Newly released emails between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's deputy chief of staff and the state's Port Authority reveal "vindictive" efforts by the governor's office, according to a breaking report by the New Jersey Record Wednesday morning, to create "traffic problems" as revenge against a local mayor who refused to endorse Christie's reelection campaign.
These new revelations follow months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes on the George Washington Bridge to the town of Fort Lee, NJ were part of a traffic study initiated by the Port Authority and not related to his office.
But as the Record reports, new evidence shows that one of his top staff members may have been deeply and directly involved:
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie’s senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the closures. Wildstein, the official who ordered the closures and who resigned last month amid the escalating scandal, wrote back: “Got it.”
The emails were dated shortly after Fort Lee's mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, had declined to endorse Christie's reelection bid. According to the report, the documents "don’t spell out the precise reason for the apparent retribution" though they are "replete with references and insults to Fort Lee’s mayor."
The report also includes evidence of text messages between Wildstein and an unnamed recipient about the traffic closures causing school bus delays. “Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” the recipient of the text message allegedly responded to Wildstein.
The Record continues:
Other top Christie associates mentioned in or copied on the email chain, all after the top New York appointee at the authority ordered the lanes reopened, include David Samson, the chairman of the agency; Bill Stepien, Christie’s re-election campaign manager and the newly appointed state GOP chairman; and Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman.
Christie has previously said that no one in his staff or campaign was involved in the lane closings, and he has dismissed questions about political retribution by joking that he moved the traffic cones himself.
The emails were provided by Wildstein in response to a state assembly subpoena and he has been called to testify about the documents under oath before the panel on Thursday of this week.
Following the release, a furor of media speculation ensued as to the damage this scandal may pose to the lawmaker, who has emerged as a frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
As New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait tweeted after the news broke:
Chris Christie's 2016 campaign is dead http://t.co/n8A2U9tewv
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 8, 2014