Wit­ness: N.Y.’s Cuomo OK’d fake re­port on lane clos­ings

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By David Voreacos

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.


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