Bridgegate trial: What to know


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Two people with ties to Gov. Chris Christie face jail if convicted in Bridgegate trial.

Christie: I have "no problem" testifying if I'm subpoenaed.

Atlanta CNN —  

Long before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ran for president, and later transformed into one of Republican nominee Donald Trump’s main supporters on the 2016 campaign trail, he was mired in a political scandal that left its mark on his career: Bridgegate.

It’s been a few years since the brouhaha over the George Washington Bridge’s lane closures rocked the Christie administration. Now, after three years of federal investigations, a couple of indictments and jury selection, the trial of a former aide of New Jersey’s governor and one of his longtime political allies will begin this morning in federal court.

Though Christie himself has not faced any charges related to this incident – he’s denied all involvement from the onset – he’s expected to remain a key figure in the trial, unable to fully escape scrutiny from a controversy that’s overshadowed his second and final term as governor.

On Monday, prosecutors said Christie knew of the road closures while they were happening. The allegations came during opening arguments in the case involving Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff.

In case you forget how Bridgegate all went down – and what’s at stake in the coming weeks – here’s an explanation of how we got to this point.

So, what’s Bridgegate again?

In November 2013, Christie won re-election to his second and final gubernatorial term (he’s term limited), cruising to a decisive victory fueled in part by his strong showing of leadership in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Despite his popularity at the time, not everyone endorsed the Republican, who needed bipartisan backing in a blue state. Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, was among the politicians who didn’t support the incumbent governor.

01:47 - Source: CNN
911 audio from bridge scandal released

The following September, on the first day of the school year, Port Authority officials abruptly shut down some of the traffic lanes on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, drawing the ire of motorists.

Initially, Christie’s administration characterized the closures as a part of a traffic study. Later on, though, Port Authority officials testified that no such study ever happened.

One month before the lane closure, with Christie’s re-election campaign in full swing, and Kelly texted David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official and a political ally of Christie: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

“Got it,” Wildstein replied.

The messages, contrary to the Christie administration’s spin that chalked it up to ineffective bureaucracy, offered evidence that the closures were an act of political vengeance, according to federal prosecutors.

“They agreed to and did use public resources to carry out a vendetta and exact retribution,” US Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman said in May 2015.

Who was charged in Bridgegate?