Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino asked for the resignations of both New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday based on new sworn statements from an ex-Christie crony, prompting a sharp rebuke from Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi.
Astorino said the two governors conspired to end an investigation of the 2013 lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, nicknamed "Bridgegate."
"They should resign their offices for the parts they played here," Astorino said in this statement and at an ad hoc news conference in front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
Azzopardi, Cuomo's senior deputy communications director, issued this reaction to Daily Voice: “Rob Astorino’s cheap publicity stunt is tethered to the hearsay testimony of a felon that even he admitted today doesn’t know to be true. It’s not."
Cuomo and Christie agreed to falsely explain Bridgegate as a traffic study to try to put an end to the widening controversy, according to news reports of testimony from David Wildstein, a former Christie administration official at the Port Authority.
Astorino said he suspects a broader scheme, saying Cuomo shut down New York's end of the Bridgegate investigation in exchange for Christie's non-support of the Westchester Republican when he challenged Cuomo in 2014. Christie was head of the Republican Governors Association at the time.
"The 2014 New York governor’s race is ancient history," Astorino said in a press statement. "But the political deals and possible conspiracy that went on during that race between Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — then the head of the Republican Governors Association — is only now coming into the clear light of day for everyone to see.
"If true, the mutual re-election assistance pact between Govs. Christie and Cuomo — one Democrat and one Republican — was grossly unethical and possibly illegal. Both men have lost their moral authority to lead," Astorino said.
Wildstein, who admitted to masterminding the bridge fiasco, testified during the trial of two ex-Christie aides, saying Cuomo helped in the cover-up as it was unfolding.
But Azzopardi countered: "He testified, he heard that from someone who heard that from someone else. As I said in my statement, he was pressed on it again in court today and he admitted that he had no firsthand knowledge of this."
Azzopardi added: "Astorino should focus on his day job, but while he’s in Manhattan, maybe he can enlighten New Yorkers on the status of the federal investigation into his administration and its links to central figures in the NYPD scandal."
In July, Astorino's office was subpoenaed as part of a widening probe of corruption by the U.S. Attorney's Office focusing on a two Westchester businessmen: Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg.
Reichberg was named a volunteer county police chaplain in Westchester in June 2013, despite having no ties to the county, according to published reports. After the appointment, Rechnitz donated $25,000 to Astorino’s county re-election campaign, according to reports.
William F. B. O'Reilly, a political consultant to Astorino, reacted, "We're not going to play Gov. Cuomo's distraction games."
"His denials, as well as Gov. Christie's, simply don't pass the smell test. That's patently obvious to anyone closely following the Bridgegate Scandal story," said O'Reilly.
Cuomo, responding to a request from Christie, allegedly told the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, to “stand down” in trying to publicly blame the lane closings on New Jersey officials until Christie had won re-election in November 2013, according to a New York Times report.
The Port Authority's executive director, Patrick J. Foye, was supposed to sign off on the plan. Instead, Foye ordered GWB lanes reopened upon learning about the shutdown four days after it began.
According to Cuomo's spokesman, “The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: it was our executive director who blew the whistle and ordered the bridge reopened."
"To be clear, no such conversation between the governors happened, in fact no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted Bridgegate architect thought or dreamt about New York’s involvement has no basis in fact. Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it’s just false and delusional," said Cuomo spokesman Azzopardi.