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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

This could be a movie

So about a month ago, while flipping through television channels at night, I came upon a developing news story that actually surprised me. You see, last September, without any warning, two entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed.  Why should this be the concern of any television reporter other than the early morning person who reports on the morning commute?  Well, according to the news telecast, the two entrance lanes were located in Fort Lee; the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, was a Democrat who had failed to endorse Republican Governor Chris Christie in his re-election bid; and the official explanation for the closings - that New Jersey officials wanted to conduct some kind of traffic study, sounded, well, kind of fake. (Among other problems, Patrick Foye, the Port Authority's Executive Director, had no knowledge of it, and the study had not been announced in advance to Fort Lee officials - or really anyone else). 

The media continued to follow the matter and question Christie about the closings.  Publicly, he laughed off the entire episode as some sort of joke - because isn't it super funny when state officials interfere with interstate commerce and allegedly lie about it?  But privately, Christie reportedly was not so pleased.  State assembly members continued to pursue their investigation and subpoenaed documents and emails.  In the meantime, two Port Authority officials who either ordered or defended the lane closures (Bill Baroni and David Wildstein) resigned, although beforehand, Baroni addressed state assembly questions in testimony - but apparently not under oath.       

Well, it seems that some newly released emails today (obtained through a state assembly panel's subpoena) put to rest the notion that the lane closures were anything but political payback.  

According to these emails, the express purpose of the lane closings appears to have been to cause Fort Lee some traffic problems, and when the traffic predictably backed up and kids weren't able to get to school on time, one of Christie's aides helpfully pointed out that this was okay because those kids had been born to "Buono [Christie's Democratic challenger] voters."  Unfortunately, the emails (and reprints of what appear to be texts) are not always easy to follow and are redacted in a number of places.  But where there is smoke, there is fire.  In addition to the state legislature's inquiry, Baroni and Wildstein must also contend with an investigation by the Port Authority Inspector General, and perhaps a broader federal criminal investigation, if one ever gets under way.  (Question for the federal criminal law nerds out there: If they in fact conpsired to close two GW Bridge lanes as political payback to Fort Lee, did Baroni and Wildstein violate the Hobbs Act? Perhaps someone in this United States Attorney's Office is pondering the same question).

Oh, and in case you are wondering, both Baroni and Wildstein have hired criminal lawyers.  Stay tuned.   

Posted by Miriam Baer on January 8, 2014 at 04:26 PM | Permalink


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Suggested movie title: CORPUS CHRISTIE
subtitle: George Washington (Bridge) Tells a Lie

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Jan 9, 2014 6:58:33 AM

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