Federal prosecutor says he can prove Chris Christie knew about Bridgegate


21 September, 2016

A month before the gridlock began, Kelly sent Wildstein an email that said: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee".

Baroni was a top Christie appointee to the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey, which runs area bridges, tunnels and transit hubs.

His decision to endorse Trump angered many in his state, with a group of New Jersey newspapers calling on him to resign from office over reversing his previous criticism of the NY billionaire.

He will be followed to the stand by Mayor Mark Sokolich.

Three days before the closure, Wildstein had instructed George Washington Bridge manager Robert Durando to not warn anyone about the impending closure, including police.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo appear on a list of more than 300 witnesses who may be called to testify in the trial over the George Washington Bridge lane closures. At the time, Christie was USA attorney.

Hope Hicks, Trump's campaign spokeswoman, did not immediately return a message Tuesday from NJ Advance Media seeking comment.

The most serious charge in the indictment, wire fraud conspiracy, carries a maximum 20-year prison term. What came as a greater surprise was the disclosure, tucked into a brief aside in prosecutor Vikas Khanna's opening argument, that the government had evidence that Christie was aware of the closures as early as September 11, 2013 - day three of the four-day closure.

Prosecutors say along with former bridge authority official David Wildstein, Kelly and Baroni closed the lanes to create gridlock to punish a mayor for not endorsing Christie.

The governor isn't facing charges in relation to the scandal, and prosecutors haven't claimed he ordered the closures, only that he knew about the move.

Sokolich said he received invitations to parties, football games and other events from Christie staffers in the years leading up to 2013.

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One of the perks was a special tour of the still-under-construction 1 World Trade Center tower.

Kelly and Baroni are charged with conspiracy to misuse Port Authority property, wire fraud, deprivation of civil rights and conspiracy against civil rights. The callous emails and texts, including one saying it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" - and not "time for a traffic study", Khanna said. Former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly and former Christie Port Authority appointee Bill Baroni were indicted, and are facing prosecution from a federal attorney who intends to argue Christie knew about the lane closures that backed up traffic across the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee as they were happening. Kelly was Christie's deputy chief of staff.

Bendul described heavy traffic near the bridge and testified that an official from the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey told him to "have the mayor call Baroni".

Bendul testified he warned Durando: "If anybody dies, I'm telling them to sue him and everyone at the Port Authority".

Baroni's lawyer Michael Baldassare said Christie dispatched his two highest-ranking staff members to fire Baroni, suggesting there were others who knew about the plot.

Sokolich also is expected to testify Tuesday.

CNN reported that prosecutors revealed they intend to implicate Christie during their opening statements at the trial of two allies of the governor, former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey.

"The evidence will show that Baroni and Wildstein were so committed to their plan that, during the precious moments they had alone with the governor, they bragged about the fact that there were traffic problems in Fort Lee and that Mayor Sokolich was not getting his calls returned", Khanna told jurors in Newark Federal Court.

Kelly and Baroni claim their actions weren't criminal and the alleged scheme was orchestrated by another former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty.

During opening statements Monday in Newark, federal prosecutors said a third Christie associate, David Wildstein, will testify that he and a Christie aide informed the governor about the traffic shutdowns during a September 11 memorial service in 2013, according to the Associated Press.

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