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Prosecutor Opens Second Inquiry into Christie Ally

Monday, March 10, 2014

WNYC
David Samson announcing the Atlantic City airport Deal with Governor Christie. (NJ Governor's Office/Tim Larson)

Federal prosecutors have opened an inquiry into Port Authority chief David Samson, a close ally of Gov. Chris Christie, sources familiar with the investigation say. The prosecutors are examining whether Samson acted inappropriately when he represented private clients whose interests overlapped with the Port Authority.  

The new line of inquiry represents a significant broadening scope for prosecutors, and brings the investigations even closer to Christie, who said as recently as ten days ago that he is "strongly, firmly" behind Samson. Unlike Bridgegate organizers David Wildstein, Bill Baroni, Bridget Ann Kelly, and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien, David Samson has remained in his post as Port Authority chair.

The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, last week issued a subpoena to the Port Authority, according to sources familiar with the investigation. But the case was quickly transferred to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who is already involved. 

Fishman is already looking into whether Christie and his top appointees at the Port Authority created a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge to take political revenge against the mayor of Fort Lee, and into whether Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno threatened to withhold Sandy aid if Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer didn't greenlight a development project put forward by a Samson client.

Samson is a close Christie confidante, one of a small coterie who has traveled on national political trips with the governor, raised money for his campaign and served as his Transition Chair.

Samson's attorney, Michael Chertoff, said in a statement: "We are not commenting on the progress of the investigations."

WNYC first broke the story of how Samson's private law practice soared after he became Port Authority chief, and has since reported on a series of potential conflicts by Samson: 

• Samson pushed the takeover of the Atlantic City airport while also representing the airport as Bond Counsel;

• Samson voted for a $256 million upgrade of the Harrison PATH station while representing two private landowners who stood to gain from the renovation;

• Samson represented NJ Transit as a private lawyer while also pushing forward deals in his official capacity as Port Authority chief. Samson also later lobbied NJ Transit on a separate Hoboken land deal.

That Hoboken deal was the first potential Samson conflict to come to light. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno had threatened to withhold Sandy aid — if Zimmer didn't support a development project represented by a Samson client. That client had benefited from a $75,000 Port Authority-funded study of land development in Hoboken. 

Samson's name has also surfaced in Bridgegate emails. David Wildstein, who organized the lane closures, responded with fury when they were re-opened. "Samson is retaliating," Wildstein wrote. It has yet to be explained what that email meant. 

Christie has staunchly defended Samson, but his press office did not immediately respond to inquiries about the widening investigation. Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who jointly runs the Port Authority with Christie, told WNYC he "would leave it to the New Jersey Governor to decide" whether Samson should resign.

 

 

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Comments [3]

ThreeStripedCats from Texas

Andrea,
I appreciate your work. I'd like to see more investigation into the link between David Samson and the Silverstein Properties' failed bid for the Hudson Lights project at the base of the GWB. The Tucker Development Group, the firm who won the award to develop the project, was in the final stages of procuring financing when the lanes were closed. Silverstein Properties, Inc., a Samson client and big player in the World Trade Center development and leasing, bid on the Hudson Lights project but was not selected.

Was the lane closing a last ditch effort to spook the money men into not giving financing to Tucker so that Siverstein might get the award to develop the prime tract of land?

I personally think that the David Wildstein document dump to the Legislative Investigative Committee offers a lot of clues that have not garnered much attention by the press. Given Wildstein's background as Wally Edge and his years of work behind the scenes of politics in NJ, I think that he purposely included documents that offer up opportunities for journalists or investigators to find out more about the Port Authority and the Christie Administration. While he may publicly be able to plead the Fifth, he could justify including the documents to the committee. I find it interesting that Wildstein included many documents that Baroni did not...for example, the interesting draft "Port Authority Statement" documents. There are a lot of interesting tidbits on how the PA was trying to "sell" the reduction of "Ft. Lee lanes".

A few questions that I have lingering:

Why has there not been much ink about why Wildstein and Brigitte Kelly exchanged texts on August 5th and 6th attempting to set up a meeting between David Samson and Chris Christie? Isn't it more than unusual for these particulars staffers to be arranging a meeting between Christie/Samson? It seems to me that the only reason would be to "keep it off the books".

Why did Wildstein include emails relating to Anthony Hayes' complaint about workplace discrimination? Looks like there was a charge of retaliation from Wildstein by Hayes for some reason. The Port Authority hired a whitecollar law firm to research the issue. Hayes is an Assistant Director of Media Relations at the PA.

Mar. 20 2014 11:46 AM
Michael from Bronx

It is inevitable: Sampson will have to go. Cuomo's attitude of not getting involved is not a show of leadership.

Mar. 11 2014 05:50 PM
fobrien from Connecticut

Andrea was great on the Rachel Maddow show last night. She owns this story, and Chris Christie, by his own petty deeds and the fine work of journalists, AB preeminent among them, is circling the drain as a Presidential hopeful. Karma is, and remains, a bitch.

Mar. 11 2014 02:50 PM

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