A former Port Authority director, accused of ordering the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retaliation on behalf of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is being held in contempt for failing to answer lawmakers' questions during an inquiry on Thursday.
David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority, worked as the Director of Interstate Capital Projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- the agency that runs the bridge.
Wildstein allegedly worked with a Christie Administration staffer to close local lanes of the span, which bridges Fort Lee, N.J., and Manhattan, N.Y., over the Hudson River. The lane closures, which lasted four days, from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12, 2013, appeared to be intended to punish a local Democratic mayor who did not back the Republican governor's re-election bid.
The New Jersey Assembly Committee on Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities launched an investigation and subpoenaed Wildstein’s email and text correspondence. On Wednesday, those messages were released to news outlets linking the Christie Administration to the fiasco.
The committee then subpoenaed Wildstein to testify. His attorney filed a motion to quash the subpoena, but a judge denied that motion.
After being sworn under oath at the committee meeting on Thursday, Wildstein immediately asserted his Fifth Amendment right.
Committee Chair John Wisniewski asked 15 questions about alleged correspondence between Wildstein and now former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly about the lane closures.
Wildstein invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to each of those questions.
Frustrated by the lack of answers, Wisniewski turned to Wildstein's attorney, Alan Zegas, to ask questions. But in each case, Zegas said he would advise his client not to answer the questions.
"What kind of perplexes me is that you’ve provided 907 pages of documents we’re asking questions on. It is not a mystery of as to where they came from. It is not a mystery as to whose name is on them," said Wisniewski. "So it would seem to me that the privilege that you’re asserting has already been waived in providing the documents."
Zegas disagreed, saying the Fifth Amendment applies to testimony and that the providing of subpoenaed documents does not mean his right was waived.
Incised by not having their questions answered, the committee voted to hold Wildstein in contempt. With the contempt vote, Wildstein could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Law enforcement is said to be reviewing the contempt filing.