Much of the controversy surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration causing paralyzing traffic last September is not in dispute. There's broad agreement that Christie aides closed down lanes to the George Washington Bridge, crippled the community of Fort Lee, and ignored Port Authority procedures.
The story gets a little murky when asking why, exactly, the Christie administration did this. The suspicion is that the governor and his team were punishing a local mayor for refusing to endorse Christie's re-election campaign.
The Bergen Record moves the ball forward this morning with a provocative development.
The George Washington Bridge lane closures that led to paralyzing gridlock in Fort Lee this past September were ordered by someone outside the Port Authority and possibly for "an improper motive," said the state lawmaker leading the investigation into whether the closings were politically motivated. "There are documents that we've received that would indicate that there was somebody else who initiated this," said Assemblyman John Wisniewski. "There are words that are used that would imply an improper motive."
"This didn't originate with David Wildstein," Wisniewski said, referring to a top Christie aid, who has since resigned, who ordered the lane closures and told officials at the bridge to keep the move secret. "It came from a higher authority."
According to the Bergen Record's report, Wisniewski, the Democrat who's heading up the investigation, has reviewed more than 900 pages of Port Authority emails, text messages, and related materials, and has not found any credible, traffic-related reason for closing two of the three lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge's tollbooths.
Wisniewski did not go into any additional details, but his coy language gets at the heart of the burgeoning scandal. If Christie's top aides at the Port Authority ordered the lane closures, the controversy is serious enough, but if they were acting on "improper" orders from a "higher authority" in state government, it raises the specter of an even more serious matter.
Lingering questions should come into sharper focus fairly soon -- more investigatory hearings are scheduled for next week and Wildstein has been subpoenaed to testify.
Also note, for those looking for a timeline of events, the Star Ledger published a helpful piece earlier this week.