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New Democratic video hits Christie on controversy

After revelation that Christie asked Cuomo to back off bridge lane closure inquiry, top aide resigns

One day after the Wall Street Journal reported that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had privately asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to back off an investigation into Bill Baroni, Christie's top appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Baroni has resigned.

Last September, Baroni mysteriously ordered the closure of two of the three lanes from Fort Lee, New Jersey, to the George Washington Bridge. The blockade created enormous traffic jams in Fort Lee and jeopardized public safety by disrupting the ability of first responders to move throughout the city. Three days later, the lanes were reopened, but the question everybody wants answered is this: Why were the lanes closed in the first place?

Baroni claimed the lane closure was part of a "traffic study," but no one believes him because:

Nobody involved with George Washington Bridge’s operations knew anything about Baroni’s phantom "study."

That includes Patrick Foye, Baroni’s boss and the Port Authority’s top executive, who was subpoenaed to Trenton on Monday and testified, under oath, that he wasn’t told about the clandestine study, either. When he learned about it from reporters, he demanded the lanes be reopened.

The widely held suspicion is that Baroni and David Wildstein, the PA’s director of interstate capital projects, ordered the traffic squeeze to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, for refusing to endorse Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election.

Please read below the fold for more on Chris Christie's politics.

9:34 AM PT: And check this out—Christie is trying to say the Baroni resignation had nothing to do with the bridge controversy.

Mr. Christie suggested that Mr. Baroni’s resignation was not connected to the bridge controversy. “Senator Baroni offered his resignation and I accepted it,” he said at a news conference Friday. “But this was nothing I hadn’t planned already.”
Yeah, sure.

It might seem strange for Christie's political team to have been worried about getting endorsements from Democratic mayors, but one of the ways Christie has built a power base in Democratic New Jersey is by wooing Democratic politicians with spending projects. Case in point: Christie won the endorsement of the Harrison, New Jersey's Democratic mayor after promising a $250 million PATH station. (PATH is operated by the Port Authority.)

The question that many on both sides of the Hudson now have is whether Baroni's actions were a nasty sort of payback against Fort Lee's mayor for refusing to play ball. Christie has been unwilling to talk about the issue publicly—except for some awkward jokes—and Baroni has been stonewalled. But the questions haven't gone away and now Hoye, who heads the Port Authority and was appointed by Andrew Cuomo, has been looking for answers.

And apparently Chris Christie didn't like that:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week to complain about a Cuomo appointee's handling of a growing controversy over traffic pattern changes on the George Washington Bridge, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. was cut from three to one in early September, according to this person.

So to recap the admittedly circumstantial evidence here: A Chris Christie appointee orders the blockade of two out of the three lanes of traffic from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge with no good explanation. New Jersey Democrats suspect politics motivated the action, but when Christie was asked questions about it, his initial reaction was to refuse to comment, aside from making awkward jokes. When that didn't stop people from trying to help get to the bottom of things, Christie's next move was to go to Andrew Cuomo and ask him to tell him to tell his guy at the Port Authority to back off. Then, when that became public, Christie decided this was no longer a joking matter and accepted the resignation of his lieutenant at the Port Authority.

Hmm. I'm not saying there's a fire in Christie's kitchen, but the smoke has to be coming from somewhere, doesn't it?