The unfolding scandal over a massive, four-day traffic jam apparently created as an act of political retribution by a top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has all the hallmarks of classic Garden State intrigue. The Port Authority. Vengeance. Heavy traffic.
The political fallout has already claimed victims, including the top aide whose firing Christie announced during a long, contrite news conference Thursday, and it threatens to damage the governor’s 2016 presidential prospects. Federal prosecutors say they’re now investigating the incident.
Like any tale of intrigue, the cast of characters can become a bit unwieldy. Here are the five players in the George Washington Bridge scandal you need to know.
Bridget Anne Kelly is Christie’s now-former deputy chief of staff, and the person emails show telling a Christie ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” after the city’s mayor declined to endorse Christie’s reelection. That eventually led to lanes being closed on the New Jersey side of of the George Washington Bridge, jamming traffic in Fort Lee for days. Christie announced Kelly had been fired in Thursday, saying she had misled him about his office’s involvement in the lane closures. “I’ve terminated her employment because she lied to me,” Christie said.
David Wildstein went to high school with Christie and is a longtime friend. A notoriously hard-nosed New Jersey political operative, Wildstein anonymously ran a successful New Jersey political website for years before later being appointed to the Port Authority by Christie. It was Wildstein who, according to the newly disclosed documents, received the directive from Christie’s aide to create traffic problems in Fort Lee. He resigned from his position at the Port Authority in December last year. He refused to answer questions to state lawmakers investigating the incident Thursday, citing his constitutional right to stay silent.
Bill Baroni was the Deputy Executive Director at the Port Authority and Christie’s top man at the agency. Baroni stuck by his story that the lane closures were part of a mishandled “traffic study” rather than political retribution, even as he resigned from his position along with Wildstein.
Patrick Foye is the executive director of the Port Authority, and an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (the two states have joint control over the agency). Being outside of the Christie fold, Foye’s testimony under oath that he didn’t know anything about a traffic study—supposedly the reason for the gridlock—instantly raised questions about why, then, if the head honcho didn’t know about a traffic study, lanes had been closed at all.
Mark Sokolich is the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who apparently brought the traffic jam of all traffic jams upon his town because he wouldn’t back Christie’s reelection bid. After the lane closures brought Fort Lee’s streets to a stand still, Sokolich reached out to Baroni for help, though his pleas went nowhere. Since the disclosures of political motives at play, Sokolich has harshly criticized Christie’s administration. “You have intentionally put people in harm’s way,” he said on CNN.
Headshot credits: Phil Stilton, William Thomas Cain / Getty Images; Henny Ray Abrams, Mike Groll / AP; Eric Thayer / Reuters