Bridgegate testimony: Christie knew and laughed about traffic jam
NEWARK — A former ally of Gov. Chris Christie who pleaded guilty in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal testified Tuesday that he told the governor about the traffic jam while it was underway and that Christie appeared happy about it and joked sarcastically that there was nothing political going on.
David Wildstein, a former executive at the agency that oversees New York-area bridges and tunnels, took the stand for the prosecution at the trial of two one-time Christie allies accused of engineering the four days of gridlock in 2013 to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie.
Wildstein's account was the first testimony to suggest that Christie knew about the plot while it was unfolding.
Christie, whose Republican presidential ambitions were badly damaged by the scandal, has denied knowing about the scheme at the time and has not been charged with a crime.
On Tuesday afternoon, Christie insisted that he had no knowledge about lane closures either before or during the political payback plot. Christie told reporters that he did not authorize the lane closures and that no evidence would be presented showing that he did.
Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a former executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, are on trial, charged with conspiracy, fraud and civil rights deprivation over the alleged political-payback scheme.
Wildstein testified he that he bragged to Christie about the traffic in Fort Lee on the third day of the gridlock during a Sept. 11 memorial event. He said Baroni told Christie that Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, was frustrated he wasn't getting his calls about the traffic jam returned and that Wildstein was monitoring the situation.
"Well, I'm sure Mr. Edge would never be involved in anything political," Christie responded sarcastically, and then laughed, according to Wildstein. "Wally Edge" was a pseudonym Wildstein used while publishing a New Jersey politics website.
Prosecutors showed jurors several pictures from the day showing Baroni, Wildstein and Christie talking.
Wildstein said he and Baroni had talked the night before about telling Christie at the 9/11 event because they were proud of what they had done. He said that during the planning of the scheme, Kelly had said the governor was "going to love it."
Last week, Wildstein testified that Christie's office used the Port Authority to reward local Democratic officials whose endorsements were sought during Christie's 2013 re-election campaign. Christie was hoping for a big landslide victory to demonstrate his crossover appeal if he were run for president; he wound up winning re-election easily.
On Monday, Wildstein testified that he informed Christie's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, about the lane-closing plot shortly before it was put into action. A Stepien lawyer denied it, and Stepien has not been charged.
Christie said recently that the scandal probably influenced Donald Trump's decision not to pick the New Jersey governor as his running mate.
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