New York governor Andrew Cuomo insists that he had no special knowledge about New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s involvement in a scheme to foul traffic near the George Washington Bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee.
“I don’t know who raised it last year but the same gossip was spread last year,” Cuomo told reporters earlier this month. “It didn’t happen.”
But as the Bridgegate trial continues and former senior officials give evidence about who knew what and when they knew it, there’s a growing volume of sworn testimony that Cuomo did know about the Christie administration’s role in shutting down traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Yesterday Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former chief of staff, testified that on a 2013 conference call Christie said that he had instructed Cuomo to tell his appointee at the Port Authority to stop sounding the alarm over the growing scandal.
Kelly is only the latest witness to put Cuomo in the loop on Bridgegate. Earlier this month, David Wildstein — Christie’s man at the Port Authority, the confessed architect of the punitive traffic jam, and now the star witness in the Bridgegate trial — testified that his understanding was that Christie and Cuomo had discussed the Bridgegate affair shortly after it concluded. He also said he believed that, per an understanding with the New Jersey governor, Cuomo had instructed his top Port Authority appointee, Pat Foye, to “lay off” Christie and to go along with a Port Authority cover story blaming the traffic jam on an imaginary traffic study.
Cuomo responded to these allegations with vehement denials. On Twitter, his staff dismissed the testimony as hearsay from a convicted felon. John Kelly, Cuomo’s former press secretary, was equally emphatic in his statement: “No such conversation between the governors ever happened.”
Two weeks later, Scott Rechler, whom Cuomo had appointed as vice-chair of the Port Authority, testified under oath that indeed there had been a conversation between the governors in October 2013, and that Cuomo himself had told Rechler about it.
“Governor Cuomo told me that in one of the conversations he had with Governor Christie, David Samson [a Christie appointee to the Port Authority] was complaining once again about Pat Foye,” Rechler testified.
In response to the testimony, Cuomo’s camp clarified that they weren’t denying there was a conversation, only denying there was a conversation in which Cuomo conspired to have Foye stand down and issue a report whitewashing the lane closures.
Yesterday, after Kelly’s testimony, a spokesman for the governor reiterated the denial: “At no time were there any conversations between the governors concerning a ‘plan’ to have Pat Foye stand down or to have the issue ‘whitewashed.’ ” To date, there’s no publicly available evidence to contradict that narrowed claim.
With more shoes continuing to drop every week as the Bridgegate trial continues, further evidence may yet surface that sheds more light on Cuomo’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the cover-up. Or maybe not: We know that Cuomo’s appointees at the Port Authority were going to great lengths to avoid generating any evidence that might lead back to Cuomo. Emails that came to light in the trial’s discovery process appear to show Foye and Rechler agreeing on a plan to generate two sets of Bridgegate memos: a “general” one, for the official (and likely to be subpoenaed) files at the Port Authority, and a second, far more detailed and specific one, prepared in secret on Foye’s home computer, printed out, and delivered by hand to Cuomo’s office.