Former Traffic Official Pleads the Fifth at Hearing on Bridge-Closing Scandal

A former Port Authority executive called to testify in a hearing Thursday says he is asserting his right to remain silent.

David Wildstein.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Jan. 9, 2014, 9:02 a.m.

The tone at a hear­ing on the un­fold­ing bridge scan­dal in New Jer­sey is starkly dif­fer­ent from that of the mara­thon press con­fer­ence the state’s gov­ernor held earli­er.

While Chris Christie talked for more than 100 minutes, his ally at the Port Au­thor­ity of New York and New Jer­sey re­fused to talk. Dav­id Wild­stein, the former dir­ect­or of In­ter­state Cap­it­al Pro­jects there, cited the Fifth Amend­ment be­fore the state As­sembly’s trans­port­a­tion com­mit­tee.

Wild­stein, Christie’s high-school class­mate, only in­dic­ated that he is un­em­ployed and lives in Montville, N.J. His re­sponse to every oth­er ques­tion dur­ing the hear­ing was a vari­ation of the state­ment, “On the ad­vice of my coun­sel, I re­spect­fully as­sert my right to re­main si­lent.”

About an hour in­to the hear­ing, the com­mit­tee found Wild­stein in con­tempt, which is a mis­de­mean­or, for re­fus­ing to an­swer ques­tions, and ended the hear­ing. 

A state Su­per­i­or Court judge ruled Thursday that the trans­port­a­tion com­mit­tee has the power to com­pel Wild­stein to testi­fy, but the of­fi­cial’s law­yer said that the New Jer­sey and U.S. con­sti­tu­tions over­ride that de­cision. He has giv­en a vari­ation of that an­swer to every ques­tion posed by the com­mit­tee since.

Wild­stein resigned from his post last month, shortly after sus­pi­cion arose that the Septem­ber lane clos­ures may have been a polit­ic­ally mo­tiv­ated move against the may­or of Fort Lee, N.J.

Email doc­u­ments first re­por­ted Wed­nes­day by Ber­gen County’s The Re­cord showed that Wild­stein com­mu­nic­ated with Brid­get Anne Kelly, a top gov­ernor’s of­fice aide Christie has since fired, ahead of the lane clos­ures last year.

“Time for some traffic prob­lems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in Au­gust. “Got it,” Wild­stein replied.

Shawn Boburg, the Re­cord re­port­er who broke the story, tells CNN that Wild­stein was a long­time Christie con­di­fante, the “eyes and ears in­side this massive agency.” Christie’s ver­sion of his re­la­tion­ship with Wild­stein is any­thing but. “Dav­id and I were not friends in high school,” he said Thursday. “I was the class pres­id­ent and ath­lete. I don’t know what Dav­id was do­ing dur­ing that peri­od of time.”

What We're Following See More »
U.S.-EU Trade Deal a Dead Letter for Now
1 hours ago

Sigmar Gabriel, the German economic minister, said there's no chance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being agreed upon before the U.S. elections this fall. Gabriel said the United States "had effectively ended talks" on the free trade deal with the European Union "because Washington had not wanted to compromise with its European counterparts."

Monmouth Has Clinton Up Seven
1 hours ago

In a new Monmouth University poll, 46% of likely voters support Clinton and 39% back Trump, with 7% supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson, and 2% backing Jill Stein of the Green Party. That's down from a poll taken right after the Democratic convention, in which Clinton led by 13 points.

Clinton Advisers Talking to Psychologists, Trump Ghostwriter
1 hours ago

“Hillary Clinton’s advisers are talking to Donald J. Trump’s ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, seeking insights about Mr. Trump’s deepest insecurities as they devise strategies to needle and undermine him in four weeks at the first presidential debate, the most anticipated in a generation. ... Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage.”

Scientists Declare Dawn of Anthropocene Epoch
4 hours ago

"Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—needs to be declared," according to a panel of scientists. "The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken."

House Committee Investigating Mylan
4 hours ago

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has requested documents from the CEO of Mylan, "the pharmaceutical company under fire after raising the price of EpiPens more than 400 percent since 2007." Meanwhile, top members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are pressing the FDA on the lack of generic competition for EpiPens.