While Governor Chris Christie has tried to distance himself from David Wildstein in part by claiming that Wildstein wasn’t popular in high school, another longtime friend of Christie was also involved in the illegal lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. According to MSNBC, Port Authority Police Officer Thomas Michaels drove Wildstein around during the closures and sent him periodic text messages about the traffic jam.
Michaels also grew up with Governor Christie and is the brother of one of the most powerful lobbyists in Trenton, Jeff Michaels.
Michaels, who joined the Port Authority Police Department in 1998 according to payroll records, grew up in Christie and Wildstein’s hometown of Livingston, N.J. In recent years, he coached Christie’s son at little league hockey. Michael’s brother, Jeffrey Michaels is among the most powerful Republicans in New Jersey politics – a lobbyist whose practice has soared in value during the Christie years and who has donated heavily to pro-Christie organizations.
It is hard to exaggerate how powerful Jeff Michaels has become during the Christie era. Michaels aligned with Democratic Party Boss George Norcross’s brother to found a lobbying firm. Michaels lobbies Republicans and Norcross lobbies Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney – together they have serious power in Trenton.
Tom Michaels’ action in assisting Wildstein raise questions about the Port Authority Police’s role in Bridgegate.
The revelation is also important because Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had earlier questioned the Port Authority Police Department’s actions during the closures. In a September 12 letter, Sokolich wrote to Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni, a Christie appointee who has since resigned, that residents had told him that “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.” There is no evidence that Michaels was one of these officers
If there was a plan to tell commuters that the traffic jam was due to orders from Mayor Sokolich that would seem to confirm that the illegal lane closures were political retaliation designed to hurt a mayor who had refused to endorse Governor Christie for re-election. The involvement of a longtime Christie friend and brother of a key political ally makes the case even stronger.
The longer the investigation continues and the more people within the power structure are getting sucked in to the scandal. From the political appointees at the Port Authority to the Governor’s front office to now the Port Authority Police. And yet, we still do not know exactly why the closures were ordered and who ordered them.
The investigation continues.