Dems Claim Christie ‘Orchestrated’ Bridge Closure as Political Retribution
January 8, 2014 - 3:59 pm
New Jersey Democrats went after Gov. Chris Christie (R) today with allegations that his staff closed lanes of a major bridge in September because the mayor in Fort Lee did not support Christie’s re-election bid.
Documents released Wednesday showed Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, emailing longtime Christie friend David Wildstein over at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey about two weeks before the closure, writing “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Other communications around the time of the major traffic jams show a person whose name is redacted asking, “Is it wrong that I’m smiling?”
“No,” Wildstein responds. “I feel badly about the kids,” the unknown person writes, “I guess.” Wildstein responds, “They are the children of Buono voters.”
Barbara Buono, Christie’s Democratic opponent in the November gubernatorial election, told Salon, “There’s not even a scintilla of doubt that Christie is behind this.”
“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable,” Christie said in a written statement after cancelling a planned press conference.
“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. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”
Christie has previously said his office was not behind the lane closures and traffic backup.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who’s convinced it was political payback for his lack of support, told CNN “this is absolutely the lowest level of political venom you could possibly even make up.”
Assembly Deputy Speaker and Transportation Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Chair John Wisniewski (D) told CNN “this is an administration that runs a very tight ship, and there are almost no decisions that are made of any consequence that do not run directly through the front office.”
He acknowledged he didn’t have any emails with the governor’s name on it, “but I find it hard to believe that this administration wasn’t directly involved in orchestrating this.”
Wisniewski is holding a hearing on the matter tomorrow with Wildstein expected to testify.
“It’s not about the traffic. The traffic was the consequence,” he said. “But it really is about an abuse of power. It’s about an administration that does not take no for an answer, an administration that feels very comfortable in exacting political retribution. And we have seen here two very high-placed officials in the Christie administration abusing the authority that they were given to wreak havoc in a municipality, make children late for school, delay a police response to a missing child, delay a heart attack response.”
“That’s not the kind of leadership that New Jersey needs and it’s certainly not the kind of leadership the nation needs,” he added, highlighting how Democrats would be happy to derail any 2016 Christie bid.