Earlier this week, during his third day of testimony in federal court, David Wildstein, the government’s star witness in the Bridgegate trial, claimed that not only was Governor Chris Christie aware of the “traffic problems in Fort Lee” in September 2013, but that he laughed when told about it—at Ground Zero, ahead of a memorial service commemorating the 12th anniversary of 9/11.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors showed jurors a series of photographs of Christie, Wildstein, and defendant Bill Baroni yucking it up at Ground Zero on the third day of the George Washington Bridge lane closures. According to the New York Post, Wildstein—the state’s number 2 man at the Port Authority and a Christie appointee—testified that he and Baroni, the head of the agency, “bragged” to Christie about “the tremendous amount of traffic” they had created to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for failing to endorse the governor’s re-election bid.
It’s not clear which photographs specifically prosecutors entered into evidence, but the Port Authority released all of its photographs of the governor at the 2013 memorial service in April 2014, in response to a Freedom of Information request. (The rest can be seen here.)
“Baroni said to Gov. Christie, ‘There’s a tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee this morning,’” Wildstein testified on Tuesday. (Baroni apparently used “a sarcastic tone.”) “You will be pleased to know that Mayor Sokolich is very frustrated because he can’t get his telephone calls returned,” he added, according to Wildstein.
The governor responded: “I imagine he wouldn’t be getting his phone calls returned,” Wildstein testified. Baroni allegedly went on to assure Christie, “I was monitoring the traffic, I was watching over everything.”
“Were you and Mr. Baroni bragging?” assistant U.S. attorney Lee Cortes asked Wildstein, NJ.com reports. “Yes, very much so,” the former anonymous political blogger turned former political operative replied. “We discussed how pleased we were the boss was happy.”
Wildstein is cooperating with federal investigators as part of his plea deal. Baroni and former Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly are charged with conspiracy and fraud. In his testimony this week, Wildstein said that he and Baroni had agreed to talk to the governor about the scheme days before the visit to Ground Zero. “We intended to talk to Gov. Christie about the effects of the lane closures,” he testified. “Miss Kelly had previously said to me, ‘The governor is going to love this.’”
At an unrelated press conference on Tuesday, Christie addressed Wildstein’s testimony. “All kinds of stuff is going on up in a courtroom in Newark. I want to be really clear: I have not and will not say anything different than I’ve been saying since January 2014,” he said. “No matter what is said up there, I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments.”
Christie has not been charged with any wrongdoing.