WASHINGTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the September 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge while they were going on, federal prosecutors alleged in court Monday during the opening statements for their case against two former Christie confidantes.
Prosecutors revealed Monday that they will show Christie was told about the traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s public safety concerns were ignored, US Department of Justice Public Affairs Officer, Matthew Reilly told CNN.
Assistant US Attorney Vikas Khanna said former Christie confidante and Port Authority executive David Wildstein will testify that he told Christie about the plan to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge while it was causing traffic problems in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where the mayor was a political rival of Christie.
Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and former Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges in connection to the lane closures, an incident that has come to be known by some as “Bridgegate.”
Text about Christie: He ‘flat-out lied’
Christie has never been named as a conspirator in the case or charged. Wildstein has pled guilty in the case and pointed to the two staffers on trial.
CNN has reached out to Christie’s office, as well as the offices of Baroni and Kelly’s attorneys for comment.
Christie told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that he would testify if subpoenaed, but didn’t expect to be called as a witness.
“Of course I will,” Christie told Tapper on “State of the Union.” “I have been investigated by three different entities, two of them led by partisan Democrats, who have all found that I had no knowledge of this incident and no involvement in it. And so I would have no problem if called to testify by either side. But the fact is that I won’t because I really don’t have any knowledge of this incident at all.”
The traffic headache was allegedly intentionally called for because Sokolich did not endorse Christie’s re-election.
Baroni and Kelly allegedly “bragged” to Christie about the fact that there were traffic problems in Fort Lee and that Sokolich was not getting his calls returned, prosecutors said in court according to Reilly.
Baroni’s attorneys have sought to argue that Baroni is being unfairly singled out in the scheme. In a previous court filing, the attorneys released a text message exchange from a Christie aide saying he “flat-out lied” during a news conference about the bridge closures. Christie had said senior staff were not involved in that news event. He later said that staff in his office lied, but that he hadn’t known it at the time of the news conference.
Attorneys for Kelly and Baroni previously confirmed to CNN that they will both testify in their defense. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
Christie has long denied any involvement in the closures and neither the federal investigation nor the New Jersey legislative inquiry has pointed to him.
After an unsuccessful run for president, the governor is now chairing the transition effort of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
In December 2015, when they were opponents, Trump told an audience in South Carolina Christie “totally knew about it,” referring to the Bridgegate closures.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.