Federal prosecutors said during opening arguments in the Bridgegate case on Monday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was aware of the political motivation for mass 2013 lane closures on the George Washington Bridge while they occurred.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna said in his opening statement that officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who allegedly orchestrated the traffic problems “bragged” of their scheme to the governor.
“The evidence will show that Baroni and Wildstein were so committed to their plan that, during the precious moments they had alone with the governor, they bragged about the fact that there were traffic problems in Fort Lee and that Mayor Sokolich was not getting his calls returned,” Khanna said, as quoted by Politico.
David Wildstein, a former Christie appointee at the Port Authority, struck a plea deal for his involvement in the plot. Bill Baroni, another former Christie appointee at the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, are on trial for conspiracy, fraud, and other charges for their role in planning the lane closures.
Christie has long maintained that he learned of the lane closures in October of 2013, but believed they were related to a study of traffic patterns on the bridge. The traffic study story was later revealed to be a coverup for the lane closures, which prosecutors say were intended as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey for declining to back Christie’s re-election bid.
Wildstein, the star witness in the trial, previously said that he told the governor about the lane closures during a 9/11 memorial event at the World Trade Center, three days after the closures began. His commentary was included in the internal review conducted by the governor’s office known as the Mastro report, after Christie defense lawyer Randy Mastro. The report said Christie did not remember discussing the lane closures at that event.
Another former top Christie aide, Christina Renna, said that Christie “flat out lied” when he told reporters at a Dec. 13, 2013 press conference that his senior staff had no involvement in the scheme. Transcripts of her comments, which were made via text message, were included in court filings recently submitted by Baroni’s lawyers.
This post has been updated.