NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official who pleaded guilty in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal testified Friday that he considered himself the "bad cop" who would aggressively push Republican Gov. Chris Christie's agenda at the powerful bistate agency.
David Wildstein, the government's star witness, is testifying in the trial of two former allies of Christie. He pleaded guilty last year to orchestrating traffic jams in 2013 to punish a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Christie. Christie has denied prior knowledge of the plot and wasn't charged.
Wildstein, at the beginning of his testimony, said he and defendant Bill Baroni, his then-boss at the Port Authority, often talked of the "one-constituent rule," referring to Christie as the only constituent they needed to serve.
"We talked about that at great length," he said. "My experience was governors were best served by staff who had no competing agenda."
During opening statements, prosecutors revealed that Wildstein will testify he bragged to Christie about the lane closures on the third day of the four-day shutdown at one of the world's busiest bridges, which spans the Hudson River and connects Fort Lee with New York City. Christie didn't comment on the allegation this week, but his office pointed to a statement he gave in 2014, denying that he knew about the plot while it was ongoing.
Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and Baroni are charged with closing access lanes to the bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie. Kelly and Baroni claim Wildstein orchestrated the lane-closing scheme, which created traffic gridlock.
Wildstein and Christie attended high school together, and Wildstein was hired by the Port Authority to a position created for him.
Christie has denied that the two had a close relationship, but Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye testified that Wildstein was "protected" by Christie at the Port Authority.
In early 2014, Christie's political team sent an email to donors and supporters saying that Wildstein "will do and say anything to save David Wildstein."
That came after Wildstein's lawyer alleged in a letter that Christie knew more about the plot than he had admitted in a series of news conferences.
Just before the start of what could be a week of testimony from Wildstein, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on the George Washington Bridge, leading to a fuel spill that closed some lanes going to New Jersey.
Earlier Friday, Matt Mowers, a former campaign staffer for Christie who now works for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, testified he told Kelly that Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich wouldn't endorse Christie for re-election. Kelly sent an email the next day saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Kelly has said her emails were meant to be sarcastic.
Mowers also testified that staffers in Christie's office created a "Dem elected target hit list" that included politicians they hoped would endorse his re-election campaign. The list included a rundown of favors, including steel from the World Trade Center and seats at sporting events in the governor's box. Mowers said workers in the office, in their free time, engaged officials around the state to get them to support Christie.