REINEKE FORD   ||   NEWS UPDATES

Christie critics seize on ex-loyalist’s claims

Comment: Off

First lady Mary Pat Christie, left, laughs as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greet volunteers and family and neighbors outside a renovated home that was heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy in a town near MetLife Stadium, where Sunday’s Super Bowl game is to be played, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in Moonachie, N.J. The Christies moved some furniture to help a family move back into a home rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy. The volunteer event Friday was part of the NFL-sanctioned Rebuilding Together event. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

First lady Mary Pat Christie, left, laughs as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greet volunteers and family and neighbors outside a renovated home that was heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy in a town near MetLife Stadium, where Sunday’s Super Bowl game is to be played, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in Moonachie, N.J. The Christies moved some furniture to help a family move back into a home rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy. The volunteer event Friday was part of the NFL-sanctioned Rebuilding Together event. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In this Jan. 9, 2014 file photo, David Wildstein speaks during a hearing at the Statehouse in Trenton. According to a letter released Friday, Jan. 31, 2013 by a lawyer for the former Christie loyalist who ordered lane closures near the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, attorney Alan Zegas said his client “contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.” Wildstein was forced to resign from his position at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey amid a scandal that he allegedly ordered the lane closures as retribution for Ft. Lee’s mayor not supporting Christie in his re-election bid. The lane closures caused massive congestion in the city from Sept. 9 to Sept 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

File-This Jan. 11, 2014, file photo shows traffic passing through the toll booths at the George Washington Bridge, in Fort Lee, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie made inaccurate statements during a news conference about the lane closures near the George Washington Bridge, according to a letter released Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, by a lawyer for a former Christie loyalist who ordered the closures and resigned amid the ensuing scandal that has engulfed the New Jersey governor’s administration. In the letter, David Wildstein’s lawyer said his client “contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.” (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — As New Jersey lawmakers last year began investigating lane closures that caused four days of brutal traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge, Gov. Chris Christie was insistent about one thing: He did not know about the tie-ups until they were over.

His critics had doubts but not proof, even as emails made public in January showed that one of Christie’s aides called for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” apparently as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of the town for not supporting Christie’s re-election campaign.

Friday, the lawyer for a former Christie loyalist said in a letter that “evidence exists” that Christie knew about the closures as they were happening, although he did not accuse the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate of knowing about it beforehand. In a statement, Christie’s office denied the allegation made on behalf of former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive David Wildstein.

But even without detailing any evidence, the claim gave Christie’s critics something new to seize on as they bashed the governor as he appeared at events leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl in his state.

“I know it’s Super Bowl weekend and Chris Christie doesn’t want to talk about anything but the game, but it looks like he’s going to need to change his plans,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin said in a statement.

Attorney Alan Zegas laid out Wildstein’s claim that Christie was not being truthful in a letter Friday asking the Port Authority, the entity that runs the bridge, to pay his legal fees. He also says in the letter that Wildstein “contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.”

Documents released Jan. 8 showed that Wildstein, as Christie’s No. 2 man at the Port Authority, ordered the lane closures starting Sept. 9, about a month after getting a text message from a Christie administration aide calling for the “traffic problems.”

By then, Wildstein, who attended Livingston High School with Christie, had already resigned amid the growing scandal.

On Jan. 9, Christie held a nearly two-hour news conference in which he apologized and denied involvement in and knowledge of the plot. He was asked if he understood why people would have a hard time believing he didn’t know about it.

“I don’t know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over.”

“And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study,” he said.

Like he did when asked in December, he said he first learned of the closures from media accounts after the lanes had been reopened.

Wildstein supplied hundreds of pages of documents, some heavily redacted, to a legislative committee investigating the closures. He also appeared before the lawmakers under subpoena on the same day as Christie’s news conference, but refused to answer questions.

Wildstein, who previously was a political blogger, said Zegas advised him to remain silent for fear of being prosecuted. Zegas has said Wildstein would be willing to talk if he is granted immunity from criminal investigators. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also investigating.

The committee found him to be in contempt and referred the case to a prosecutor.

Christie had adamantly denied staff members were involved until private

Comments

comments

About the Author