| NEWARK, N.J.
NEWARK, N.J. Testimony on Wednesday by Chris
Christie's former press secretary added to mounting evidence
that the New Jersey governor knew earlier than he has
acknowledged that key members of his staff were involved in the
"Bridgegate" plot to create traffic gridlock as political
Michael Drewniak, testifying in the conspiracy trial of a
Christie aide and a Christie political ally, told jurors about a
dinner he had on Dec. 4, 2013, with David Wildstein, the alleged
mastermind of the lane closures at the busy George Washington
Bridge in September of that year.
Drewniak testified that Wildstein told him that Christie's
deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and his campaign manager,
Bill Stepien, were aware of the lane closures while they were
occurring, and so was Christie.
The next day, Drewniak said, he met with the Republican
governor and his chief of staff, Kevin O'Dowd, and relayed
Christie held a news conference eight days later to insist
that no member of his senior staff had been aware of the
closures. Christie has said he learned of Kelly's possible
involvement in January 2014, when emails discussing the scheme
The lane-closure scheme prompted massive gridlock in Fort
Lee to punishment the town's Democratic mayor for refusing to
endorse Christie's re-election campaign that year, according to
Drewniak was the first witness called in federal court in
Newark by Kelly, who is on trial alongside former Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni for their
alleged roles in the conspiracy.
Christie, who has denied knowledge of the scheme, has not
been charged with any crime. The scandal's fallout, however,
damaged his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential
nomination. Christie is now advising Republican presidential
nominee Donald Trump.
On the witness stand, Drewniak insisted that Wildstein never
confirmed any political motivation, instead sticking with what
turned out to be a bogus cover story that the closures were part
of a traffic study.
Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with
prosecutors, previously testified he told Drewniak about the
true nature of the plot.
Kelly is expected to testify later this week.