The documents provided to the New Jersey Legislature by former Port Authority official David Wildstein that ignited the scandal over illegal lane closures at the George Washington Bridge have now been unredacted. The original redacted version showed the infamous “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee” email by Governor Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly which led to her being fired and a special investigative committee being established by the NJ legislature.
The unredacted emails show staff in the Governor’s Office and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey joking about causing traffic jams in other places. One person singled out was a Rabbi who had irritated Wildstein.
In the texts about the chaplain, Wildstein sent Kelly a picture of Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, later writing: “And he has officially pissed me off.”
“Clearly,” Kelly responded on Aug. 19.
“We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?” Kelly wrote.
“Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed,” wrote Wildstein, an executive at the bi-state agency that controls the region’s airports.
“Perfect,” Kelly wrote.
Outside the context of Bridgegate the messages appear innocent enough. But once you factor in that these people did, in fact, orchestrate unnecessary traffic jams affecting thousands the message seem to provide further evidence for a culture that embraced abusing government power at the public’s expense. That petty vengeance – not public service – drove the behaviors of people in Governor Christie’s office and Governor Christie’s appointees to the Port Authority.
Bill Stepien, Governor Christie’s former campaign manager and political advisor, was revealed to be behind at insults to the New York side of appointees at the Port Authority. Stepien would later be fired by Christie from the RGA and had his name withdrawn to become head of the New Jersey Republican Party.
A message released for the first time also shows that Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, wrote to Wildstein on Oct. 1 in an apparent reference to Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye after an internal agency email was leaked to the press. Foye, who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, reversed the lane closures in the email and called them abusive and potentially illegal.
“Holy [expletive], who does he think he is, Capt. America?” Stepien wrote to Wildstein on the same day the email surfaced publicly.
“Bad guy,” Wildstein replied. “Welcome to our world.”
So far Wildstein is the only target of the Bridgegate investigation to run over documents. Both Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly are refusing to cooperate with the New Jersey Special Investigative Committee by claiming Fifth Amendment protections – that any documents or testimony they would give to the committee could incriminate them.
Whether their Fifth Amendment claims will hold will be decided by a judge. The fact that Kelly’s conduct occurred while she was serving at a government office may complicate her defense. The case will be heard in March.