Two Top Allies of Trump Surrogate Chris Christie Found Guilty for Role in Bridgegate
Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly found guilty of conspiracy and fraud
A federal jury on Friday found two former top aides of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie guilty on all counts for their role in the scandal known as Bridgegate.
That refers to the September 2013 closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., as an act of political revenge over the failure of that city's mayor to endorse Christie's candidacy for governor.
The aides—Bill Baroni, a Christie-appointed former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff—"were each charged with seven counts of conspiracy and wire fraud, including misusing the resources of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, and violating the rights of the citizens of Fort Lee, N.J., to travel without government restriction," the New York Times reports.
Over the course of the six-week trial, NJ.com reports, "the most damaging evidence might have been the now-infamous 'time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee' email sent by Kelly less than a month before several local access toll lanes at the world's busiest bridge were inexplicably closed for nearly a week in September 2013, leading to paralyzing gridlock on local streets."
Baroni and Kelly's "co-conspirator," Reuters reports,
a former Port Authority official and confessed mastermind David Wildstein, pleaded guilty and appeared as the government's star witness, detailing how the three schemed to pay back Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat.
But Wildstein also implicated Christie, saying he and Baroni discussed the lane closures with the governor while they were ongoing. Christie, Wildstein testified, laughed at the notion that Sokolich was frustrated by the traffic.
In fact, NBC News writes, throughout the trial "several witnesses said Christie was aware of the plan before, during, and after."
Christie, for his part, issued a statement following the verdict saying he is "saddened about the choices made by Bill Baroni, Bridget Kelly, and David Wildstein," adding, "I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments."
Noting also the guilty plea from former chairman of the Port Authority David Samson, WNYC writes that "now the verdict 'guilty' has been rendered four times for aides Christie once named to some of the most sensitive positions in his administration."
Christie, who's suffering record-low approval ratings, is a surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and head of his White House transition team—a point noted by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:
As #Bridgegate convictions come down for his top staffers, Chris Christie is in charge of staffing up the would-be Trump Administration.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) November 4, 2016