Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie waves to supporters at his election night party in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: Reuters
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday said he was misled by his staff and promised "people would be held responsible" after revelations that a top aide played a central role in the controversial closing of parts of the George Washington bridge.
"What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge," Christie said in a statement.
Christie, a Republican widely expected to make a bid for the White House in 2016, has become embroiled in a scandal over the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge, a move critics said was meant to punish a New Jersey Democratic mayor.
Christie has insisted he and his staff had nothing to do with the lane closings, but emails released on Wednesday showed that at least one of his top aides was involved in discussions about the lane closures weeks before the shutdown.
The George Washington Bridge is among the world's busiest, carrying some 300,000 vehicles on a typical day and the unexpected closure angered commuters and badly snarled traffic in the borough of Fort Lee at the New Jersey end of the bridge.
Critics had said the shutdown was retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse the governor's re-election efforts. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the bridge, said it was the result of a last-minute traffic study.
The emails raised fresh questions about the involvement of Christie's administration.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," his aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, wrote to a Port Authority executive in August.
The executive, David Wildstein, replied in an email: "Got it."
The emails do not give a specific reason for the closings, which left commuters trapped in traffic jams lasting several hours.
In another message sent amid the gridlock, an unidentified author wrote: "Is it wrong that I'm smiling," and Wildstein responded: "No."
Christie, who canceled his only public event on Wednesday, said the email exchanges were "not representative of me or my administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions."