A Republican widely expected to make a bid for the White House in
2016, Christie has become embroiled in a scandal over the closing of
part of the access to George Washington Bridge, a move seen as meant
to punish a New Jersey Democratic mayor.
"What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am
outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by
a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and
unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge," Christie said
in a statement.
Christie had insisted he and his staff had nothing to do with the
lane closings, which created havoc for hundreds of thousands of
residents. Emails released on Wednesday, however, showed that at
least one of his top aides was involved in discussions about the
closures weeks beforehand.
The George Washington Bridge is among the world's busiest, carrying
some 300,000 vehicles on a typical day. The abrupt and unexpected
lane closures, which lasted four days in September, badly snarled
traffic in the borough of Fort Lee at the New Jersey end of the
Critics say the shutdown was retribution against the Democratic
mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse the governor's re-election
efforts. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which
oversees the bridge, said it was the result of a last-minute traffic
The emails raised fresh questions about the involvement of
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," his aide, Bridget Anne
Kelly, wrote to a Port Authority executive in August.
The executive, David Wildstein, replied in an email: "Got it."
The emails do not give a specific reason for the closings, which
left furious commuters trapped in traffic jams for hours. The
closings began on the first day of school in Fort Lee.
In another message sent amid the gridlock, an unidentified author
wrote: "Is it wrong that I'm smiling," and Wildstein responded:
A local New Jersey paper reported that, as a result of the lane
closures, emergency responders were delayed in attending to four
medical situations. One involved an unconscious 91-year-old woman
who later died of cardiac arrest and another a car accident in which
four people were injured.
The Record quoted a letter to the mayor of Fort Lee from responders,
saying it took them twice as long to arrive on the spot in at least
Chairman of the Republican Governors Association and enormously
popular, Christie won his second term by a landslide in November,
garnering votes from all sides of the political spectrum.
But some question how far his blunt, tough-talking "Jersey"
posturing will take him on the national stage. Christie is known for
engaging in shouting matches, hurling insults and belittling
In one not-untypical response, when asked earlier if he knew about
the lane closings, Christie sarcastically replied that he personally
had put out the traffic cones.
Matthew Hale, an associate professor of political science at Seton
Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, said the growing
scandal deals a huge blow to Christie's political aspirations.
"The smoking gun is not quite in the governor's hand, but these
emails show that it is awfully close to it," Hale said.
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"Governor Christie has spent an enormous amount of effort trying to
get away from the narrative that he is a bully," he said. "These
emails destroy all of that effort in a single day."
Christie, who had canceled his only public event on Wednesday after
the emails were made public, said the email exchanges were "not
representative of me or my administration in any way, and people
will be held responsible for their actions."
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, said on CNN he was starting to doubt
that Christie had been in the dark about the closings.
"As things begin to unravel with emails, the actions of
counterparts, resignations, engagement of defense council, that
position becomes more and more difficult to understand, more and
more difficult to comprehend and, quite frankly, more and more
difficult to believe," he said.
"I'm actually rooting that the highest elected official in the state
of New Jersey isn't involved in this, but I will tell you I'm
beginning to question my judgment," he added.
Political rivals were quick to slam Christie, with the Democratic
National Committee (DNC) calling the revelations troubling and in
line with Christie's style.
"They also indicate what we've come to expect from Governor
Christie. When people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people
question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares
to look into his Administration, he bullies and attacks," DNC Chair
Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
The bridge lane closure emails were supplied to the media by
Wildstein, the Port Authority executive, in response to a subpoena
issued by a panel of state lawmakers.
A long-time Christie ally, Wildstein previously has admitted
ordering the lane closures and resigned in December. He was due to
testify before the panel on Thursday.
In the state capital of Trenton, Deputy Assembly Speaker John
Wisniewski, a Democrat, said the emails showed "government at its
"Among other things, they call into serious question the honesty of
this governor and his staff. As a result of what has been revealed
today, this governor has a lot of explaining to do," Wisniewski
Christie often touts his willingness to work with opponents as well
as allies — a stance seen as a way of positioning himself as a
national candidate able to close bitter partisan divides and win the
A former prosecutor, he was highly visible working with Democratic
U.S. Senator Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, and he notably
praised President Barack Obama in 2012 for his response to New
Jersey's needs after Superstorm Sandy.
Copies of the emails, many of them on private accounts, were
obtained and published by the Bergen Record, The New York Times and
(Additional reporting by Fred Barbash in Washington;
editing by Gunna Dickson)
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