Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on bridge scandal charges: 'We are in the process of reviewing the indictments to ascertain what additional steps, if any, we can take to prevent a recurrence of this type of abuse' - statement
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on bridge scandal charges: 'Today's charges make clear that what I've said from day 1 is true. I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act' - @GovChristie
US Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman asked about culture in Gov. Chris Christie's office following bridge case indictments: 'I don't comment on culture, that's not my expertise. I leave that to other people' - @Record_Melissa
Editor's note: NBC says a report on Thursday ruling out federal charges against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal was incorrect. The investigation is continuing. - Jimmy
Editor's note: NBC 4 New York is reporting that a U.S. Justice Department investigation found no link between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closures, according to federal officials. Spokesmen for the Justice Department, FBI and state officials all declined to comment on this report. We're waiting for additional confirmation. - Stephanie
The Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal or Bridgegate, is a U.S. political scandal in which a staff member and political appointees of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie colluded to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey by closing lanes at the toll plaza to the George Washington Bridge.
The problems began on Monday, September 9, 2013, when two of three customary eastbound toll lanes for a particular local street entrance were closed to that traffic during morning rush hour. Local officials, emergency services, and the public were not notified of the lane closures, which Fort Lee declared a threat to public safety. The resulting back-ups and gridlock on local streets only ended when the two lanes were reopened on Friday, September 13, 2013 by an order from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye (D). He said that the "hasty and ill-informed decision" could have endangered lives and violated federal and state laws.
The incident was investigated from a few possible motives. The prevailing theory is that the lane closures were retribution against Fort Lee's Mayor Mark Sokolich (D) for not endorsing Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election. That motive was alleged by federal prosecutors in May 2015, in charges against three New Jersey officials: Bill Baroni, Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein. Wildstein pleaded guilty. The indictment charged that the three conspired to commit fraud by illegally exploiting Port Authorities resources for political ends. Investigators also examined other possible motives.
Christie said in a February 2014 interview that he did not know about the lane closures, did not approve or authorize them and only became aware of them from a Wall Street Journal story after the lanes reopened. Christie ordered an internal probe be conducted by law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The firm cleared Christie of wrongdoing in their report. The report was criticized for not being able to interview key participants and for reading like a legal brief for Christie's defense.
Investigations centered on several of Christie's appointees and staff, including Wildstein, who ordered the lanes closed, and Baroni, who had told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures were for a traffic study. Both men resigned following sworn testimony that the two had violated protocols and then had sought to hide their involvement. Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, had emailed Wildstein advising him that it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee". She was fired by Christie, who said she had lied to him about her involvement. Christie's close political adviser and election campaign manager, Bill Stepien, resigned after Christie said that he was disturbed by the tone of Stepiens's emails related to the lane closures. David Samson (R), chairman of the Port Authority, resigned on March 28, 2014.
Christie's political standing and 2016 presidential campaign prospects were harmed by the scandal. As of May 2014, investigations were underway by the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, the New Jersey Legislature, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The New Jersey Attorney General has refused to say if it has launched a probe. At a news conference on May 1, 2015 U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman stated that, based upon the evidence that was available, his office would not bring any more charges in the case.