ABC’s Mark Crudele, Shushannah Walshe, and Josh Margolin report:
Two of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former aides were caught exchanging joking emails days after they allegedly created a massive traffic jam, wondering whether they should create another set of “traffic problems,” this time in front of the home of a prominent rabbi who had ticked them off.
The emails were among a trove of documents released today by the special state Legislature committee investigating the September traffic crisis.
Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelley, and top Port Authority official David Wildstein – both of whom have since been sacked — exchanged text messages on Aug. 19 about creating traffic problems for Mendy Carlebach, an Orthodox rabbi who also serves as chaplain for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that manages the bridge and tunnels between the two states and its regional airports including Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports.
“He has officially pissed me off,” Wildstein wrote to Kelly.
She replied, saying “Clearly … We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?”
Known for his snark and biting sense of humor, Wildstein, who is also Jewish, remarked “Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed.”
“Perfect,” Kelly said.
Less than a week earlier, Kelly used the line “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” to give Wildstein the emailed go-ahead to shut down two of three local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge. Those closures crippled the small community opposite Manhattan for four days until Wildstein’s boss at the Port Authority ordered the lanes reopened. The traffic problems were said to be payback for the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, refusing to endorse Christie in his re-election bid last fall.
The texts don’t change the story or add new facts to the puzzling political controversy that has deflated Christie’s status as a Republican contender for the 2016 presidential nomination. But the messages do show the state of mind of the two people who allegedly plotted the traffic jam that has led to criminal and legislative probes.
The messages offer no insight into why Kelly, Wildstein or even the governor might have been angry at the rabbi.
After the text messages were released, Carlebach released a statement to ABC News saying he has “no knowledge nor understanding of why my name was mentioned in these exchanges.”
“As a Chabad Rabbi, I have served the people of our great state in times of need and otherwise for more than a decade,” Carlebach said. “In this capacity, I have worked with a number of governors and their administrations. My work has always been apolitical.”
During a town hall-style meeting Wednesday, Christie gave a friendly audience a surprising look into the way he views his career these days.
“I’m not worried about politics anymore, everybody. This is it,” he told the crowd gathered near his home in Morris County, N.J. “I’m on the back nine. And when you’re on the back nine, and you don’t have to worry about playing another front nine, your only obligation is to tell people the truth.”
During a live radio call-in later Wednesday he suggested that the ongoing “hysteria” over the bridge scandal is a media creation that does not concern the public. Then, he defended himself in the face of poll numbers that have fallen sharply since the scandal took hold last month.
“I got 61 percent of the vote in November,” Christie said on NJ 101.5 FM, referring to his re-election victory. “The poll numbers are still better than most governors in the region and most governors across the country. I have no problem with my poll numbers at all.”
This story has been updated since it was first posted.