By Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two people at the heart of a traffic scandal dogging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joked weeks earlier about causing traffic problems in front of the home of a rabbi, documents released on Thursday show.
Christie’s former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein, an ally to the governor at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, lost their jobs over their involvement in the “Bridgegate” scandal last September that is threatening Christie’s White House aspirations.
Documents released by Wildstein to a state legislative committee probing the incident, in which lanes were shut near the busy George Washington Bridge, causing a huge traffic jam, reveal that on Aug. 19 he and Kelly discussed another traffic scheme.
“We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?” Kelly wrote in a message to Wildstein.
“Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed,” Wildstein wrote in reply.
Kelly and Wildstein appear to be joking.
“This is part of the drip, drip, drip of bad news for Christie,” said Lee Miringoff, a political observer and a pollster with Marist College.
The Star-Ledger newspaper has identified the rabbi as Mendy Carlebach of the Chabad of North and South Brunswick who was also a chaplain for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.
“He has officially pissed me off,” Wildstein wrote.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, Carlebach said: “As a Chabad Rabbi, I have served the people of our great state in times of need and otherwise for more than a decade.
“In this capacity, I have worked with a number of governors and their administrations. My work has always been apolitical, and I have no knowledge nor understanding of why my name was mentioned in these exchanges.”
Attorneys for Wildstein and Kelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The exchange also makes a vague reference to Cid Wilson, a New Jersey Democrat from Bergen County.
In a message posted on his Facebook page, Wilson wrote he was “deeply shocked and appalled” to learn his name had come up and that he had never met Wildstein or Kelly.
“It’s quite clear that David Wildstein is a psychopath and deeply troubled,” the statement said. “He is Gov. Chris Christie’s appointee, and I view this as a reflection of the kind of bully politics you can expect from Gov. Christie’s political appointees.”
Christie, a favored Republican candidate to run for the White House in 2016, has described himself as blindsided by Kelly and Wildstein’s roles in the September lane closures, which came just months before Christie’s resounding re-election win and appear to have been orchestrated to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee.
But the incident, which is being investigated by federal prosecutors and the special legislative committee, has eroded the popularity of the Republican presidential hopeful.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Hilary Russ; Editing by Scott Malone, Gunna Dickson and Ken Wills)