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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives a news conference in Trenton January 9, 2014.  Christie on Thursday fired a top aide at the center of a brewing scandal that public officials orchestrated a massive traffic snarl on the busy George Washington Bridg
No, not a wisp of hot air, but a thick cloud of smoke—the kind of smoke that comes from a big fire
According to a report from MSNBC, documents obtained by the legislative committee investigating New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's lane closure scandal show that a childhood friend of the governor who serves as a Port Authority police officer was in close contact throughout the lane closures with former Port Authority aide David Wildstein, who directed the operation.

According to to MSNBC's report, the friend, Port Authority Lieutenant Thomas "Chip" Michaels texted Wildstein status updates during the lane closures and appears to have driven Wildstein to oversee the traffic jam. Michaels' role seems to extend beyond Wildstein: MSNBC says Ft. Lee's police chief reached out to Michaels in a futile effort to stop the lane closures. Adding to the intrigue: Michaels' brother is Jeffrey Michaels, a politically-connected Republican lobbyists who has donated heavily to Christie.

Aside from the active involvement of another childhood Christie chum in the lane closures, the thing that is interesting is that Michaels' activity sheds light on what Port Authority police officers were up to during the lane closures. According to Ft. Lee's mayor, dozens of people impacted by the traffic jam called local government offices to complain, saying that they had been directed by Port Authority officers to complain to Ft. Lee officials even though the traffic jam was entirely orchestrated by the Port Authority. Moreover, said the mayor:

“Adding insult to injury,” [Ft. Lee Mayor Mark] Sokolich continued, “many members of the public have indicated to me that the Port Authority police officers are advising commuters in response to their complaints that this recent traffic debacle is the result of a decision that I, as the mayor, recently made.”
The question here is this: Were Port Authority police officers told to blame Ft. Lee officials and Sokolich? If so, was this Planet Christie's way of sending a message to the mayor and trying to pressure him into endorsing the governor's reelection bid? And why is it that childhood friends of Christie keep on appearing in this affair?

The good news is that we're probably going to get answers to these questions. In addition to the investigation by New Jersey's legislature, on Sunday Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, announced he would be investigating the actions of Port Authority police officers as well. Stay tuned.

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