by Matt Katz & Andrea Bernstein
NJ Spotlight & New Jersey Public Radio/WNYC
I flagged this for you this morning in the News Roundup, but I wanted to pull it out again before the end of the day. This is superb reporting, and more detail than we knew before about how much Chris Christie was in a position to know about the intentional Bridgegate lane closures. And what contact Christie had – directly or through his closest political advisors – with David Wildstein, the political operative who helped mastermind the intentional traffic snarl on the busiest bridge in the world. And for whom was created a high-paying job at Port Authority. Christie has portrayed Wildstein as a rogue employee isolated from the Governor, who Christie insists he barely knew in school, who nevertheless long before the scandal was described as Christie’s “eyes and ears” inside Port Authority.
Wildstein A/K/A the anonymous insider “Wally Edge” who founded and ran for 10 years the site that became PolitickerNJ, had “more extensive contact” with Christie’s inner circle than the Governor has acknowledged, Katz and Bernstein found.
WNYC examined four years of Wildstein’s calendars during his time at the PA, reviewed more than 1,000 photos the agency provided, plus thousands of pages of documents released by Christie’s legal team and the NJ Legislature.
Among the discoveries in the calendars are many meetings with Christie insiders who advise and run the Governor’s political operation; lunches and dinners with strategist Mike DuHaime, and almost-monthly meetings with Bill Stepien, top political aide at the statehouse and the manager of Christie’s two campaigns, meetings a source called “briefings”.
Photos show Wildstein among agency insiders who attended 5 events with Christie. One was a 9/11 commemoration which took place during the lane closures. From Christie’s documents, indications Wildstein told several of the Governor’s closest associates that Wildstein talked to Christie about the closures at that event. Christie has said he doesn’t remember that, and even if it took place it would have been of “no moment or import” because traffic jams are common in New Jersey. But there’s Wildstein standing next to Christie, laughing and checking his BlackBerry, in photos provided by the PA.
There is more – much more – including the “frenzy of calls and texts” between Wildstein, DuHaime and Stepien, compressed into the few hours following the subpoena issues Wildstein by the Assembly Transportation Committee.