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Two ex-Christie administration officals indicted, another pleads guilty in Bridgegate

David Wildstein, in 2014.
David Wildstein, in 2014.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

  1. US Attorney Paul Fishman announced Friday that one former official in Chris Christie's administration had pleaded guilty to two counts in the Bridgegate scandal, and that two others had been indicted on multiple counts.
  2. Fishman alleged that the three officials conspired together to shut down access lanes so that the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, would be paralyzed with traffic. Their motive, he alleged, was to "punish" Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for his refusal to endorse Governor Christie's reelection.
  3. David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy — for having intentionally misapplied the agency's property, and for violating the rights of the town's residents to travel.
  4. Two other former members of the administration, Bridget Kelly (Christie's ex-deputy chief of staff) and Bill Baroni (the top operational Port Authority official appointed by Christie), were charged on multiple similar counts.
  5. The indictments also mentioned that "others" were involved. Fishman said at the press conference that it is not the department's policy to identify unindicted co-conspirators, though their involvement could come out later.

The alleged motive: punishing Mayor Sokolich for not endorsing Chris Christie

Since the involvement of Christie administration officials in Bridgegate broke into the news last year, there's been much speculation about their motives for creating "traffic problems in Fort Lee," as Kelly put in an email.

Wildstein's guilty plea and Fishman's charges match the most common theory — that the aides were trying to get back at Mayor Mark Sokolich because he refused to endorse Gov. Chris Christie's reelection campaign.

"Wildstein admitted that he, Baroni, and Kelley executed a plan to suddenly and without warning ... reduce access lanes to the bridge," Fishman said at Friday's press conference. "Baroni, Kelly, and Wildstein agreed to this plan in August 2013, when Kelly confirmed that Mayor Sokolich was not endorsing Governor Christie." That's when Kelly's infamous "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email was sent, and when Wildstein responded, "got it."

But, Fishman continued, "They chose not to execute the plan during mid-August, which is traditionally a light month for traffic." Instead, he said, they waited until the first day of school in Fort Lee, in September, so the impact would be greatest.

Fishman says there was never any traffic study

In the months after the lane closures occurred, Wildstein and other officials repeatedly maintained that they had been shut down because of a "traffic study."

Now Fishman says there was no such study, and that instead this was a "scam" to conceal their involvement in the "scheme."

According to Wildstein's plea agreement, he, Baroni, and Kelly "agreed to use the cover story of a traffic study as a justification for unwitting Port Authority personnel whose services would be used to implement the changes to the Local Access Lanes and as a means of concealing the true punitive purpose of the plan."

Fishman gave no indication of any involvement, or lack of involvement, from Governor Christie. Asked at the press conference whether the governor was "in the clear," Fishman said he wouldn't confirm or deny any such thing because of department policy.

Correction: This headline originally stated that three Christie aides were indicted. In fact, two were indicted and one pleaded guilty to avoid indictment.

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