*If you share this story on Twitter, please use the hashtag #ChristieCoverUp - hopefully we can get that widely used to build a large national following of this story*
News broke this morning (BlueJersey.com via the Wall Street Journal) reporting that Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, both implicated in the growing George Washington Bridge scandal, have retained lawyers as investigations continue regarding their involvement with the lane closure scandal.
Bill Baroni served as the Deputy Executive Director at Port Authority, though he has now resigned. Previously, he was a NJ State Senator.
David Wildstein is a personal friend of Gov. Christie's and was the person who ordered the GW Bridge general manager to close the lanes. Wildstein told the bridge manager to not inform anyone in Fort Lee, NJ about the lane closures.
If you are new to this story, follow below the fold for a quick recap (plus all the new updates):
New update is about half way down.
As reported by Daily Kos member Bethesda 1971, the quick summary is that the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ (a Democrat) refused to support Gov. Christie's re-election bid. Gov. Christie depended on numerous (turncoat) Democratic mayors' endorsements as a way to seem moderate to voters. However, the Fort Lee mayor refused.
Allegedly, as revenge, Gov. Christie (via his hand-picked associates at the Port Authority) ordered two of three Manhattan-bound entrance lanes coming from Fort Lee, NJ shut down (leaving only one open), due to a supposed "traffic study". This was very surprising to the employees of the Port Authority, who say that such studies have 1) already been done, and 2) require months in advance planning, not the week notice Gov. Christie gave.
Gov. Christie laughed off the matter, but as I posted here on Daily Kos last week (via another WSJ report), Christie was allegedly personally involved in the matter, at least as it pertains to limiting investigation as to why the lanes were closed.
Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J., was cut from three to one in early September, according to this person. The lane closures occurred without notice to local authorities, officials have said, and snarled traffic for a week in the small borough on the Hudson River bluffs.
Our own Jed Lewison posted
about this story last week as well, when he reported that Bill Baroni had resigned. Gov. Christie commented that this was a planned thing for a while, but that doesn't pass the smell test at all.
Especially since a set of emails (warning - PDF) obtained and published by the Wall Street Journal, which I myself highlighted in a comment in Jed's diary, seem to imply a cover up in the making. After a strong email from Patrick Foye (the Port Authority Executive Director) with intentions to investigate the matter, Bill Baroni replied saying "Pat we need to discuss prior to any communications" and "I am on my way to the office. There can be no public discourse." (bold my emphasis)
Finally, here's the new update!
According to a report at BlueJersey.com (via the WSJ), both Wildstein and Baroni have retained lawyers. This news is one day before the subpeona deadline for documents requested by NJ Assemblyman John Wisniewski as he continues to investigate the matter.
According to the WSJ, the lawyers retained by Baroni and Wildstein have previous experience defending notorious NJ clients:
Mr. Wildstein recently hired Alan L. Zegas, a criminal lawyer from Chatham, N.J. , to represent him, according to an email sent from Mr. Zegas to the state Legislature Tuesday.
Mr. Zegas was co-counsel to former Newark Mayor Sharpe James in 2008 in response to federal corruption charges brought by Mr. Christie when he served as the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, according to Mr. Zegas’s biography.
Mr. Baroni retained Michael Himmel, of Lowenstein Sandler LLP, to represent him. Mr. Himmel works at the firm’s New York City and Roseland, N.J. offices, and specializes in white collar crime, according to his biography. Mr. Himmel is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.
In 2009, Mr. Himmel also represented Solomon Dwek, a former real estate investor who pleaded guilty to bank fraud and money laundering charges. Mr. Dwek became an FBI informant in a case brought by Mr. Christie that implicated dozens of elected officials in a widespread corruption investigation.
Apparently this growing scandal is on the radar of the U.S. Senate and U.S. Secretary of Transportation (so says BlueJersey.com). Given that the George Washington Bridge greatly impacts interstate commerce, Congress absolutely would have the power to perform their own investigation given enumerated powers under the U.S. Constitution.
We need to keep the full court press on Gov. Christie, and though many previous incidents have sadly slid off Mr. Teflon, I actually believe this scandal has the chance to be very damaging to Gov. Christie and his national political ambitions. But only if we keep the heat on.
Update - H/T to ericlewis0, who brought to my attention the news that Sen. Rockefeller wants the feds to investigate the matter. That could be what BlueJersey.com was talking about.