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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge as they happened, the scheme's alleged mastermind testified Tuesday.
David Wildstein — a former Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the star witness at the Newark trial of two former Christie confidantes — made the allegation against Christie as federal prosecutors displayed a handful of photos showing the governor, Wildstein and defendant Bill Baroni together at a September 11, 2013 ceremony at the World Trade Center.
Wildstein told the jury that Baroni, his former boss at the Port Authority, told Christie at the event, in a sarcastic tone: "Governor, there is a tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee, please know Mayor Sokolich is frustrated he can't get his calls returned."
Wildstein, who has already pleaded guilty in the case, said Christie laughed and responded: "I imagine they wouldn't be getting their calls returned."
Baroni told Christie that Wildstein would monitor the traffic, Wildstein testified.
To that, Christie replied, "Well, I'm sure Mr. Edge wouldn't be involved in anything political." (Mr. Edge is a reference to Wildstein's previous life as a political blogger who wrote under the pseudonym "Wally Edge," a riff on Walter Edge, a former New Jersey governor.)
Wildstein said he and Baroni were very relaxed throughout the conversation because, in part, Christie seemed happy.
Christie, who has not been charged with any crime, has said repeatedly that he knew nothing of the 2013 closures. At an event in Trenton on Tuesday, he reiterated that line.
"No matter what is said up there (in Newark), I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments," Christie said. "I had no role in authorizing it. I had no knowledge of it. And there has been no evidence ever put forward that I did."
Baroni is on trial with Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office who infamously sent an email to Baroni in August 2013 declaring, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
They are accused of arranging for bridge lanes in Fort Lee to be closed to create havoc on the streets of Fort Lee as punishment for Sokolich's refusal to endorse Christie in his re-election campaign. Among the charges is conspiracy to commit fraud.