Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) was told about the punitive lane closings up to the George Washington Bridge at a 2013 memorial service for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, two days before the lanes were unblocked, David Wildstein, a confessed architect of the scheme, testified in federal court on Tuesday. When the governor was told of the closures — and that they were in retaliation for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee declining to endorse Christie's re-election bid — "he laughed," Wildstein said.
Wildstein, a former Christie loyalist at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which oversees the George Washington Bridge, the nation's busiest — is testifying against Bill Baroni, Christie's top appointee at the Port Authority, and former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly; Christie himself is not charged in this "Bridgegate" case, and on Tuesday, he again insisted that he "had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments." New York magazine recounts Wildstein's testimony, accompanying photographs of Christie, himself, and Baroni in a "relaxed" huddle at Ground Zero:
"Mr. Baroni said, 'Governor I have to tell you about something,'" Wildstein testified, saying that Baroni and Christie often adopted a "very sarcastic tone" when they were talking politics. "Mr. Baroni said to Governor Christie, 'Governor, I can tell you there's a tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee this morning, major traffic jams, and Mayor [Mark] Sokolich is very frustrated." He alleged that Baroni then added, "You'll be pleased to know that Mayor Sokolich is having trouble getting his telephone calls returned."
According to Wildstein, Christie replied with similar sarcasm, "I imagine he wouldn't be getting his phone calls returned." ... The governor still called Wildstein by the pseudonym he used on the [influential political blog] website, "Wally Edge." So Christie surely understood the import of what Baroni allegedly told him next: "Mr. Baroni said to Governor Christie that I was monitoring the traffic, I was watching over everything," Wildstein testified. "Governor Christie said in the sarcastic tone of the conversation, 'Well. I'm sure Mr. Edge would not be involved in anything political." Then, Wildstein said, "he laughed."
"This was our one constituent. I was pleasing my one constituent," Wildstein said. "I was proud of it. I was happy that he's happy." [New York]