein who wrote, “Is it wrong that I am smiling?”
It is unclear who Wildstein was corresponding with, however the recipient of his message said, “No.”
“I feel badly about the kids,” wrote Wildstein. “I guess.”
“They are the children of Buono voters,” joked Wildstein’s correspondent, referring to Christie’s challenger in last November’s election, Barbara Buono.
Clearly, a lot of different people in Christieland were in on this, at least in the sense of knowing it was going on, if not taking a direct role themselves. And the tone is pretty much universally one of joking about it or enjoying it rather than in any sense seeing it as a major inconvenience they were trying to rectify.
You’ve got Christie’s two guys at Port Authority, another named David Samson, the Chairman of the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners. Wildstein says he’s “helping us retaliate” after New York side officials “gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning.”
Then there’s Kelly at Christie’s office and communication with Christie’s Press Secretary. Then Wildstein is also in touch with Christie’s campaign manager. So let’s tally: Governor’s office, appointees at top agency, head of reelection campaign. That covers a hell of a lot of ground. Not all of these are smoking gun type emails. Some are vague enough to leave question. But the tone and attitude seem pervasive and consistent throughout.
The emails do not suggest a bad apple each at Port Authority and the Governor’s office up to no good. This is a range of Christie staffers and appointees sitting back observing and chuckling as a big multi-day traffic snarl unfolds.
If Christie didn’t know about this there must have been a concerted effort on the top of his top people to keep him in the dark.