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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
Cruz to Back Trump
1 days ago
Two Polls for Clinton, One for Trump
1 days ago

With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:

  • An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clin­ton lead­ing Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary John­son at 7%.
  • A Mc­Clatchy-Mar­ist poll gave Clin­ton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way bal­lot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
  • Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
1 days ago

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Trump Makes No Outreach to Spanish Speakers
1 days ago

Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."

Clintons Buy the House Next Door in Chappaqua
1 days ago

Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."