New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie maintained Monday he had no prior knowledge of the politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to New York City last fall, though now at least one top official involved claims “evidence exists” the Republican knew.
Christie, speaking on a weekly radio program he participates in called “Ask the Governor,” refuted the accusations made by former Port Authority appointee David Wildstein, who resigned last year.
“Did I have any knowledge of it beforehand and the answer is still the same, it’s unequivocally no,” said Christie, who had been considered a likely Republican presidential nominee in 2016.His popularity has waned since winning re-election in the blue state with wide support from Democrats and independents, in addition to his Republican base, as the scandal has raged on. Christie’s approval rating has sunk to 46 percent in a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll, compared to 65 percent just before his re-election.
But Christie has been steadfast in his denial of a direct role in creating the traffic snarl, for which he fired Bridget Kelly, his deputy chief of staff, after emails linking her to the incident were publicized by New Jersey’s The Record.
Following the revelations, Christie gave a two-hour news conference exhaustively answering reporters’ questions and expressing remorse that others in his office acted to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie in his re-election bid.
He said Monday he first learned about the vindictive lane closures from the Wall Street Journal.
“That was the first time that I got a sense of, there might be some issue here,” he said. “I read it in the Wall Street Journal. I know prior to that that there were press accounts about traffic issues up there and you know, if someone, if I either read that or someone said something to me about traffic issues up there, it wouldn’t have been meaningful to me.”
Democratic lawmakers have begun investigating the matter and even applying their subpoena power to Christie’s office and top aides. Federal prosecutors are also looking into the matter. Kelly, the fired aide, declined to cooperate with the lawmakers’ document request but has not yet been asked to hand anything over to the federal investigators.
Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority who also went to high school with Christie, told The New York Times Friday that “evidence exists” linking Christie to the closures, but has yet to produce anything showing that’s the case. Christie’s office reacted quickly following those claims, trashing Wildstein.
"Bottom line - David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein," Christie's office said.
Christie still looks and acts like a potential Republican presidential nominee, serving as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and is expected to appear for the first time at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in March.