The administration of Gov. Chris Christie worked to cultivate Fort Lee’s mayor for at least a year and a half before lanes were closed at the George Washington Bridge in an act of political retribution, according to testimony from a former aide to the governor on Tuesday.According to Matt Mowers, who worked in both Christie's gubernatorial office and his campaign, and is now executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, Fort Lee was number 47 on a list of 100 towns targeted by Christie's political team, which wanted to use a landslide re-election victory to fuel his electability argument for 2016.
Mowers was tasked with working with Fort Lee officials, including Mayor Mark Sokolich. In March of 2013, Mowers informed Bill Stepien, Christie's campaign manager, that Sokolich would not endorse the governor's re-election campaign. And here's the bombshell:
In August of that year, he said, Bridget Anne Kelly phoned to ask if the mayor’s endorsement was definitely out of the question. He confirmed that it was. The next day, Ms. Kelly sent the email to a Port Authority official saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”So according to Mowers, there was a conscious effort by Christie's political team to run up the score and both Fort Lee and its mayor were targets of that effort. And just before Christie's deputy chief of staff ordered the lane closures, she wanted to know whether Sokolich had changed his mind about endorsing Christie.
According to Christie, these were actions by rogue staffers. But what now seems clear beyond a shadow of doubt is that the actions were taken to advance Christie's political ambition and were part of a broader strategy of which Christie was surely aware. The only way he could have not known about the specifics is if he didn't want to know. But not wanting to know something is no excuse when you know exactly why you don't want to know.