By Michelle Sartor Lang
Senior Multimedia Web Producer
Email messages have linked top aides to Gov. Chris Christie to the shutdown of George Washington Bridge lanes in September. Christie has maintained that the closures were for a traffic study, but the newly surfaced messages imply otherwise.
The Star-Ledger reports that Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, emailed David Wildstein, a Port Authority official who has since resigned amid the growing controversy, with a message dated Aug. 13, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein wrote back, “Got it.” The messages were apparently exchanged through personal email accounts.
According to The Record, other top Christie associates were mentioned in the email or copied in the chain, including Port Authority Chairman David Samson, Christie’s Reelection Campaign Manager Bill Stepien and Christie’s Spokesman Michael Drewniak.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich told The Record that the uncovered emails are an “example of the pettiest and most venomous side of politics.”
Late in the day, Christie released a statement on the latest development. “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,” he said. “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.”
Wildstein wasn’t the only Port Authority official to resign because of the lane closures. Bill Baroni also stepped down.
Even after the resignations, Christie said the issue was “not that big a deal,” saying there were many more important issues in the state to worry about.
Christie also said publicly on his “Ask the Governor” program in late December that, “I’ve asked my staff to give me a full briefing. They’ve told me everything that we know.”
Christie has said that the lane closures were for a traffic study, but several Democrats started questioning the closures in October. There have been subpoenas and legislative hearings on the issue with more expected to come.
Christie canceled a press conference scheduled for this morning after the news of the email messages broke.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who has been heavily involved in the investigation into the lane closures, held a press conference today at the State House Annex in West Trenton to discuss the latest developments. He and Sen. Loretta Weinberg called the latest allegations shocking.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak and former gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono have called for a federal investigation into the Christie administration’s involvement in the lane closures.
Wildstein today filed a lawsuit saying the legislature’s subpoena of his testimony is invalid. He is scheduled to appear before Mercer Vicinage Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson at the Mercer County Courthouse Thursday at 9:30 a.m.