- Associated Press - Friday, January 8, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The authority that runs the George Washington Bridge wants to keep confidential a law firm’s memo sought by a defendant in the criminal case stemming from lane closures.

Bill Baroni, former executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has sought in court filings to unseal a memo from Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher that advised the authority on how to respond to subpoenas from a New Jersey legislative committee regarding Port Authority finances.

The law firm is the same one that released a report in 2014 absolving Republican Gov. Chris Christie from involvement in the lane closures. Baroni was a top Christie appointee at the Port Authority who resigned in late 2013 as revelations about the lane closures leaked out.

In a brief filed Friday, the Port Authority wrote that the memo isn’t relevant because it was sent months before the lane closures occurred and covered different topics.

“Baroni cannot draw any factual connection between the Gibson Dunn memorandum and the indictment because none exists,” the brief argued. “His argument boils down to the absurd proposition that anything having to do with the Port Authority and the State of New Jersey is relevant to the indictment.”

Baroni and former Christie aide Bridget Kelly were indicted last spring on civil rights, conspiracy and wire fraud charges. Prosecutors say they orchestrated the lane closures in a political vendetta against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, the town adjacent to the bridge, for not endorsing Christie’s re-election.

Both have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for trial in April. Former Port Authority official David Wildstein pleaded guilty last May and is expected to testify against them.

The lane closures thrust Fort Lee into gridlock for four days in early September 2013 before Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye ordered two of three access lanes to the bridge reopened.

Christie hasn’t been charged and has denied any involvement in the scheme, but the incident has remained a topic as he pursues the GOP presidential nomination.

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