The Bridgeghazi scandal got its very own Friday news dump when the New Jersey state legislature released about 1,000 documents, apparently pertaining to the Chris Christie administration's involvement in the sudden September closure of traffic lanes in Fort Lee. And it looks like those documents might actually contain something interesting:
Source: New bridge docs refer 2 meeting b/w Christie & Dave Samson, his Port Authority appointee, days before "time for some traffic" email.— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) January 10, 2014
Sampson is the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He is a Christie appointee.
This could be important, Lizza notes, because Christie appointee David Wildstein mentioned in previous documents that Samson was "helping us to retaliate" against New York officials . Wildstein, who enacted the lane closures, and another Christie appointee to the New Jersey arm of the Port Authority has since resigned. Christie's deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly was fired after it was revealed that she emailed "time for traffic problems in Fort Lee" to Wildstein shortly before the traffic jam. Christie, of course, has adamantly denied any involvement or knowledge of the exchange until recently. A meeting is hardly a smoking gun, but it could complicate his denials. New Jersey Assembly Deputy Speaker Wisniewski released a statement on the documents submitted to the Assembly Transportation Committee (which he chairs):
Included in these documents is a reference to what appears to be a meeting between Port Authority Chairman David Samson and the governor one week before Bridget Kelly issued the order to cause 'traffic problems' in Fort Lee. By submitting these documents, Mr. Wildstein is telling us they are related to the lane closures in some way. The question that demands answering is how?
The emails were posted to the New Jersey legislature's site, which seems to be having some trouble handling the increased traffic — based on the Twitter feeds of some frustrated reporters, the Wire isn't the only outlet experiencing difficulty accessing the PDFs.
A few interesting nuggets are emerging from the documents, partially the result of a subpoena for Wildstein's communications pertaining to the lane closures.
Among them? That Wildstein and fellow Port Authority Bill Baroni apparently continued the lane closures for three days after getting word that the closures were impacting the ability of emergency services to respond, as the New York Daily News noticed. The September 9th email to the pair relayed a concern from Peggy Thomas, Borough Administrator: "there were two incidents that Ft Lee PD and ems had difficulty responding to: a missing child (later found) and a cardiac arrest ... If there is anything you need me to do, let me know.”
Days later, Patrick Foye, the Cuomo-appointed Port Authority Executive Director, sent the following angry note regarding the lane closures, which tied up traffic in Fort Lee. Foye also reversed the lane closures. Among other things, he notes that the closures could cause delays to emergency services:
Many of the emails pertain to media requests for information. Samson and his staff also discuss how the story became public — specifically, concerning a piece from the Wall Street Journal's Ted Mann. Samson says that he was told "the ED" — a reference to Foye — leaked information to the paper. But other Port Authority officials including Baroni, don't think that's the case. Here's a snippet from an exchange with Scott Rechier, who is Vice Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey:
There are also a number of emails relaying complaints from Fort Lee residents. Like this pretty great one:
The emails also give some insight into Wildstein's attitude towards and handling of the closures. For instance:
And this one, referring to a reporter inquiry:
Another salty email from David Wildstein pic.twitter.com/AwfCCHXpRK— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) January 10, 2014