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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By Joseph Tanfani, Tribune Washington Bureau

TRENTON, N.J. — In the mysterious political grudge-fest that spawned the George Washington Bridge traffic pileup, a new object of ire has emerged: a New Jersey rabbi.

A newly released version of a text exchange between David Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly, two key figures in the bridge scandal, shows them exchanging barbed jokes about Rabbi Mendy Carlebach of the Chabad of North and South Brunswick — and chaplain to the Police Department at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridges.

Wildstein, appointed to a Port Authority post by Gov. Chris Christie, texted a picture of Carlebach posing with House Speaker John Boehner to Kelly, then working as Christie’s deputy chief of staff.

“And he has officially pissed me off,” Wildstein wrote, though what the rabbi did to earn that anger isn’t spelled out.

“We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?” Kelly wrote.

“Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed,” said Wildstein. (The Port Authority also controls the region’s airports.)

Carlebach, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has been around Republican politics for years, and has been a supporter of Christie’s. He gave the invocation at the 2004 Republican convention and also attended the last one, in Tampa, Fla., according to Chabad websites. Christie appointed him to a New Jersey Israel Commission. And Christie, in response to appeals from Carlebach and other rabbis at his annual Hanukkah party, allowed menorahs in state prisons.

Carlebach told reporters that he has no idea what spawned the grudge. “None of it makes any sense,” he told the Record of New Jersey.

The version released Thursday by a state legislative committee investigating the bridge incident contains some previously redacted details — though it does not explain the decision to redirect traffic leading to the bridge for four days in September, creating epic traffic pileups in Fort Lee.

As the controversy was gathering steam, and Patrick Foye, the New York-appointed chairman of the authority, was criticizing the lane closures, Wildstein got an obscenity-punctuated text from Bill Stepien, Christie’s campaign manager: “Who does he think he is, Capt. America?”

“Welcome to our world,” Wildstein replied.

The emails include urgent messages from the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, asking Port Authority officials whether the lane closures were directed against him as political payback for his decision not to endorse Christie.

This version shows that Kelly initiated a snarky text exchange with Wildstein during the traffic jam: “I feel badly about the kids. I guess,” she wrote.

“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein replied, referring to Barbara Buono, who at the time was Christie’s Democratic opponent.

Kelly and Stepien have refused to provide documents to the legislative committee, citing their constitutional rights against self-incrimination. A judge has set a March 11 hearing in the case.

Bob Jagendorf via

  • Lovefacts

    Whether Christie knew in advance of the lane closures is no longer the issue. However these are:
    1. That he appointed these individuals.
    2. They felt free to behave with impunity based upon Christie’s words and actions–both in public and private.
    3. Christie’s refusal to investigate.
    4. Christie’s lies.
    5. And as always, the cover-up.
    5. That is puts on full display that like-minded members of the current Republican Party live in a moral and social vacuum.

  • howa4x

    David Wildcardstein is the one holding the hot potato, and knows enough to put many under the legal bus that is rolling toward them. It was a mistake reminiscent of the one Nixon made, by not giving John Dean legal cover. That allowed Dean to hint to the Watergate committee that there is a cancer on the presidency which gave that investigation new life. It is similar to the drip, drip of information coming out of the wildcard, who was denied legal funds and stands to loose everything. Once he is given immunity he will blow the top off of this entire saga. He has like Dean, already hinted that Christie knew more about Ft Lee than he said at the press conference. It will be like domino’s falling into each other once the information flows completely out, and players in the scandal will run for immunity cover. What wildcard is doing right now is showing the investigators he has what they want little by little.
    Don’t forget the bridge scandal leads directly down to the shore where Sandy aid distribution is the biggest scandal of them all. Too many people have not gotten any aid since the hurricane hit and thousands still live outside their primary residence. Christie is blaming Obama but that doesn’t answer the question of why he gave millions in aid to construction projects far from the zone of destruction, represented by Sampson’s law firm.
    This is the calm before the storm. Too many players in this drama, and anyone of them can blow it open,
    Less and less NJ residents believe the governor is telling the truth, and a freight train in the distance is heading his way.

    • Elliot J. Stamler

      Having been alive during Watergate I think you may be right. If indictments come down expect Wildstein and Perry to do deals…it was the spectra of “Maximim” John Sirico-the Republican-appointed hanging judge, trying them that scared the GOP rabbits to death. I still find it inconceivable that Christie who is very smart would have known about this matter in advance much less ordered it. But as he has acknowledged he has responsibility for the people he appoints to high positions and one thing I do know: Wildstein and Kelly and Stepian didn’t develop their cynical, contemptible, arrogant personalities overnight when they took their jobs—Gov. Christie knew what kind of people they were in terms of personality and ethics–and as Lovefacts writes above, he went ahead and appointed them. Sleep with dogs, wake up with fleas.

      • howa4x

        It got deeper in NJ The US Atty stated a grand jury and is supeanoing people from Christie’s administration. If they lie or take the 5th they will be indicted. So the fun is just starting