Christie’s Henchman at Port Authority Was Untouchable

      NEWARK, N.J. (CN) — The Port Authority official who restored order to the George Washington Bridge after a politically engineered lane shutdown testified Thursday about his disdain for Gov. Chris Christie’s henchman who took credit for the fiasco.
     “Abusive and untrustworthy” were the words Pat Foye used several times on the stand today when describing former David Wildstein, his onetime colleague at the Port Authority for New York and New Jersey.
     Wildstein pleaded guilty last year to his role in the lane-closure scandal of 2013 that is now known as Brigdegate.
     As laid out in the Port Authority executive director’s emails at the time, however, Foye had another name for it: “Wildsteingate.”
     Wildstein had been director of interstate capital at the time of the lane closures that snarled traffic for four days in September 2013.
     As part of his guilty plea, the Christie appointee will be testifying for the government to support parallel charges against Christie’s former chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and William Baroni Jr., a onetime deputy executive director at the Port Authority.
     In extracting unfavorable testimony about Wildstein this morning, the defense teams are giving the jury ample ammunition to distrust the government’s star witness when he takes the stand.
     Foye did some damage to Baroni’s defense Wednesday in telling the court that Baroni had asked him repeatedly to close the lanes again after reopening them calling it “important to Trenton,” the home of Christie’s office.
     Taking the stand again today, Foye spoke of the Port Authority internal review of Bridgegate after the lanes reopened. He said they didn’t interview Wildstein for one simple reason.
     “Because I had no reason to believe he would tell the truth,” Foye said.
     Foye told the court why his unshakable distrust of Wildstein was not enough to put the man out of a job.
     Himself an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Foye said it would “practically complicated to fire David Wildstein.”
     Kelly’s defense attorney Michael Critchley summed it up for the jury.
     “The only guy who could fire him was Chris Christie,” Critchley said of Wildstein.
     Critchley also asked the witness whether he thought Christie protected Wildstein.
     “Correct,” Foye said.
     The witness had his own job to worry about, further testimony showed
     Foye said he heard sometime in late 2013 that Christie wanted him fired.
     He said he couldn’t recall why Christie wanted him fired, though, or who had told him.
     Another revelation about Wildstein’s tenure at the Port Authority came when Foye noted that Wildstein he had a piece of telephone equipment at his desk Port Authority desk usually reserved for administrative staff.
     The equipment allowed Wildsten to have multiple phone lines and essentially tap into the phone calls of fellow Port Authority officials, Foye said.
     Wildstein also apparently left the Port Authority with certain equipment that the agency wanted back.
     Foye said he tasked former Port Authority chair David Samson with the repo job.
     “You are closest to him,” Foye said he told Samson with regard to Wildstein.
     Samson pleaded guilty in July to a felony bribery count — admitting that he had used United’s plans for a larger hangar at Newark Liberty International Airport as leverage for his travel convenience.
     Port Authority Chief of Staff John Ma took the stand next. Ma admitted to telling a reporter from the Bergen Record on Sept. 13 that Wildstein had been behind the closures.
     “I called him [the reporter], off the record, that to my knowledge there was no traffic study, and the lane closures had been ordered by David Wildstein,” Ma told the court.
     Under cross-examination by defense attorneys, Ma said Foye knew about the off-the-record call to the reporter.
     Former Christie aide Mike Mowers — who had worked on the governor’s gubernatorial campaign and had been involved in courting Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich — is expected to testify tomorrow. Wildstein’s testimony, which is considered one of the lynchpins of the prosecution’s case, could begin as early as next week.
     U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton is presiding over the case, which is expected to take six to eight weeks. Five men and seven women serve on the jury.

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