Emails Suggest Christie Staff Snarled Traffic For Political Revenge

Revelations could ignite a simmering scandal that threatens his presidential prospects

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Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

Newly released documents suggest that top aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie clogged a major bridge last year in a deliberate attempt to exact retribution against a political opponent.

Emails and text messages obtained and published by the Record newspaper in northern New Jersey show senior Christie staffers discussing how to snarl traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., whose Democratic mayor declined to endorse Christie’s reelection campaign, weeks before lane closures snarled traffic on the New Jersey side of George Washington Bridge in September, causing gridlock that coincided with the first day of school.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, a senior adviser to Christie, wrote in an Aug. 13 email to David Wildstein, a Port Authority official and childhood friend of Christie’s.

“Got it,” wrote Wildstein, who resigned last month as questions about the lane closures mounted.

In a text message exchange with Wildstein, another official, whose identity is redacted in the documents, wrote that they felt “badly about the kids” struggling to get to school.

“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein replied, referring to Christie’s Democratic opponent Barbara Buono, who lost in a landslide to Christie in November.
The emails are likely to ignite what had until now been only simmering questions into a full-blown political scandal that could damage the 2016 presidential hopes of Christie, a Republican thought to have his eye on a White House bid. Christie has said he had no prior knowledge of the closures, and blamed them on a traffic study. Revelations that the study was a pretext for political punishment may stoke the perception that Christie, famous for his volcanic outbursts in public, has used his office to bully political opponents in private.

Christie called the actions of his aides “unacceptable” in a statement late Wednesday.

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable,” he said. “I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”