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
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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.”

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