United Airlines executives resign amid Bridgegate-related corruption probe

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The Scandals United's Ex-CEO Jeff Smisek Leaves Behind


CEO Of United Airlines And FAA Chief Testify To Senate Committee On Air Traffic Control ModernizationThe Bridgegate scandal has yet to take down New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (though it probably didn't help his 2016 chances), but in an unexpected twist, it indirectly sparked the resignation of a handful of top United Airlines executives. Jeff Smisek, chairman and chief executive, Nene Foxhall, executive vice president for communications and government affairs, and Mark R. Anderson, senior vice president for corporate and government affairs, stepped down on Tuesday amid a federal corruption prove into whether the airline launched an unprofitable Newark to Columbia, South Carolina flight solely for the benefit of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman, who used the flight for jaunts to his vacation home near Columbia.

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The Port Authority chairman in question is close Christie ally David Samson, who was appointed by the governor in 2010 and stepped down in 2014 over his alleged role in the politically-motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The federal probe initially focused on the bridge scandal, but the investigation has expanded into other forms of suspected corruption at the Port Authority, including the so-called "chairman's flight."

See photos from the Bridgegate scandal and aftermath:

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Christie 'Bridgegate' press conference and aftermath
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United Airlines executives resign amid Bridgegate-related corruption probe
Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, left, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie participate in the morning session of the National Governor's Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attend "Howard Stern's Birthday Bash" presented by SiriusXM, produced by Howard Stern Productions at Hammerstein Ballroom on January 31, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Jon Bon Jovi attend 'Howard Stern's Birthday Bash' presented by SiriusXM, produced by Howard Stern Productions at Hammerstein Ballroom on January 31, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie waits for the start of a ceremony to pass official hosting duties of next year's Super Bowl to representatives from Arizona, Saturday Feb. 1, 2014 in New York. Fellow Republicans are assessing the damage of new allegations that Gov. Christie knew about a traffic-blocking operation orchestrated by top aides.(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, display different reactions as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, left, speaks during a ceremony to pass official hosting duties of next year's Super Bowl to Arizona, Saturday Feb. 1, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a ceremony to pass official hosting duties of next year's Super Bowl to representatives from Arizona, Saturday Feb. 1, 2014 in New York. Fellow Republicans are assessing the damage of new allegations that Gov. Christie knew about a traffic-blocking operation orchestrated by top aides. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie waits for the start of a ceremony to pass official hosting duties of next year's Super Bowl to representatives from Arizona, Saturday Feb. 1, 2014 in New York. Fellow Republicans are assessing the damage of new allegations that Gov. Christie knew about a traffic-blocking operation orchestrated by top aides. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Trenton, N.J. Faced with a widening political scandal that threatens to undermine his second term and a possible 2016 presidential run, Christie apologized again Tuesday, saying his administration "let down the people we are entrusted to serve" but that the issue doesn't define his team or the state. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie arrives to deliver his State Of The State address at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Trenton, N.J.Faced with a widening political scandal that threatens to undermine his second term and a possible 2016 presidential run, Christie apologized again Tuesday, saying his administration "let down the people we are entrusted to serve" but that the issue doesn't define his team or the state. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center right, delivers his State Of The State address at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Trenton, N.J. Christie apologized again Tuesday, saying his administration ?let down the people we are entrusted to serve? but that it doesn?t define his team or the state. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Trenton, N.J. Christie apologized again Tuesday, saying his administration ?let down the people we are entrusted to serve? but that it doesn?t define his team or the state. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, second left, arrives at Fort Lee, N.J., City Hall, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Christie traveled to Fort Lee to apologize in person to Mayor Mark Sokolich. Moving quickly to contain a widening political scandal, Gov. Chris Christie fired one of his top aides Thursday and apologized repeatedly for the "abject stupidity" of his staff, insisting he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams to get even with a Democratic mayor. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
FORT LEE, NJ - JANUARY 09: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters the Borough Hall in Fort Lee to apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich on January 9, 2014 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. According to reports Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is accused of giving a signal to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge, allegedly as punishment for the Fort Lee, New Jersey mayor not endorsing the Governor during the election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
FORT LEE, NJ - JANUARY 09: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves the Borough Hall in Fort Lee where he apologized to Mayor Mayor Mark Sokolich on January 9, 2014 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. According to reports Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is accused of giving a signal to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge, allegedly as punishment for the Fort Lee, New Jersey mayor not endorsing the Governor during the election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Governor Chris Christie talks to a reporter following a visit to Fort Lee Borough Hall Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, in Fort Lee, N.J. to apologize to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich about the governor's staff allegedly closing lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
TRENTON, NJ - JANUARY 9: David Wildstein (R) former director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority and his attorney Alan Zegas (L) is sworn in to testify at a hearing held by the Assembly Transportation Committee January 9, 2014 in Trenton, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. The committee has subpoenaed David Wildstein former director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority to testify about the agency's decision to temporarily close some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee in September 2013. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 at the Statehouse in Trenton. N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walks to the podium before a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
In a Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 photo, traffic moves across the George Washington Bridge, in Fort Lee, N.J. A top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is linked through emails and text messages to a seemingly deliberate plan to create traffic gridlock in a town at the base of the bridge after its mayor refused to endorse Christie for re-election. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly wrote in an Aug. 13 email to David Wildstein, a top political appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York City. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A car uses an onramp to the George Washington Bridge toll plaza in Fort Lee, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. The onramp was closed for three days in September 2013 snarling traffic at one of the world's busiest bridges, which links New Jersey and New York City. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faces political fallout over the traffic jam that caused hours-long backups for commuters and others as children started the school year.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Capitol Hill reporters watch a news conference with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie while waiting for House John Boehner's of Ohio news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Boehner said he believes Gov. Chris Christie remains a serious contender for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, despite the traffic jam scandal engulfing the New Jersey governor.
This June 12, 2013 photo released by NBC shows host Jimmy Fallon, right, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Chistie during a taping of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," in New York. (AP Photo/NBC, Lloyd Bishop)
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"The departures announced today are in connection with the company's previously disclosed internal investigation related to the federal investigation associated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey," United Airlines said in a statement. "The investigations are ongoing and the company continues to cooperate with the government."

According to the New York Times, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey is investigating whether United agreed to keep the Newark to Columbia flight in return for improvements at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it is the largest carrier. The direct flight was launched in 2011 shortly after Smisek and Samson had dinner in Manhattan, and it was canceled just days after the Port Authority chairman stepped down.

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Smisek will be succeeded by Oscar Munoz, who is a United board member and the former CEO of the railroad company CSX. In a conference call on Tuesday, Munoz acknowledged, "this news is unexpected." "It is certainly a new chapter for United," he continued. "and I hope to make you as optimistic as I am about our future here and the things we can accomplish at the airline. I'm ready to get to work."

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