Christie aide said governor ‘lied’ to media in bridge case

By David Voreacos, Bloomberg

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “lied” in a news conference when he said his senior staff and campaign manager weren’t involved in the George Washington Bridge scandal, an aide texted to a colleague at the time, according to court documents.

The aide, Christina Renna, texted as Christie spoke on Dec. 13, 2013, and denied his top staffers and former campaign manager Bill Stepien closed lanes near the bridge in September 2013 as an act of political retribution, according to a filing by an ex-ally under indictment.

“Are you listening?” Renna texted, according to the filing. “He just flat out lied about senior staff and Stepien not being involved.”

After another aide responded, Renna texted: “Yes. But he lied. And if emails are found with the subpoena or ccfg emails are uncovered in discovery if it comes to that it could be bad.”

“CCFG” is an apparent reference to Chris Christie For Governor. A spokesman for Christie and a lawyer for Stepien didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Renna attorney Henry Klingeman didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Christie, now also a senior adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has denied he had any knowledge of the Bridgegate scandal when it occurred. Christie fired an aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, in January 2014 after disclosure of an email she wrote a month before the lane closings that said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

The text exchange was included in a filing Wednesday by lawyers for Bill Baroni, a former ally indicted with Kelly on charges that they created traffic jams near the bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for failing to endorse the governor’s re-election. Kelly was Renna’s supervisor at the time in Christie’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

When he fired Kelly, Christie also severed ties with Stepien, who wasn’t charged with a crime. Stepien attorney Kevin Marino said Renna testified to a state legislative committee investigating the scandal and “in no way, shape or form did she suggest that Mr. Stepien was knowledgeable about or involved in the Bridgegate affair.”

Marino said: “Mr. Stepien was investigated for 16 months and was not charged with wrongdoing by anyone. I can say with confidence that Bill Stepien was not involved in the Bridgegate affair, and any suggestion that he was is simply false.”

Both Baroni and Kelly have pleaded not guilty. They attended a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, where the judge scheduled opening statements for Sept. 19.

The court filing said the Renna text exchange occurred when Christie was asked about the bridge scandal. He was asked if he could “say with certainty that someone else didn’t on your staff or in your administration act on your behalf for the lane closures for political retribution.”

Christie responded: “Yeah, I have absolutely no reason to believe that, Angie, and I’ve made it very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it, and they’ve all assured me that they don’t.”

The governor was then asked about his campaign chief.

“Oh yeah,” Christie said. “I’ve spoken to Mr. Stepien, who’s the person in charge of the campaign, and he has assured me the same thing.”

Renna testified to lawmakers in May 2014 who were investigating the closing of access lanes to the bridge. Prosecutors say the gridlock over four mornings was intended to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. Renna said Kelly asked her to delete an email during the middle of the lane closures, when Sokolich called to say he was “extremely upset.”

Kelly wrote: “Good.”

Renna told the panel that the request, on Dec. 12, 2013, was “strange” and “paranoid.” The text exchange took place a day later.

Renna said she “wanted to sleep on the request,” and deleted the email 15 hours later, after forwarding it to a personal account. “I wanted to be able to tell her in good faith that I did what she asked me to do,” Renna said. “But I wanted to protect myself as well.”

Prosecutors cited the Kelly request to Renna to delete the email in their indictment.

Prosecutors alleged in a nine-count indictment that Kelly and Baroni misappropriated resources of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which owns the bridge. They are also accused of defrauding the Port Authority of property rights and depriving the people of Fort Lee of their civil rights to travel without unreasonable government restriction.

A former Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Vehicles exiting I-5 southbound begin to turn left into the eastbound lanes of 164th Street Southwest on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Traffic backups on 164th Street near I-5 could see relief soon

The county and state are implementing a new traffic signal system that synchronizes the corridor and adjusts to demand.

Rick Winter (left) and Gary Yang, the founders of the former UniEnergy Technologies, stand with one their latest batteries, the Reflex, August 10, 2022. (Dan DeLong/InvestigateWest)
‘Chaotic mess’: Clean energy promises imploded at Mukilteo battery maker

UniEnergy Technologies absorbed millions in public funds, then suddenly went dark. The company is accused of providing tech to China.

Everett
Federal funds could pay for Everett bathrooms, gun buyback, more

City officials propose $7.95 million of American Rescue Plan Act money on a shelter, mental health support and more.

Community Transit chief financial officer Eunjoo Greenhouse
Community Transit hires King County staffer as CFO

Eunjoo Greenhouse is set to join the agency Oct. 24 after years in King County government.

Fred Safstrom, CEO of Housing Hope, is retiring. Photographed in Everett, Washington on October 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Housing Hope CEO reflects on 25-year career helping unsheltered people

“People used to believe homelessness was caused by bad choices.” Minds and policies are changing, Fred Safstrom said.

The proposed Everett City Council districts map would make small shifts to all five districts based on recent Census data. (City of Everett)
Everett City Council district commission sticks with map

The map is set for council despite pleas for Broadway to split the two northern districts and criticism over the process.

Tanya King, left, looks to where Hailey Newton, right, ask to hang her project Thursday afternoon at Beverly Elementary in Lynnwood, Washington on September 14, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
2 ‘extraordinary educators’ honored nationally for success in classroom

Tanya King in Edmonds practices “controlled chaos.” Zachary Pfrimmer in Stanwood is orderly. Data shows both have been wildly successful.

Cassie Franklin, right, mayor of Everett, introduces a coalition to address public safety concerns Tuesday afternoon at Henry M. Jackson Park in Everett, Washington on October 4, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mayors: Enough is enough, we want something done for public safety

A coalition of city leaders from Snohomish County is pushing back on policing reforms passed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Snohomish County deputy on leave, accused of shoplifting at Home Depot

The sheriff’s deputy repeatedly stole merchandise at an Everett store where he worked as security, according to a search warrant.

Most Read