Via New York Times:
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey knew that his close associates were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him, prosecutors said on Monday.
It was the first time Mr. Christie, a Republican, has been accused of knowing about the scheme as it unfolded.
This revelation comes from opening statements in the Bridgegate trial of Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, which began this morning. Defense lawyers have made this claim, but this is the first time prosecutors have. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office – which Gov. used to run as United States Attorney for this district – said that David Wildstein and Bill Baroni “bragged” to Christie about what they were doing, and made it clear it was all to “mess” with Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich. Sokolich, a Democrat, declined to endorse Christie for 2013 re-election, which Christie’s minions had gotten other Democratic leaders anxious to cuddle up to the then-powerful governor had done.
Emails that came to light, after Sokolich called the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey concerned about the traffic snarl, showed a contemptuous conversation between Kelly and Wildstein, who has already pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the prosecution:
“Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” Kelly wrote, later adding that “I feel badly about the kids. … I guess.” Wildstein responded dismissively that “they are the children of Buono voters.” After Sokolich sent a text message to Baroni complaining that children were late getting to school, Kelly emailed Wildstein: “Bottom line is he didn’t say safety.”
Wildstein, a friend of Christie’s since high school was installed at the Port Authority by the governor in a high-paying job without a job description. His real role there was to be Christie’s eyes and ears inside PANYNJ. Wildstein is also the founder of the online insidery news site now known as Observer/PolitickerNJ, and wrote for years as its anonymous political gossiper “Wally Edge.” Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff and Bill Baroni, who was Christie’s former Deputy Exec Director at the Port Authority, are charged with indicted on nine counts of conspiracy, fraud, wire fraud and related charges. The most serious charges carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Christie on the bridge – image by Driftglass.