New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held a lengthy news conference in the New Jersey State House this morning to address the scandal involving the closure of the George Washington Bridge last year that snarled traffic for four days to a standing room full of reporters.
Addressing the rising controversy over the closing of the GWB early in September this year that now looks as it were done for the sake of political payback from high up in the governor’s administration, Christie stepped up to the podium and quickly apologized for the incident at the onset of the conference. Christy said, “I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey. I apologize to the people of Fort Lee, and I apologize to members of the state Legislature.”
Christie went on to tell the crowd of reporters that he had terminated the employment of Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly “because she lied to me.” He said she betrayed to him by not coming forward with information when he asked for what was known about the issue or if their was any involvement by his staff prior to a press conference related to the traffic shutdown four weeks ago. Kelly, it would be found, wrote emails to the state’s Port Authority asking if David Wildstein could order lane closings on the GWB. Christie said,
Saying he never had any idea that the emails or the plot existed, the governor stated that he “was blinsided yesterday morning,” when he was informed of the release of damning emails by the media. He pointed out that his Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd knew nothing of the request by his deputy to shut down two lanes of traffic alluding that Kelly, with the exception of Bill Stepien, Christie’s campaign manager, was as high up as the scandal went.
Christie told reporters that in addition to letting Kelly go, that he also told Stepien to withdraw his name from contention as leader of New Jersey’s Republican party as well as his relationship with the Republican Governor’s Association. He said the emails he saw yesterday caused him to lose confidence in Stepien. It was only two days ago that the New Jersey GOP announced that Christie, as well as outgoing chairman Sam Raia were behind him in his run.
Christie said that he was going to Fort Lee today to meet with the mayor, Mark Sokolich, about the incident. It has been reported that neither the mayor, the city of Fort Lee, nor any of the agencies there, were ever notified beforehand of the Port Authority’s intention to close down the lanes in order to do a traffic study. Sokolich was shut out by “radio silence” when trying to discern what was happening during the four-day-long traffic jam. the Port Authority purposely ignored the mayor’s calls as well as made light of his distress emails show.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled this morning that the Assembly Transportation Committee had the power to compel David Wildstein to testify before the committee today. Earlier, Wildstein’s lawyers requested that a subpoena ordering him to do so be quashed. Wildstein, along with Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority Bill Baroni, resigned amid the controversy in December.
The man-made traffic jam that gridlocked the city of Fort Lee, occured during the first day of school, further adding to the massive traffic jam, and also delayed emergency services on at least four calls. In one instance, possibly causing the death of an elderly woman that was reported unconscious after a heart attack, she would later die at the hospital. Emergency responders were also met with delays when trying to respond to a traffic accident that injured four people during the four-day-long incident.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Paul Fisher said that the office is opening a probe into the lane closures to find whether or not there was any violation of federal law by the incident, thi after the matter was referred to them by the Port Authority Office of Inspector General.
Governor Christie is widely seen as being a candidate for the Presidency in 2016. Whether or not this incident, dubbed “Bridgegate,” will have any major impact on his decision to run, it is too soon to tell.