The latest documents released by a New Jersey legislative committee looking into a political payback scandal surrounding Gov. Chris Christie show two figures at the heart of the case making running jokes about the idea of creating traffic jams as a way to strike at enemies.
Three weeks before the massive tie-ups near the George Washington Bridge, the two Christie-connected officials exchanged text messages about a Chabad Rabbi.
Bridget Kelly, then an aide to Christie, was apparently joking when she sent an Aug. 19 text saying: “We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?”
The text came in response to a picture of Rabbi Mendy Carlebach posing with House Speaker John Boehner. Carlebach heads the New Brunswick Chabad center. The picture was sent by David Wildstein, who was Christie’s No. 2 man at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Wildstein responded: “Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed.” He appeared to be joking, although the Port Authority does run the major New York City-area airports.
“Perfect,” Kelly wrote.
Carlebach told The New York Times on Thursday that he had never spoken with Wildstein and had only exchanged greetings with Kelly. Carlebach, a member of the state’s Homeland Security Interfaith Advisory Council and a chaplain at the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions, said he did not know why the two would have been upset with him.
The exchange came six days after Kelly’s previously disclosed message to Wildstein: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
The newly public exchange is part of a group of documents made public Thursday by a legislative committee looking into political retribution in Christie’s administration.
Unlike the documents released previously, there are notes indicating who sent and received more of the messages — something that clears up some of the minor mysteries of the scandal, which is also being investigated by the U.S. attorney’s office.
For instance, it’s now clear that it was Kelly who texted, apparently jokingly, about feeling “badly about the kids” who were stuck in the traffic jams while on their way to school. And that it was Wildstein who responded that “they are the children of Buono voters,” referring to Barbara Buono, Christie’s Democratic challenger in last year’s gubernatorial election.