NEWARK, N.J. — During continued testimony in the Bridgegate trial, Bridget Kelly claimed on Monday that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and members of his senior staff lied during two press conferences in December 2013 regarding the traffic-causing lane realignment that occurred on Sept. 9-12, 2013.
According to Kelly’s testimony, she spoke with Christie about the lane closures three times between August 12th, 2013, and Sept. 12th, 2013. Kelly said that during her September 12th conversation with the governor she mentioned that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had reached out to the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and made an early claim of political retribution as a motivating factor behind the realignment. The defendant also said that at that time Christie told her to let David Wildstein of the Port Authority handle it. Wildstein is the admitted mastermind of the lane closures and he implicated Kelly in the conspiracy.
Kelly said that, in addition to Christie, a number of members of his staff knew about the lane closures. Those staff members included Kelly, Mike Drewniak, Kevin O’Dowd, and Charles McKenna. According to Kelly, because of that knowledge, the governor falsely claimed on Dec. 12th, 2013, at a Statehouse press conference that none of his staff knew of the lane closures, including the governor himself.
“I knew about the traffic study but so did he and so did others,” Kelly said of the governor. When Christie claimed ignorance on behalf of both himself and his staff, Kelly said she started “panicking” and was “petrified.” She said that her fear stemmed from the fact that Christie’s story did not line up with her own.
Kelly said that the governor and senior staff seemed to be having a “memory issue” about the lane closure related conversations during the timeframe of the Dec. 12th press conference.
“The governor’s words did not match my actions… I knew it wasn’t going to be a good thing for me,” said Kelly. She also said she was concerned that “things weren’t making sense,” including the fact that the governor was claiming no knowledge, that when she spoke with Wildstein after his Dec. 6th departure from the Port Authority he was convinced that there would be a place for him in Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Port Authority Director Pat Foye calling Wildstein the “culprit” behind the lane closures.
Kelly also said that she deleted GWB-related email exchanges between her and Wildstein out of fear and that she printed some of those exchanges to show to Kevin O’Dowd, then the governor’s chief of staff.
Kelly’s testimony stands in stark contrast to claims from the governor’s office. On Friday, the office released the following statement from spokesman Brian Murray:
“As the Governor has said since January 9, 2014, the Governor had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments, and he had no role in authorizing them. Anything said to the contrary is simply untrue.”
While Kelly claims that she, the governor, and other staff members at the time knew about the lane realignment, she has not claimed that anyone in the governor’s office knew of a political motivation behind the lane closures. She asserts that, at the time of the closures, she believed Wildstein’s claims that the realignment was a policy issue being explored by the bi-state agency in order to potentially improve GWB congestion. During his own testimony, Wildstein claimed that the lanes were shifted in order to punish Sokolich for not endorsing Christie’s reelection.