In statement, NJ Gov. Chris Christie says he is 'saddened' by choices made by Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly following their conviction in Bridgegate scandal; adds he 'had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments, and had no role in authorizing them' - NBC News
Editor's note: The convicted defendants in the George Washington Bridge ramp closing scandal, widely known as 'Bridgegate,' included Bill Baroni, a former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Baroni was appointed by NJ Gov. Chris Christie to the post in 2010. News organizations are calling Baroni either an ally or an aide to Christie, but it is unclear how much contact he had with Christie as a direct aide, political or otherwise. - Andrew
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 (R) colluded to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing lanes at the main toll plaza for the upper level of the George Washington Bridge.
The problems began on Monday, September 9, 2013, when two of three toll lanes for a local street entrance were closed 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 ended only when the two lanes were reopened on Friday, September 13, 2013, by an order from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. He said that the "hasty and ill-informed decision" could have endangered lives and violated federal and state laws.
The ensuing investigations centered on several of Christie's appointees and staff, including David Wildstein, who ordered the lanes closed, and Bill Baroni, who had told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures were for a traffic study.
The United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman launched a massive federal investigation, resulting in a sweeping nine-count indictment against Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, Baroni and Wildstein. Wildstein entered a guilty plea, and testified against Baroni and Kelly, who were found guilty on all counts in November 2016. David Samson pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy in July 2016, for acts unrelated to the lane closures but unearthed by the federal Bridgegate investigation.
Governor Chris Christie's political standing was badly damaged by the scandal. Once considered a leading contender for the 2016 Republican nomination for President, Christie dropped out of the presidential race after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary. The scandal was widely cited as a major factor in the early demise of Christie's 2016 presidential ambitions. Christie called Bridgegate "a factor" in why he was bypassed by Donald Trump as the vice presidential nominee. In September 2016, both the prosecution and the defense in the trial of two of Christie's former aides argued that Christie knew of his close associates' involvement in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening, and that the closings were to punish Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to support Christie's reelection bid. This was the first time Christie has been officially accused of contemporaneous knowledge of the plot.