We talked earlier about Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) longtime ally, David Wildstein, pleading guilty this morning to two counts of conspiracy, stemming from his role in the “Bridgegate” scandal. Wildstein’s court appearance shed considerable light on the controversy, including the fact that Team Christie crippled Fort Lee on purpose – deliberately choosing the first day of school – to punish a local mayor for failing to endorse the governor’s re-election campaign.
Soon after Wildstein’s court appearance, however, another shoe fell when his co-conspirators from Team Christie were indicted on federal criminal charges.
At the federal court [in Newark], David Wildstein acknowledged conspiring with Bill Baroni, Christie’s then-top Port Authority appointee, and Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. […]At a press conference, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Baroni and Kelly were charged by a federal grand jury in a nine-count indictment unsealed Friday. Fishman said Wildstein and Baroni executed a political “vendetta” against Sokolich. Among other charges, they are each accused of conspiring to misuse – and actually misusing – property of an organization receiving federal benefits, conspiring to commit wire fraud, conspiring to injure and oppress certain individuals’ civil rights.
Their arraignment is scheduled for Monday morning.
And then, of course, there’s still the matter of Christie himself.
The Republican governor and likely presidential candidate turned to Twitter this afternoon, hoping to distance himself from the abuses committed by top members of his staff. “I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act,” Christie said.
This remains a problematic defense, but it’s also an open question as to whether or not the denial is accurate. Wildstein’s lawyer, Alan Zegas, made some unexpected comments after this morning’s court appearance.
“There is a lot more that will come out,” he said. “Unfortunately, I am not in a position to talk about the matter in detail.”He repeated that Gov. Chris Christie “knew of the lane closures as they occurred” and that “evidence exists” that proves it.
Watch this space.