A report from WNYC News reveals new details about New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s role in the 2013 ‘Bridgegate’ scandal.
Information from requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by WNYC show that Cuomo’s administration appears have to been involved from the beginning of the scandal, despite a statement from Cuomo three months in that he didn’t “know anything more than basically what has been in the newspaper.”
The scandal erupted in September 2013 when top staffers in New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s administration colluded to close two of three lanes on George Washington Bridge, causing major delays and threats to safety.
The bridge is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an organisation whose ownership is shared by the governors of both states.
Soon after the lanes first closed, Pat Foye, the Cuomo-appointed executive director of Port Authority, sent an email ordering the lanes to be reopened immediately. He forwarded that email to Howard Glaser, the then-director of state operations and Cuomo’s right-hand man, who was meeting with Cuomo at the time. Glaser responded: “Well done.”
Foye then asked about Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, the two Christie staff members who would later face charges for engineering the scandal.
New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski opened an investigation with the Assembly Transportation Committee in November 2013. Bill Baroni testified in the first hearing, and claimed that the lane closures were the result of a “study” of traffic patterns. Christie’s administration didn’t pursue the issue further.
But Glaser continued to monitor the proceedings against Baroni, even when Christie’s chief of staff said he “did not have time to listen to Baroni’s testimony.”
And when Foye himself testified, Cuomo’s administration remained involved.
According to the report, the governor called Port Authority Vice Chairman Scott Rechler, a Cuomo appointee, to discuss Foye’s statement. After Foye testified, Rechler called Cuomo back to fill him in.
A Wall Street Journal article reported that Foye’s testimony also sparked a phone conversation between the two governors, where Christie complained to Cuomo that Foye had pushed too hard for an explanation of the lane closures.
It was then, in his response to the article in a WNYC interview, that Cuomo downplayed his knowledge of the scandal, saying “I don’t know anything more than basically what has been in the newspaper, because it was basically a New Jersey issue.”
An internal probe from a law firm later cleared Christie of wrongdoing, but his political standing suffered, and the scandal likely played a role in the demise of his 2016 presidential campaign. Christie is now a major possibility for Donald Trump’s running mate.
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