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POLITICS: PennAve

Emails link Chris Christie aide to Fort Lee traffic jam

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Politics,Governor,New Jersey,2016 Elections,Campaigns,Chris Christie,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Republican Governors Association,Bridge Scandal

Newly released emails indicate that a top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was involved in closing three access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September, resulting in an hours-long traffic jam -- perhaps to exact political revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee, who did not support Christie's re-election last year.

The emails, first reported by local media, seem to directly contradict previous statements by Christie and his administration that they were not involved in the lane closures, which they blamed on a traffic study being carried out by the Port Authority.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, wrote in an email from a private account to David Wildstein, a Port Authority official who went to high school with Christie, three weeks before the lanes were closed.

"Got it," Wildstein replied.

During the lane closures, Wildstein hinted at a political motive for the disruption in an exchange of text messages with an unidentified person after the other person expressed half-heart remorse for children stuck in the resulting traffic jam.

“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein replied, referring to Christie's Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono.

Then the Wall Street Journal published an article in September, just weeks before voters were to decide Christie's face, raising early questions about why the lanes were closed. Wildstein sent the story to Bill Stepien, Christie's campaign manager who now works for Christie at the national Republican Governors Association.

"It's fine," Stepien replied, and invoked Fort Lee's Mayor Mark Sokolich: "The mayor is an idiot, though. When [sic] some, lose some."

Christie has recently tried to diffuse the potential scandal with humor. Last month, when asked about the lane closures at a statehouse news conference, Christie said, “I worked the cones. Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones."

The newly released emails came to light in response to a subpoena by New Jersey lawmakers investigating the incident.

Update: Christie said in a statement later Wednesday he was "outraged and deeply saddened" by the revelations, which he called "unacceptable."

“What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable," Christie said. "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge."

He added, "This behavior is not representative of me or my administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”

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Rebecca Berg

Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner