Former Christie press aide denies he was told bridge lane closures were political retribution scheme

The New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, NJ, and New York City, is seen on Jan. 9, 2014 in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

NEWARK -- Gov. Christie's former press secretary on Wednesday denied he was told that lane closures at the George Washington Bridge were implemented as part of a political retribution scheme, contradicting testimony by the federal government's star witness.

Michael Drewniak, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, suggested former Port Authority official David Wildstein had lied to jurors about their dinner conversation on Dec. 4, 2013, three months after the bridge incident.

Drewniak said Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty in the case, did tell him that former Christie aides Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien knew about the lane closures -- and that Wildstein claimed to have told the governor about the traffic jams during a 9/11 memorial service.

But Drewniak testified in federal court here that Wildstein mentioned nothing about punishing a local mayor for refusing to endorse the Republican governor's reelection campaign that year.

"Did he tell you that it was punitive in nature?" asked Michael Critchley Sr., an attorney for Kelly.

"No," Drewniak said. "Absolutely not."

Prosecutors allege Kelly conspired with Wildstein and Bill Baroni, Christie's former top executive appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to cause gridlock in Fort Lee, Bergen County, to retaliate against Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat.

The government rested its case last week.

Kelly and Baroni are charged with misusing resources Port Authority resources and other felony counts.