Chris Christie in more trouble as feds build case against him. Sources close to the investigation into the Bridgegate scandal have told Esquire that one of the key participants in the scandal is now cooperating with federal investigators and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark, NJ. Sources have revealed that David Wildstein, the Port Authority official, who with Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, orchestrated the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge on September 9, 2013, is now a cooperating witness. It has been reported that U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has assigned additional investigators to the case and has been presenting evidence and witnesses to a federal grand jury impaneled in Newark, NJ.
David Wildstein, resigned from his Port Authority post in December after he was identified in an email with Christie staffer Bridget Kelly, which detailed their plans to close some traffic lanes leading into Fort Lee on the George Washington Bridge. When Christie staffer Bridget Kelly made her now famous quote, “It’s time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Wildstein had replied, “Got it.” The lane shutdowns were made allegedly as retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting Christie’s bid for governor last year. It is unclear if Wildstein has been granted immunity for his cooperation. His cooperation and testimony could put Christie in more trouble and cast doubts on his presidential aspirations.
The empaneling of a federal grand jury certainly suggests that the US Attorney’s Office believes that federal laws may have been violated in relation to the traffic lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Federal grand juries are usually impaneled for 18 months, but the term can be extended. Questions are now being raised on the logic of Christie commissioning the so-called Christie Report that exonerated Christie and his top aides of any culpability in the Bridgegate scandal. The Christie Report could possibly put Christie in more trouble. It creates a wealth of information that can be easily subpoenaed by the grand jury. Christie may or may not have inadvertently sped up the investigation by commissioning this report. Christie released the report exonerating himself in hopes of continuing his political aspirations and ending any linkage from the Bridgegate scandal to his office and staff.
Wildstein and Kelly’s attorneys have both admitted that their clients would cooperate with federal prosecutors if provided with immunity from any prosecution. Wildstein is in a perfect position to implicate two other Christie appointees to Port Authority. Former deputy director Bill Baroni and former chairman David Samson have both refused to cooperate and speak with investigators conducting the Christie Report. It appears this may be the strategy of federal prosecutors. Either way it is more trouble for Christie.
Christie appears to be taking a page out of the Nixon Watergate scandal by continuing to distance himself and claiming he knew nothing about the Bridgegate scandal. Christie is fading fast as the feds continue to build a case against him. Events are now putting Christie in more trouble each passing day. Christie’s political aspirations for president are certainly over, and in a strange twist of political fate, Christie, the former federal prosecutor, may finding himself joining former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in federal prison.
Opinion by John J. Poltonowicz