The silence from New York and New Jersey Port Authority chair David Samson — a key political ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — regarding the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last year is suspicious given his history, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow suggested on Wednesday.
Maddow pointed out that Samson, Christie’s top appointee to the agency, had no shortage of outrage for the press and the public after traffic on the Outerbridge Crossing was at a virtual standstill on Easter 2011, the result of only a single cash lane being open for Staten Island motorists’ use.
Samson was quoted shortly afterwards as calling the traffic jam “unacceptable” and “unthinkable” in lieu of other approaching high-traffic holidays like Mother’s Day and the 4th of July.
Yet, in the wake of the four-day stretch that did the same to Fort Lee, New Jersey in September 2013, Samson has only released a statement denying that he knew about them beforehand.
“No public comment on the issue,” Maddow said. “No apology, no telling the press it was ‘unthinkable,’ nothing. Not a word. Why is that?”
However, Samson was later revealed to have emailed another Christie port appointee, Bill Baroni, complaining that the agency’s executive director, Randy Foye, had apparently discussed the George Washington Bridge closures with the press.
“It confirms evidence of Foye’s being the leak, stirring up trouble” Samson wrote. “In this case, he’s playing in traffic, made a big mistake.”
Other documents show another appointee, David Wildstein, writing then-deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly saying, “The New York side [of the agency] gave Fort Lee all three lanes this morning. We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us [sic] to retaliate.”
Yet when asked about this at his two-hour press conference on Jan. 9 denying his involvement, Christie declared that he believed “General Samson’s” statement, and that Samson “has absolutely no idea” what Wildstein meant by that statement.
However, Maddow challenged Christie’s endorsement, arguing that correspondence released to state lawmakers also shows attempts to arrange a meeting between Samson and Christie, a week before Kelly ordered Wildstein to orchestrate the lane closures.
“David Wildstein submitted that that conversation trying to set up that meeting to the [state] Assembly as documentation somehow relevant to shutting those lanes down on that bridge and gridlocking Fort Lee,” Maddow explained. “Why is that? And how will we know?”
Watch Maddow’s latest report on the bridge scandal, aired Wednesday on MSNBC, below.