Kevin O'Dowd is the closest aide to the Republican governor to
appear before the legislative panel looking into the September
incident, which has proved deeply embarrassing for the Christie as
he mulls a 2016 run for the White House.
The massive traffic disruption apparently was orchestrated by
Christie aides to retaliate against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee
who failed to endorse Christie's re-election bid. A shutdown over
four days of the access lanes in Fort Lee caused hours-long snarls
that delayed school buses, ambulances and commuters.
Christie has denied he knew about or was involved in the incident.
Like other Christie associates and officials who have testified,
O'Dowd said he had been in the dark about the incident, and the
apparent abuse of power involving several of the governor's top
"I would like to start my appearance today by making very clear to
the committee that I had no prior knowledge of, or played no role
in, the decision to close the lanes at the bridge last September,"
O'Dowd said in his testimony to the Legislative Select Committee on
Investigation in Trenton.
During about seven hours of testimony, O'Dowd, who is Christie's
pick to become the state's next attorney general, said allegations
surrounding Bridgegate have become a major distraction for the
O'Dowd said he had not conducted an inquiry into who ordered the
closures and why.
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He said Christie asked him to question Bridget Anne Kelly, the
governor's then-deputy chief of staff, about the closings. Kelly,
who oversaw the governor's relationships with public officials, sent
the now-infamous email saying: "time for some traffic problems in
Kelly was fired in January.
When asked by Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, a Democrat, if the
closures could amount to a violation of state law, O'Dowd said he
was insufficiently familiar with the facts to answer.
Christie's press secretary, his former director of intergovernmental
affairs and a commissioner with the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey, which oversees bridge operations, have already testified
before the panel.
Federal prosecutors also have opened investigations of the matter.
(Editing by Edith Honan; Editing by Richard Chang)
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