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
Local

Paint Nite: Get drunk and make a painting…

At Paint Nite, New Yorkers can drink and make a painting at a New York City bar.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

National

Donut capers stymie police in Oregon

For more than a month, mysterious vandals have been smearing pastries on cars, depositing donuts in lawns and leaving cakes strewn about the streets.

International

U.S., European airlines halt flights to Israel due…

U.S. and European airlines halted flights to Tel Aviv in an effort to ensure passenger safety as turmoil in Israel and the region has intensified.

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.