‘Bridgegate’ Key Witness: Christie, Cuomo Discussed Releasing False Report To Play Down Scandal

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) —The prosecution’s key witness in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial says a onetime top ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told him the governor and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed releasing a report to tamp down questions over the scandal.


David Wildstein said Tuesday that former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman David Samson told him the governors discussed the idea in October 2013.

That report was never published.

Samson pleaded guilty to separate charges related to his tenure as chairman and is awaiting sentencing.

Cuomo is denying he ever spoke to Christie about issuing a false report to cover up the political reason for the 2013 closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge.

Cuomo spokesman John Kelly said Tuesday that “no such conversation” between the Democratic governor and his Republican counterpart in New Jersey ever happened.

“The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: it was our executive director who blew the whistle and ordered the bridge reopened,” a spokesperson for Cuomo said. “To be clear, no such conversation between the governors happened, in fact no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted ‘Bridgegate’ architect thought or dreamt about New York’s involvement has no basis in fact. Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it’s just false and delusional.”

Christie denied knowing about the plot in a lengthy press conference on Jan. 9, 2014. When asked if the governor lied during that press conference, Wildstein replied, “yes sir, he did.”

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino released a statement following news of the testimony, calling for both Christie and Cuomo to “resign their offices” if it was proven that they corroborated.

Michael Critchley, Bridget Kelly‘s defense attorney, questioned Wildstein on whether or not his story has changed or evolved over time since the 2013 closures, including his story about meeting with Christie at a 9/11 event where defendant Bill Baroni allegedly bragged to the governor about the tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee.

Wildstein went on to testify that it was requested that a fake traffic study report be hand-delivered to Christie’s office, instead of sent via e-mail, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported. Wildstein said Kelly had nothing to do with writing that false report.

He also testified that he was asked by the governor’s office to offer Kelly’s father a position with the Port Authority.

WEB EXTRA: Timeline of key events in “Bridgegate” investigation

Before the trial broke for the Jewish new year on Monday, Critchley raised questions about Wildstein’s credibility, calling Wildsteina liar and describing the former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive as someone who would do whatever it took to further his own interests.

Wildstein previously admitted to lying for his own benefit — filling out a job application for the Port Authority position he was already appointed to and adding a bachelor’s degree in political science that he never earned, Baker reported in an earlier story.

Emails reveal Wildstein often told people his title was “the governor’s representative at the Port Authority.” He previously testified that his title — director of interstate capital projects — was completely made up.

Wildstein pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

The defense finished Tuesday with sarcastic emails sent between Kelly and Baroni, portraying the image that she was joking about the lane closures.

Kelly and Baroni are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, deprivation of civil rights and fraudulently using an agency that receives federal funds. The most serious charge carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence.

Wildstein has testified that the Republican governor was told about the traffic jam while it was underway. Christie has repeatedly denied that and has not been charged with a crime.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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