Wit­ness says Cuomo, Christie had dis­cus­sions

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - As­so­ci­ated Press writer David Klep­per in Al­bany, New York, con­trib­uted to this re­port.

A wit­ness in the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge laneclo­sure trial brings up Gov. An­drew Cuomo.

NE­WARK, N.J. >> A one­time top ally of New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie said the gover­nor and New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo dis­cussed re­leas­ing a false re­port to tamp down ques­tions over the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge laneclo­sure scan­dal, the pros­e­cu­tion’s key wit­ness tes­ti­fied Tues­day.

David Wild­stein, who pleaded guilty in the grid- lock scheme and is cooper- at­ing with prose­cu­tors, said for­mer Port Au­thor­ity of New York and New Jer­sey Chair­man David Sam­son told him the gov­er­nors dis­cussed the idea in Oc­to­ber 2013. The re­port would have at­trib­uted the lane clo­sures to a traf­fic study, cov­er­ing up the true rea­son for the clo­sures: po­lit­i­cal retri­bu­tion against the mayor of Fort Lee for fail­ing to en­dorse Christie’s 2013 re-elec­tion, Wild­stein tes­ti­fied.

The re­port was never is­sued.

In­stead, Bill Ba­roni tes­ti­fied be­fore law­mak­ers in Novem­ber 2013, two months af­ter the lane clo­sures, that they were part of a traf­fic study.

Ba­roni, who served as Christie’s top ap­pointed staff aide at the Port Au­thor­ity, and Brid­get Kelly, Christie’s for­mer deputy chief of staff, are on trial fac­ing wire fraud and civil rights charges. They have pleaded not guilty.

Wild­stein said the idea for the re­port came as news re­porters be­gan to ask ques­tions about the lane clo­sures, which grid­locked the town of Fort Lee for four days.

“My un­der­stand­ing was that (Repub­li­can) Gov. Christie and (Demo­cratic) Gov. Cuomo had dis­cussed this,” Wild­stein said un­der cros­sex­am­i­na­tion Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to the Record, ad­ding he was told the in­for­ma­tion by Sam­son. “My un­der­stand­ing at the time was that it would put an end to this is­sue.”

Cuomo spokesman John Kelly, who isn’t re­lated to Brid­get Kelly, de­nied the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween gov­er­nors took place and crit­i­cized Wild­stein as a “felon spin­ning a tale.”

“It’s just false and delu­sional,” Kelly said.

Mes­sages left with Christie’s of­fice Tues­day weren’t im­me­di­ately re­turned. Christie has not been charged and has said he did not au­tho­rize the clo­sures or play a role in cov­er­ing them up.

Wild­stein also tes­ti­fied Tues­day that Port Au­thor­ity ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Pa­trick Foye, a Cuomo ap­pointee, was to “sign off” on the false re­port. Foye’s at­tor­ney, Eric Corn­gold, dis­puted Wild­stein’s tes­ti­mony.

“Foye never had any such con­ver­sa­tion or was given any such di­rec­tion by the gover­nor or by any of his staff,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

A mes­sage left with Sam­son’s at­tor­ney hasn’t been re­turned. Sam­son pleaded guilty in another case to us­ing his role as Port Au­thor­ity chair­man to in­flu­ence United Air­lines to re­in­state a mon­ey­los­ing route closer to his va­ca­tion home and is await­ing sen­tenc­ing.

Wild­stein, a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive at the Port Au­thor­ity of New York and New Jer­sey, which over­sees New Yorkarea bridges and tun­nels, tes­ti­fied ear­lier that Ba­roni told Christie about the traf­fic jams as they were hap­pen­ing and said the Demo­cratic mayor of Fort Lee wasn’t happy that he wasn’t get­ting his calls re­turned.


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