Witness: N.Y.’s Cuomo OK’d fake report on lane closings
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on a plan to issue a report that falsely blamed a communications failure at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for politically motivated lane closings that tied up traffic near the George Washington Bridge in 2013, according to testimony on Tuesday in a New Jersey trial.
Cuomo agreed to back the fake report because he didn’t want the gridlock at the bridge to escalate into a political problem for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also approved the plan, according to testimony from David Wildstein, a key government witness at the trial of two of Christie’s former allies.
Wildstein pleaded guilty to participating in a plot to create gridlock near the bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for not backing Christie’s re-election. He said he was told in October 2013 the governors agreed the report by the Port Authority, a bistate agency that runs the bridge, wouldn’t cite the true reason. He said he was told that “if a report was issued that the Jersey side would take responsibility for it, that would put an end to this.”
Christie, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, appoint the top people at the powerful agency.
Wildstein said he learned about the conversation between the governors from former Port Authority Chairman David Samson, who pleaded guilty in a separate corruption case.
But it wasn’t clear from Wildstein’s testimony how much, if anything, Cuomo knew about the real reason for the lane closings.
“The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: It was our executive director who blew the whistle,” said John Kelly, a Cuomo spokesman. “To be clear, no such conversation between the governors happened. In fact, no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted Bridgegate architect thought or dreamt about New York’s involvement has no basis in fact.”
“Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it’s just false and delusional,” Kelly said.
Wildstein was ques- tioned by a lawyer for Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff. She is on trial in Newark with Bill Baroni, the Port Authority’s former deputy executive director, for their alleged roles in the lane closings.
The report was never issued. But it formed the basis for false testimony that Baroni gave in late November 2013 to a legislative committee, saying the lane closings were part of a traffic study, Wildstein previously testified.