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Saturday, August 19, 2017

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former aide to Chris Christie said in a text message that the New Jersey governor “flat out lied” when he said senior staff members were not involved in the “Bridgegate” scandal in 2013, according to a court filing on Wednesday.

The new details were revealed in a document filed in New Jersey federal court by Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who is one of two former Christie allies facing criminal charges in the case.

Speculation has persisted for years about whether Christie or members of his staff were aware of the alleged plot to close two New York City-bound lanes at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee as retribution against the town’s mayor, who had refused to back Christie’s re-election campaign.

Christie addressed the controversy at a Dec. 13, 2013, news conference, a day after the state legislature issued several subpoenas in its investigation of the lane closures.

“I’ve made it very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it, and they’ve all assured me that they don’t,” Christie said at the time.

Christina Renna, former director of Christie’s intergovernmental affairs office, immediately sent a text message to Peter Sheridan, a member of Christie’s re-election campaign, according to the filing.

“Are you listening? He just flat out lied about senior staff and Stepien not being involved,” her first text said, referring to Bill Stepien, who managed Christie’s two gubernatorial campaigns.

In a subsequent text, Renna said “it could be bad” if emails were later uncovered through a subpoena or court discovery.

Christie’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The governor, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, has denied any knowledge of the alleged scheme.

Renna, now vice president of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, and Sheridan, who is working for the state Republican Party, also did not immediately respond.

Stepien could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jury selection will begin Sept. 12 for Baroni and Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, who face charges including conspiracy and fraud. Another former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

The details of the texts came in a filing by Baroni’s lawyers seeking to exclude certain evidence from trial.

The document said it “appears to be clear” that Renna deleted the texts and did not disclose their existence when she testified under oath before lawmakers.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Bill Trott)

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a forum for lower polling candidates held by Fox Business Network before the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

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