NEWARK, N.J. (CN) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office had a hand in the cover-up story for New Jersey's 2013 politically engineered traffic jam, a convicted Republican operative testified Tuesday.
After the closure of two lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge snarled New Jersey traffic for four days in September 2013, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey put out a press release that blamed a traffic study for the congestion.
Though Port Auhority Executive Director Pat Foye testified last month that this explanation was not the truth, the Cuomo appointee gave little explanation as to why he signed off on a lie.
This morning, jurors in the federal Bridgegate trial heard that Foye got word from Albany to "lay off" of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
David Wildstein made the blockbuster allegation in his return to the stand after a three-day weekend courtesy of Rosh Hashanah.
The former Christie operative at the Port Authority has said the lane closures were targeted at the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie's re-election.
Following a guilty plea last year, Wildstein is the government's star witness against his accused co-conspirators: Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, and Bill Baroni, a fellow Christie ally at the Port Authority.
Throughout proceedings, tension between New Jersey and New York sides of the Port Authority has been likened to the rival gangs of "West Side Story," the Sharks and the Jets.
Wildstein said Baroni was preparing for a November 2013 appearance before the New Jersey Legislature when the Port Authority put together the "traffic-study" report for Foye's approval.
The message was, according to Wildstein's testimony, that "the Port Authority would take responsibility for a failure of communications, a mea culpa ... so that the questions about the lane closures would go away."
Wildstein said Port Authority chair David Samson had told him that Foye would be told not to accept invitation to testify before New Jersey legislators.
To Wildstein's knowledge, Christie and Cuomo's offices had been in discussion.
Somebody called Albany "to call Pat Foye off," Wildstein said he heard from Christie's chief of staff, Kevin O'Dowd.
Cuomo's office has not returned a telephone call seeking comment on the testimony, but the New York Daily News quoted his representative as dismissive. "Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it's just false and delusional," the spokesperson said.
While Cuomo and Christie have both avoided prosecution, corruption allegations have dogged the governors of late.
Court revelations have done little to dispel Cuomo's reputation as "The Albany Machiavelli," a nickname that New York Magazine tagged the Italian-American politician with three years ago.
Wildstein said the implication was that O'Dowd hashed out the agreement with his counterpart in Cuomo's office. Cuomo's chief of staff was John Blasto from January 2013 to January 2014.
Cross-examining Wildstein today, Kelly's defense attorney Michael Critchley asked whether "Christie wanted Pay Foye fired."
"Christie was not a fan of Pat Foye," Wildstein answered.
Foye had achieved hero status in September after reopening the lanes via executive order, and Wildstein admitted today that he did not have a good relationship with theman.