New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reasserted Monday that he had no advance knowledge of efforts to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge for political reasons, following allegations by a former political appointee that “evidence exists” that he was aware of the lane closures while they were in effect.
“I had nothing to do with this: No knowledge. No authorization. No planning.” Christie said on a local radio call-in show, as questions swirled about what he did know about the closure of lanes to the busiest bridge in the nation and when he knew about it. The controversy has been a black-eye for the likely 2016 Republican presidential hopeful and could derail his national ambitions entirely.
The former appointee, David Wildstein, resigned from the Port Authority last month, and Christie dismissed two top political aides after emails were released last month showing they were involved in the effort to close the bridge lanes.
“[E]vidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed,” an attorney for David Wildstein wrote in a letter Friday to the Port Authority.
In the interview, Christie said he was only aware of the lane closings once he read a media report on Oct. 1, 2013 in the Wall Street Journal quoting from an email sent by Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye ordering the lanes open on Sep. 13. “That’s when I asked my Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel — I said to them hey, would you look into this and see what’s going on here,” he said.
But in December, Christie said on the same program that he heard about the lane closures in September, before the Foye email was published. “Well, I first heard about the lane closure back in September, you know, from press accounts, but, you know, this has kind of been an evolving thing,” he said then. “There was no, like, moment where I went oh, wow, look at this.”
On Monday night’s radio show, Christie also provided little clarity on whether he knew of traffic on the bridge contemporaneously. “Things could have been mentioned to me about traffic,” he said. Minutes later, when asked why he didn’t order aides to investigate the traffic sooner, Christie replied, “I didn’t know about traffic.”
Christie sought to diffuse those questions, saying the “most important” point was that he didn’t know about or authorize the apparent politically motivated closure in advance. “Nobody has said that I knew anything about this before it happened,” he said, “and I think that’s the most important question.”
Nearly a month after the scandal flared, Christie said he has not yet fully cleared his remaining gubernatorial staff and noted that an outside investigation is ongoing.
“There is nothing that has been brought to light so far that would make me believe that anyone is [still lying],” Christie said, adding he wouldn’t make guarantees about his aides until the probe is complete. He said if he finds out that anyone on his current staff was involved, “they will be fired.”
The governor confirmed that his office has received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s office, and said he will comply with their request for documents. Bridget Kelly, one of the fired aides, invoked the Fifth Amendment Monday and declined to comply with a legislative subpoena for documents relating to the lane closures.