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Emails show Christie office knew of bridge shutdown

  |   Jan. 8, 2014 at 6:15 PM
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TRENTON, N.J., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Private emails show New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office was aware of a plan to shut down key lanes on a bridge, the (Newark) Star-Ledger reports.

The series of emails between a top Christie aide and a political appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey indicate the governor's office knew about a plan to shut down several lanes at the George Washington Bridge in September, the newspaper said.

The report said Christie's office went into damage control mode as massive traffic jams caused a political problem.

The emails were between Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff in Christie's office, and David Wildstein.

Wildstein is a close friend of the governor from high school hired by the Port Authority in 2010 as director of interstate capital projects.

The Star-Ledger said the emails suggest Wildstein was given the nod to abruptly close the lanes about two weeks before the closings actually occurred, and the governor's office knew there were going to be problems.

Wildstein spearheaded the lane shutdown, and was in direct communication with Kelly in August on the issue, the newspaper said.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly emailed Wildstein Aug. 13, the newspaper said. "Got it," he replied. The Star-Ledger said other emails show the two brushed off concerns by local officials in Fort Lee after the bridge lane closures went into effect, tying up traffic for hours.

The emails were released to the media Wednesday after being subpoenaed by Democratic lawmakers investigating the growing scandal,

The New York Times reported the emails, which were heavily redacted by the Port Authority at times making it difficult to decipher who was saying what, showed Kelly and Wildstein were keenly aware of the political context just weeks away from Christie's re-election.

Christie had leaned hard on Democratic mayors to support his gubernatorial bid in an effort to make a presidential run in 2016 while showing voters he's the candidate most able to attract Democratic support, the Times said.

When Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refused to support Christie, the emails indicate Christie advisers sought retribution in the form of snarling traffic on the bridge, the Times said. When Sokolich questioned the need for the lane closures he was brushed off, despite making the governor's staff aware it was resulting in children being late for school.

"Is it wrong that I am smiling?" Wildstein texted Kelly after being told by another Christie Port Authority appointee about the schoolkids being late.

"No," she texted back.

"I feel badly about the kids," he texted.

"They are the children of Buono voters," she said, referring to Christie's Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, Christie easily defeated.

Furthermore, when Sokolich contacted Port Authority members from the New York side who had no idea why the lane closures had been ordered -- and subsequently ordered them back open -- the emails indicate members of Christie's team moved swiftly to close the lanes again while seeking further retribution against the New York authority members who temporarily thwarted their plan, the Times said.

The communications represent the clearest evidence yet Christie's inner circle used public transportation as a political weapon, though the governor has steadfastly denied he and his staff had nothing to do with the lane closures, the report said.

After the messages were released, Christie's office canceled his lone public event for the day, billed as an event to highlight the state's ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy. He did not respond to the newspaper's requests for comment.

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