U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s investigation into lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and other alleged abuses at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is expected to wrap up in coming weeks after more than a year.
The investigation has seemed to quicken in recent weeks, with prosecutors returning to witnesses with questions that indicated they were close to finishing this stage of their probe, according to people familiar with the matter.
It remains unclear whether the findings will implicate current or former allies to Gov. Chris Christie and whether prosecutors can answer questions that investigations by the governor’s office and the Democrat-led Legislature haven't.
What isn't unclear is what prosecutors are looking at.
First, Christie ally David Samson:
In recent weeks, attorneys for potential witnesses have turned over documents and emails to prosecutors that relate to former Port Authority Chairman David Samson, according to a person familiar with the matter. These documents include accounts of communications between Mr. Samson and United Airlines.
Prosecutors are looking into whether Mr. Samson asked the airline for a special weekly flight to Columbia, S.C., near his vacation home while the company was negotiating with the Port Authority. The flight was canceled after Mr. Samson left his position.
Prosecutors have interviewed people and asked questions that indicate they are looking for evidence of quid pro quo, according to a person familiar with the matter.
United declined to comment, referring to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that said the company and senior executives are cooperating with a federal investigation. A spokeswoman for Mr. Samson declined to comment.
Mr. Christie’s advisers have long worried about Mr. Samson’s future and the political implications it could have for the governor.
Mr. Christie stayed in touch with Mr. Samson, a longtime friend and political ally, after the bridge revelations even as he cut contact with others, according to people familiar with the matter.
And former Christie "friend" David Wildstein:
Prosecutors also have focused on any possible attempt to conceal the lane closures or misrepresent why they occurred in September 2013.
Prosecutors have asked about photos depicting the governor and David Wildstein, then a Port Authority official, talking at a ceremony for 9/11 at ground zero in Manhattan, and whether the governor told any of his staff about their interaction, a person familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Wildstein, who was hired by the Christie administration, was involved in the decision to close lanes at the George Washington Bridge allegedly in retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.
Prosecutors also have quizzed potential witnesses about how the administration explained the closures publicly even as documents later showed they fretted privately, asking detailed questions about conversations among Mr. Christie’s political orbit in late 2013.
The governor has said he doesn’t remember what he discussed with Mr. Wildstein on Sept. 11, 2013, when the bridge lane closures had entered their third day. He has denied knowledge of the lane closures before they occurred.
Mr. Wildstein’s calendar indicated he met with Christie administration officials in 2013 after the bridge lane closures and frequently talked to allies of Mr. Christie, including Mike DuHaime, the governor’s top political adviser, and Bill Stepien, a senior Christie aide who lost his role after emails concerning Fort Lee were disclosed.
Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer, Alan Zegas, declined to comment. He has written to the Port Authority saying “evidence exists” that would show Mr. Christie knew of the closures while they were occurring.
I'm not a lawyer, don't know much about the law or anything like that, but it seems to me from the WSJ story that prosecutors are targeting Samson and Wildstein, looking to squeeze them and see what information comes out.
And with Wildstein having indicated that "evidence exists" to show Christie knew of the lane closures as they were happening, I would say that Christie is going to have some trouble with this matter when all is said and done.
Hard to know what Samson has said to prosecutors, but Wildstein sounds like he wants to talk, having been thrown under the bus by Christie back in that January 2014 news conference.
Not mentioned here is Bridget Anne Kelly, the writer of the infamous "Time for some traffic problems" email - she's been thrown under the bus by Christie too, so I wouldn't be surprised if she isn't looking to take Christie out too.
Finally, all this stuff is a problem because prosecutors are able to sift through an email trail.
No wonder New York's Criminal-In-Chief Andrew Cuomo is burning the midnight oil having all emails over 90 days burnt from the servers.