Bridgegate witness: Top-level Christie staffers knew of closings before public acknowledgement

Michael Drewniak

Michael Drewniak

The prosecution’s star witness in the Bridgegate trial said he told high-level staffers of Republican Gov. Christie Christie about the lane closure scheme a month before the governor publicly acknowledged that he knew the full extent of it.

Former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein testified in federal court in Newark Wednesday that he told press secretary Michael Drewniak and chief counsel Charlie McKenna in December 2013 that the plot was political retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

Christie has claimed that he only learned the full extent of the traffic jams when the now-infamous email claiming “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” became public the following January.

It was one of several revelations that has come to light during this week’s testimony from Wildstein, who had pleaded guilty to his role in the case.

Prosecutors say that Wildstein and two other former Christie allies caused traffic jams in Fort Lee in 2013 to punish Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

Bill Baroni, who was Wildstein’s boss at the Port Authority, and former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly have pleaded not guilty to their roles in the scheme.

On Wednesday Wildstein also detailed a June 2010 meeting where Christie decided which Democrats to fire from the Port Authority, a bistate agency jointly run with New York.

Wildstein said Christie’s then-deputy chief of staff Bill Stepien had asked him to come up with a list of employees ahead of time.

Earlier this week Wildstein claimed that he gave advance notice of the Fort Lee lane closures to Stepien, who was then running Christie’s re-election campaign, a claim Stepien has denied.

Christie fired Stepien after learning of his role in Bridgegate.

Stepien now works on the presidential campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.