Updated on September 19 at 5:43 p.m. ET
Voicing the long-held suspicions of Chris Christie’s detractors, federal prosecutors alleged Monday that the New Jersey governor was well aware his aides had shut down parts of George Washington Bridge in 2013 in an act of political retribution against a small-town mayor—because they’d told him so directly on the third day of the lane closings.
“During those few minutes they had alone with the governor, they bragged about the fact there were traffic problems in Fort Lee and Mayor Sokolich was not getting his calls returned,” a prosecutor told jurors at a Newark federal courthouse, referring to a September 11, 2013 conversation between the governor and two associates. Sokolich, a Democrat, had refused to endorse Christie in his reelection campaign that year, and Christie allies allegedly decided to seek revenge by manufacturing a traffic snarl.
Prosecutors’ allegations came during opening statements for the trial of two in Christie’s orbit: Bridget Kelly, his former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, whom he appointed to the Port Authority. They were indicted on conspiracy charges more than a year ago. Another Christie appointee, David Wildstein, is the government’s “star witness” in the trial, which started Monday, The Record reports. Wildstein and Baroni were the ones who allegedly told Christie face-to-face about the lane closures, during a ceremony in memoriam of the 2001 terrorist attacks. NJ Advance Media reports that Wildstein will testify about that conversation sometime during the trial, which is expected to last roughly six weeks. Asked for comment, the governor’s office pointed to previous Christie statements that contradict prosecutors’ claims about when he learned of his associates’ involvement.