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Aide says Christie knew mayor’s thoughts on traffic jam

Associated Press

Newark, N.J. — Republican Gov. Chris Christie was told during the George Washington Bridge lane closures that a Democratic mayor expressed concern that the resulting traffic jams in his city were political retribution, a former aide to the governor testified Monday.

Bridget Anne Kelly testified in her criminal trial that she told Christie about Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s concerns and Christie told her it was a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey project and to “let Wildstein handle it,” referring to David Wildstein. Wildstein, an executive at the authority, pleaded guilty to his role in a scheme to punish Sokolich for not endorsing the governor’s re-election effort.

Kelly maintains she believed the September 2013 lane closures were part of a traffic study, but she testified Monday that she became confused on their final day after Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye ordered the lanes reopened even though Wildstein said the study was a success.

“None of that made any sense to me,” she said. “This was totally contrary to anything he was telling me. I didn’t understand it at all.”

Kelly is accused of plotting with Wildstein and another former Christie ally, Bill Baroni, to close lanes on the bridge, which connects Fort Lee and New York, as revenge against Sokolich.

Christie has consistently denied any knowledge of the plot or the lane closures while they were going on and has not been charged.

But Kelly’s testimony is once again calling into question Christie’s public comments about what he knew about it. She also testified Friday that Christie signed off on the idea for a traffic study of the bridge.

In a statement issued Friday, Christie spokesman Brian Murray said the governor had “no knowledge prior to or during these lane re-alignment” and “no role in authorizing them.” Murray added that anything said to the contrary “is simply untrue.”

One of Christie’s top political advisers, Mike DuHaime, testified Friday that he told Christie ahead of a December 2013 news conference that Kelly and his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, knew about the lane closures. Christie then told reporters that no one in his administration was involved in the closures.

Wildstein, who was appointed by the Christie administration to a newly created position at the Port Authority, testified that he used the agency to help Christie for political purposes.

The scandal developed just after Christie won re-election handily and as his national political profile was rising. It ultimately weighed down his presidential campaign, which ended with a fizzle in the primary season after a poor showing in New Hampshire.

Kelly also testified Monday that working for Christie was “confusing and frightening” but that he could also be charming. She testified Friday that Christie once threw a water bottle at her, angry that she suggested he introduce local political leaders at an event following a massive fire at the Jersey shore. She said then that she was afraid of him.