TRENTON – Former Port Authority official David Wildstein was made the fall guy for the Fort Lee lane closure fiasco, said Assembly Transportation Chair John Wisniewski; now it’s time to see if he will pull anyone down with him.
Wisniewski said today that “So far, what we know is that Mr. Wildstein has been pointed to by everybody … as the fall guy.
“It is clear that is not the entire story,’’ said the chair of the Assembly committee that has subpoenaed the former Authority director of interstate capital projects to testify on Thursday.
Wildstein is fighting the subpoena, Wisniewski said, but he expects that Wildstein will be unsuccessful in that effort. “Mr. Wildstein’s testimony can help fill in the blanks,’’ Wisniewsk said.
At a press conference today to discuss the revelations that show Wildstein was in communication with Christie’s deputy chief of staff on Aug. 13 about planned Fort Lee lane closures in September at the George Washington Bridge, Wisniewski said that the incompleteness of what they have received so far raises as many questions as it answers.
For example, he said the wording in the subpoenaed Aug. 13 emails would lead one to believe there were prior communications; otherwise what is discussed in the Aug. 13 email would leave someone wondering what it means.
“There had to be some conversation before that,” Wisniewski said.
“We still have much more to learn. The committee will continue to work to get these answers.”
Wisniewski was joined by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who also has been calling for answers about what happened in September.
“I started with this in mid-September when I first heard about it,’’ she said. “I wrote a letter to (William) Pat Schuber,” an Authority commissioner. “I thought he would understand the issue around using the busiest bridge in the world …. It was used for some kind of petty political payback. Upon receipt of my letter Schuber called me and said ‘I would get to the bottom of this.’ I’m still waiting.’’
Weinberg, who has a resolution up in committee Thursday that calls on Congress to re-examine the structure of the Authority, said Wednesday that Gov. Chris Christie created an atmosphere at the Port Authority that enabled people like Wildstein to believe he could shut down traffic lanes and enabled people like since-resigned appointee Bill Baroni to believe he could execute a cover-up explanation of a traffic study.
“Then I find out that the governor created that atmosphere in his own office,’’ Weinberg said in reference to the email that has Kelly saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Wisniewski said that so far, he is unaware of any retaliation against him for his pursuit of answers.
Weinberg said she has heard from New York legislators who also would like more information on what happened.
And she echoed Wisniewski’s opening comments: “The governor made a statement that he asked people in his office if they knew anything about this; either his staff lied to him or the governor was less than truthful with the people in New Jersey.’’
Wisniewski said that Christie “joked about this, he derided this. In a sense, he has got to come clean with what he knew and when he knew it. Either he has no control over his front office or he is not telling the truth.’’
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"Christie’s method for coping with scandal has been more complicated. In January, the seemingly-local issue of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, which created a massive traffic jam in the Hudson River town of Fort Lee, became one of national interest when it was revealed that one of Christie’s closest staffers had ordered them—for what looked like political retribution against a Democratic mayor. The scandal was quickly dubbed 'Bridgegate,' and unfortunately for Christie, it played into his reputation as a bully. Christie's response was to act unlike himself: humble." - Olivia Nuzzi- The Daily Beast
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