BRIDGEGATE TRIAL: The stunning lies told to keep New Jersey stupid–and who told them
Port Authority director Patrick Foye
Today was the day of lies at the Bridgegate trial.
Lies told—maybe—out of fear or to cover other lies. Lies told and lies condoned by public officials who apparently viewed their responsibility to tell the truth as optional, not required. Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, admitted he lied when he wrote a statement that Gov. Chris Christie hadn’t shaken him down for an endorsement. Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, admitted he “didn’t mind” that two underlings put out a false statement claiming access to the George Washington Bridge was shut down because of a traffic study.
The lies were stunners—because, together with Christie’s brazenly confident denials of responsibility– they sustained the political fable that carried Christie, not only through his landslide election victory over Barbara Buono in 2013, but also into his campaign for the presidency of the United States.
The lies created pictures in the minds of people throughout New Jersey and the nation that simply were not true—and it’s frightening to see how easily that can be done.
Christie—or, at least Christie’s people—did, in fact, try to force Sokolich, a Democrat, into endorsing him by holding the residents of Fort Lee hostage in a dangerous game of political chicken. In two days of testimony, Sokolich had said how he came to realize the lane closures were designed to punish him politically. But, weeks later, after the election, Sokolich insisted—first in a letter to a newspaper editor—that politics had nothing to do with what happened. It’s “simply not true,” he wrote in response to an article in The Star-Ledger in November, 2013.
“I lied,” Sokolich admitted on cross-examination by Michael Critchley, lawyer for Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff. She’s on trial with Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority. Charged with closing down access lanes to the bridge to punish Sokolich.
“Are you proud of lying to the public?” taunted Critchley.
“I am not proud of it,” said Sokolich.
Moments later, when federal prosecutor Vikas Khanna took up the job of trying to find and reassemble the shattered pieces of Sokolich’s credibility, the Fort Lee mayor tried to explain he was “petrified” of what Christie and others might do to him and his town if he didn’t play along with the Big Lie that the lane closures were part of a traffic study.