Peabody award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
If the Bridgegate Review Is Legit, It Must Answer These Questions
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Lawyers for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will release a report this morning examining the scandals that have piled up around the governor since the discovery last fall that days of traffic jams in Fort Lee were engineered by Christie's political staffers. The governor was reelected in a landslide last November, but his political prospects and his leadership in Trenton have been deeply dented by Bridgegate, charges that his administration threatened to withhold Sandy aid to Hoboken if its Democratic mayor did not endorse Christie and widespread problems about the administration of the post-Sandy rebuilding effort.
One big question about today's report - prepared by lawyers led by Randy Mastro, a former New York City deputy mayor under Christie friend Rudy Giuliani and other attorneys with deep ties to Christie, is whether it can credibly be viewed as an investigation, or instead will be easy to dismiss as a politically tinged defense of Christie and his administration's conduct.
If it's truly an investigation, it will answer these questions:
1. Why was it “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee"? Were the traffic jams last September a form of political payback?
2. Who came up with the idea? Who knew about it before deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly sent that message to Port Authority director for interstate capital projects David Wildstein on August 13?
3. How much time did Gov. Christie spend with his appointees Wildstein, Port Authority deputy director Bill Baroni, and Port Authority chair David Samson at the World Trade Center memorial event last September 11, amid the traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee, and what did they discuss that day?
4. By all accounts, Samson was in contact with Baroni on a daily basis. When did Samson first learn of the closures, and what did he do or say about them? Did Samson ever discuss the lane closures with his friend, the governor, before the two spoke in January?
5. What did Wildstein mean in an email that said “Samson is helping us to retaliate” for New York’s reopening of the lanes?
6. David Wildstein’s submission to the New Jersey Legislature included a text exchange about setting up a meeting between the Governor and Samson on Aug. 16. What if anything did that meeting have to do with the lane closures? And if they weren't discussed, why did Wildstein include those texts in the documents he provided?
7. Were the Port Authority police aware the lane closures were politically motivated? Did they collude with Wildstein and Baroni in covering up the political rationale for the traffic jams?
8. Emails and texts show that six top aides to Christie were aware of the lane closures before Baroni testified, falsely, on Nov. 25 that the lane closures were motivated by a “traffic study." Who participated in crafting Baroni’s testimony, and who knew at the time that Baroni’s testimony was false?
9. After the Governor was asked about the lane closures for the first time Dec. 2, there were communications between Wildstein, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak and Samson. The next day, Port Authority Police Benevolent Association official Paul Nunziato said the lane closures had been his idea. Was there a coordinated attempt to deflect attention from the Governor?
10. Christie said in February he had asked his chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, and his counsel, Charlie McKenna, to look into what happened back in October. What did the governor’s aides find in their own investigation? If they didn’t ferret out the truth, why not?