The George Washington Bridge

Look, I never, ever drive in New York City if I can possibly avoid it. The streets are a maze only slightly mitigated by GPS and while, as a Connecticut Driver, I am no slouch on sheer aggressiveness compared to most areas of the country, I simply don’t have the reckless disregard for automotive bodywork required to make any progress at all, much to the irritation of surrounding traffic which correctly perceives me as a roadblock.

This is not as much of a handicap as it might be because the public transportation is excellent. Who needs a car?

Among the twists and turns that thwart me are the interchanges to the George Washington Bridge and I’ll often make a 20 mile detour just so I can use the Tappan Zee instead. As is typical of New York City roads rapid and drastic lane changes are required to reach your destination and the threat of being dumped on local roads, which while barely tolerable on the near side of the Hudson are completely impossible in the land of Jughandles that is New Jersey, is ever present for the unwary and faint of heart.

Anyone who has navigated this puzzle, and there are many millions of us, can’t help but resent what Chris Christie did to all of us in petty, spiteful retaliation for a Democratic Mayor refusing to endorse a Republican Governor for re-election.

‘Cruel and callous’ Bridgegate scheme was act of political retribution, jury told
by Edward Helmore, The Guardian
Friday 28 October 2016 13.31 EDT

The Bridgegate case against two former aides of the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, neared its end on Friday as prosecutors argued that the traffic chaos caused by lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 was designed to punish a local mayor for withholding his endorsement of the governor’s re-election bid.

“You think any of this would have been done without the direct knowledge of participants?” asked prosecutor Lee Cortes. “No way … it was a cruel and callous scheme.”

Prosecutors claim the scheme was a direct response to Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, a Democrat, who refused to endorse the Republican governor’s re-election bid. Fort Lee is on the New Jersey side of the bridge that connects the state with New York.

As news of an alleged plot and cover-up surfaced in early 2014, Christie offered a meandering, 107-minute TV apology, denying any knowledge of the events and pronouncing himself “stunned by the abject stupidity” of his aides engaging in such a plan.

But the credibility of those assertions has been strained, if not shredded, by six weeks of testimony delivered by members of Christie’s “inner circle” that prosecutors described as a “coterie of cowards”.

Federal prosecutors produced a text sent by Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and one of the two defendants charged, during the press conference. “He just flat out lied,” Kelly texted.

Kelly testified that she talked to the governor twice about the lane closures while they were under way, including once when she passed along that Sokolich had asked whether the lanes were closed for “government retribution”.

Kelly said that David Wildstein, a former high-ranking official at the Port Authority and the admitted mastermind of the lane closure plot, told her in June 2013 that he was working with Port Authority engineers and police on a “traffic study”.

She also said there were explanations for emails and texts that prosecutors offered as evidence that she participated in the scheme that appears to have begun on 12 August 2013, when she received an email from Wildstein: “I have an issue to discuss with you, extraordinarily weird even by my standards.” Kelly then wrote to Wildstein: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

In Friday’s summations, Cortes argued Kelly’s words meant precisely that: “They were not about a traffic study. They are a direct view into minds of the participants.”

In another, infamous exchange, she’d replied “Is it wrong that I am smiling” after Wildstein described in an email how school buses had been caught in the traffic chaos. Kelly explained she was simply pleased that her colleague’s “traffic study” was progressing.

In a key passage, Wildstein, the government’s star witness, testified that he got approval for the scheme from Baroni and Kelly. He said Christie was told about the traffic in Fort Lee on the third day of the gridlock during a September 11 memorial event.

Baroni testified that Wildstein told Christie about the traffic congestion but denied knowledge of it. Mike DuHaime, one of Christie’s closest political advisers, also testified saying he told Christie in December 2013 that Kelly and campaign manager Bill Stepien knew about the lane closures.

But the presiding judge in the case, Susan D Wigenton, said prosecutors do not have to prove that defendants intended to punish Sokolich in order to convict on nine counts of conspiracy and fraud connected to the scheme and its cover-up.

Jurors will begin deliberations on Tuesday.

Monday, by judicial custom, is motions day.

Frankly The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a swamp of political corruption and has been practically since it’s inception. If there were any justice at all hundreds or thousands of administrators would be serving sentences for obvious bribery and extortion.

It’s not surprising that an enormous pus-bag of sleaze like Christie instigated and approved an action like this, what’s more interesting is that Andrew Cuomo, that paragon of Democratic virtue and heir of one of the most respected names in the Party (after Kennedy of course), is implicated up to his eyeballs in the cover up.

Or maybe it’s not that unusual at all.

1 comment

    • BobbyK on October 28, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Andreew Cuomo – Paragon of virtue.
    Ek you crack me up.

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