Christie knew about bridge lane closures, ex-official says

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives a news conference in Trenton January 9, 2014.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives a news conference in Trenton January 9, 2014.
Credit: Reuters

The former New Jersey official at the center of a political scandal dogging Governor Chris Christie said on Friday the prominent Republican knew about a traffic jam orchestrated by his top aides during the blockage, the New York Times reported.

Christie, seen as a 2016 White House hopeful, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of a plan to snarl traffic at the busy George Washington Bridge as political retribution and severed ties with several top aides over their role in the incident.

David Wildstein, who resigned his post at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey late last year, said there is evidence that proves Christie had knowledge of the jams “during the period when the lanes were closed,” according to a letter sent to the authority’s lawyer and released to the newspaper.

The letter does not indicate that Christie orchestrated the closures in any way, does not specify exactly when he became aware of the jams, and offers no evidence to back up the claim.

The closures last September caused four days of severe traffic jams for commuters and residents of Fort Lee, New Jersey, whose mayor declined to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign, and prompted official investigations into the role of the governor’s office.

The governor has seen his national support ratings fall as a result of the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal.

“It’s the first time a high-level official has contradicted the governor,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history professor who specializes in presidential politics.

The key question, he said, is whether Wildstein can produce “smoking gun” evidence proving Christie’s knowledge of the events. State Democrats probing the scandal are likely to jump on that vulnerability, Zelizer added.

Wildstein and Christie attended Livingston High School at the same time, but Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has denied knowing Wildstein well.

“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter said.

The Democratic National Committee, already targeting Christie as its greatest threat in the 2016 presidential election, was quick to pounce.

“He’s repeatedly said that he had no knowledge of the lane closures,” said Mo Elleithee, a DNC spokesman. “Today’s revelations raise serious questions about whether that is true.”

Polls taken since the emails emerged early this month showing a now-fired Christie aide calling for “traffic” in Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of the bridge, show Christie’s popularity sliding in theoretical 2016 White House and primary matchups.

Christie, who won re-election in a landslide last November, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“If we assume it’s true, then we’re in the realm of an outright lie on the part of the governor, and that changes the entire story,” said David Redlawsk, a New Jersey pollster.

“It’s always the old…It’s the cover-up that gets you.”

As for Wildstein, Redlawsk said, “It very much sounds like the message is quite clear to the U.S. Attorney’s Office: tell us what you need and we’ll cooperate.”

The scandal has dulled Christie’s image as a politician ready to reach across the aisle at a time when partisan gridlock has defined Washington.

Christie bolstered his image as conciliator in 2012 when he walked beside President Barack Obama across the storm-hit New Jersey coast after Superstorm Sandy, in the final months of the 2012 presidential campaign – a move that some supporters of Republican contender Mitt Romney said hurt their party’s chances of retaking the White House.

In a marathon January 9 press conference, Christie repeatedly apologized for actions he blamed on his aides, expressed his shock and said: “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

Movies

Shia LaBeouf disorderly conduct case pushed to September

A judge on Thursday adjourned until September the disorderly conduct and harassment case against actor Shia LaBeouf, who was charged with disturbing a Broadway theater…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.