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‘Bridgegate’ jury in New Jersey to hear closing arguments

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Lawyers in New Jersey’s “Bridgegate” trial will begin delivering closing arguments on Thursday, seeking to sway jurors deliberating the fate of two former allies of Governor Chris Christie.

Jurors heard more than a month of testimony in the trial of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, operator of the bridge.

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Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, and are expected to last into Friday.

The two former officials are charged with abusing their government positions by scheming in 2013 to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, said by the Port Authority to be the busiest bridge in the world.

The scandal damaged Christie’s political standing as he was beginning a campaign for the Republican nomination for president.

Christie is now a close ally of the nominee, New York real estate developer Donald Trump, and is leading Trump’s transition planning.

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Federal prosecutors said during the trial that Christie knew about the lane closings ahead of time. Christie maintains that is not true. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.

The lane closures caused several days of massive gridlock on the New Jersey side of the bridge and hurt local businesses.

Christie’s aides ordered the shutdown of the lanes as payback for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who would not support Christie’s re-election in 2013, prosecutors say.

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Baroni and Kelly have pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, civil rights deprivation and conspiracy charges. If convicted, they face potential prison terms.

Both defendants took the witness stand in their defense.

Kelly was asked about an email that set the scheme in motion in which she wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” She said she was simply “parroting” the language another official used in describing the possible gridlock from a traffic study.

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(Reporting by David Ingram and Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)


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Trump has shrunk the White House entirely around himself: ‘It is a government of one’

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President Donald Trump has cleared out all the constraints in his White House, which he's running much like the Trump Organization.

The president has chased away four national security advisers, three chiefs of staff, three directors of oval office operations and five communications directors -- an unprecedented amount of turnover for a modern president — and finds himself surrounded by compliant staffers and aides, reported Politico.

“It is a government of one in the same way in which the Trump Organization was a company of one,” said one former senior administration official.

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Benny Gantz says he should be PM in Israel unity government

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Benny Gantz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main opponent in the country's general election, said Thursday he should be prime minister in a unity government.

Gantz spoke to journalists after Netanyahu called for them to join together in a unity government as results from Tuesday's vote showed neither with an obvious path to form a majority coalition.

Gantz's centrist Blue and White is nevertheless two seats ahead of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, according to results published by Israeli media with 97 percent of the vote counted.

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Beto O’Rourke’s plan to legalize marijuana includes clemency for possession sentences and grants for those who already served time

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For his latest policy proposal, the Democratic presidential candidate returns to a cause he has championed since his days on the El Paso City Council.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke on Thursday morning released a marijuana legalization plan that calls for clemency for everyone currently serving sentences for possession.

The former El Paso congressman also would push for a federal tax on the pot industry and put the revenue toward a "Drug War Justice Grant" for those formerly incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

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