— American Bridge (@American_Bridge) August 18, 2014
According to documents reviewed by The Bergen Record, some Port Authority police officers believed it was necessary to reopen the illegally closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge. In interviews given to New Jersey lawmakers the officers recounted how the closures were creating “hazardous conditions” on the streets of Fort Lee.
One officer who wanted to reopen the lanes due to the hazardous conditions was told to “Shut up” for bringing up the issue on an open radio channel. Port Authority officers said they heard in a break room that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was the target of the lane closures in retaliation for not endorsing Governor Chris Christie’s reelection effort.
So why did the officers agree to not intervene in the political retaliation that was jeopardizing people’s safety in Fort Lee? Part of the answer is who was in charge.
The instructions about the new lane configuration, many of them said, were delivered at roll call before the morning rush hour on the first day by Police Lt. Thomas “Chip” Michaels, who grew up with Governor Christie in the town of Livingston. He told the officers not to touch the traffic cones choking the number of access lanes out of Fort Lee from three down to one, according to the officers.
Later that morning, officers said they saw Michaels driving David Wildstein — the Port Authority executive who ordered the closures and also grew up with Christie — around Fort Lee’s gridlocked streets.
David Wildstein has already been directly implicated in the illegal lane closures and has also claimed that Governor Chris Christie was aware and involved in the action. Though Michaels claimed in testimony that Wildstein had told him that the lane closures were part of a legitimate traffic study. But that stands in opposition to the testimony of officers farther down the chain of command were told not talk about conditions on the radio or elsewhere in what looks like an attempt to downplay the impact – something you would not due in a standard “traffic study.”
As the US Attorney slowly makes progress on the case being brought there still remains serious questions about what Chris Christie knew and when he knew it.