New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) top appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey called for public silence regarding the now-infamous lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, the New York Post reported on Friday.
Bill Baroni, named by Christie to serve as the agency’s deputy executive director, emailed his supervisor Patrick Foye on Sept. 13, “I am on my way to office to discuss. There can be no public discourse,” after Foye wrote him demanding, “We are going to fix this fiasco.”
That same day, Foye ordered the lanes be reopened, explaining in an email to agency officials that, “I believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates federal law and the laws of both states,” and promising to “get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for.”
At the time, the closure of three of the bridge’s four toll lanes was explained as being part of a traffic study. But according to the Post, a report labeled as an “early assessment” was only released by the agency to provide a pretext for continuing the gridlock, which brought traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey to a standstill for four days.
Mother Jones reported that another Christie appointee, Port Authority chairman David Samson, complained in a Sept. 18 email to another official, Scott Rechler, believing Foye to be anonymously playing the “white knight” in a Wall Street Journal story about the situation.
Samson wrote that Foye “distances himself from an issue in the press and rides in on a white horse to save the day,” adding, “In this case, he’s playing in traffic, made a big mistake.”
On Thursday, Christie fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who was revealed as the person who ordered another appointee, David Wildstein, to cause “some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Though early speculation posited the move as retaliation toward the town’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow posited the theory that night that it was actually directed at state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), stemming from a long-running dispute between Christie and state lawmakers over his decision not to nominate state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace for re-election.
However, on Friday, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D) indicated to Maddow’s colleague Al Sharpton that the burgeoning scandal would also delay chief of staff Kevin O’Dowd’s confirmation hearings in his bid to become the state’s attorney general. Like Wildstein and Samson, O’Dowd is a longtime friend of Christie’s, and until Thursday, he was Kelly’s supervisor.
“I think he understands that there needs to be a full vetting of the facts,” said Scutari, who chairs the state’s Judiciary Committee. “He hasn’t been mentioned to date, and nobody’s been pointing the finger at him, paricularly, there continue to be questions and problems at this point in time.”
For her part, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D), who lost to Christie in last year’s gubernatorial election, dismissed Christie’s allegation that he had no idea about the nature of the lane closures.
“This is a guy who runs his administration like a paramilitary operation,” Buono told Sharpton. “It’s very, very structured. Very disciplined. The orders come from the top down. These kids don’t go to the bathroom unless they ask permission.”
Watch Buono and Scutari’s interview with Sharpton, as aired Friday on MSNBC, below.
And read the emails uncovered by the Post on Friday below.