Two former officials in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration were convicted Friday on all charges brought in the Bridgegate case.
The officials — Bridget Kelly, who served as Christie’s deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, who was the top operational Port Authority official appointed by Christie — were convicted on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy.
Another former aide, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty to a reduced sentence of two conspiracy counts last year, and turned witness for the prosecution.
Prosecutors argued that the aides had knowingly created a traffic jam in the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, as part of a scheme to punish the town’s mayor for his refusal to endorse Gov. Christie’s reelection campaign.
They did this by having the Port Authority close off two of the three local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, which extends from Fort Lee to Manhattan. As a result, from September 9 to 13, 2013, the town was paralyzed by an enormous traffic jam.
The story was that the lane closures were part of a “traffic study” the Port Authority was conducting. But that was contradicted by internal emails. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in an email to Wildstein shortly before the event. “Got it,” Wildstein responded.
Lots of people think Christie knew, though he still denies it
Oddly enough, both the prosecution and the defense argued in court that Gov. Christie himself knew about the Bridgegate scheme while it was happening, despite his repeated public statements that he had no knowledge of it and nothing to do with it.
Prosecutors asserted that both Baroni and Wildstein “bragged to the governor about the lane closings” and said “that they had been done to ‘mess’ with the mayor of Fort Lee because he had declined entreaties to endorse the governor’s re-election,” as the New York Times’s Kate Zernike reported. Bridget Kelly went further, testifying that she had gotten approval for the plan from Christie in advance.
Christie, however, has not been charged with anything. Meanwhile, he has had a prominent role in the Donald Trump campaign and is actually the head of Trump’s transition team, meaning he’s preparing the GOP nominee to staff the federal government should he win the presidency next week.
Back when Trump and Christie were rivals during the campaign, Trump himself claimed that Christie “totally knew about” Bridgegate.