New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) personally asked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to rein in an appointee who was investigating 2013 lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, a former top Christie confidant said Tuesday.
David Wildstein said Cuomo instructed Patrick Foye, an appointee of his who serves as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to go easy on Christie until the New Jersey governor had won re-election, according to The New York Times. Wildstein also claimed Cuomo and Christie agreed to release a report saying the lane closures were part of a traffic study done by New Jersey, even though it would eventually be revealed they were part of a political revenge scheme.
Wildstein made the claims during testimony in the trial of Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, two former top Christie confidants who are facing charges of conspiracy, fraud and civil rights violations for their involvement in the lane closures.
Cuomo spokesman John Kelly denied that such a conversation took place.
“The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: it was our executive director who blew the whistle and ordered the bridge reopened,” he said in a statement. “To be clear, no such conversation between the governors happened, in fact no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted bridgegate architect thought or dreamt about New York’s involvement has no basis in fact. Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it’s just false and delusional.”
The lane closures were put in place to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who declined to endorse Christie ahead of his re-election bid, Wildstein has said.
The Port Authority initially told a local newspaper that the lane closures were part of a traffic study, but Foye had already ordered the lanes reopened and expressed anger to top agency officials as to why the lanes were closed. He also raised questions as to whether the lanes were really part of a traffic study, said the closures likely broke federal and state laws and called them “abusive.”
In December of 2013, after Christie won re-election to a second term, The Wall Street Journal reported that the New Jersey governor had privately complained to Cuomo about how Foye was handling an investigation into the incident.
Christie has maintained that he personally knew nothing of the plan to close the lanes, but Wildstein said last week that he had bragged to the governor and top aides about the closures.