By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
With his credibility on the line, Gov. Chris Christie walked out to face the media and delivered a mea culpa.
“And I came out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey, I apologize to the people of Fort Lee, and I apologize to the members of the state legislature. I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” Christie said.
He said he’d been lied to by Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and was firing her today.
“I am heartbroken that someone I permitted in my circle of trust for five years betrayed that trust,” Christie said.
He is also cancelling the appointment of campaign manager Bill Stepien to chair the state Republican Party.
Both Stepien and Kelly were cast in unfavorable light by the emails that came out yesterday.
“I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here,” said Christie.
Christie said he was blind-sided by yesterday’s news and didn’t sleep much last night.
“I’m sick over this. I’ve worked for the last 12 years in public life developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk, one that I think is well deserved, but when something like this happens it’s appropriate for you to question yourself and certainly I am,” Christie said.
The press conference lasted a staggering one hour and 48 minutes.
More than 25 television cameras were in the room.
Christie disputed the idea he went into hiding yesterday.
“I find this out at 8:50 yesterday morning. By 9 this morning Bridget Kelly was fired. By 7 yesterday evening Bill Stepien was asked to leave my organization. That’s pretty swift action,” Christie said.
Meanwhile, David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who oversaw the lane closures at the GWB, lost his bid this morning to quash a subpoena and was forced to testify before the Assembly Transportation Committee.
To every question, he took the Fifth Amendment.
“On the advice of counsel, I assert my right to remain silent,” Wildstein said.
His lawyer explained.
“I’m not suggesting in any way and I don’t believe that Mr. Wildstein is guilty of anything criminal. At the same time, he has a right under both the state and federal constitutions, to not give answers that could be used by a prosecutor were they to charge him, even if they charge him wrongly,” Alan Zegas said.
The committee found Wildstein in contempt, a misdemeanor. Zegas argued the Constitution trumps legislative rules.
The chairman disagreed.
“I think answering simple questions about — was this your email, where did you work, what was your job — really runs beyond the protection of your client from self incriminating,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski. “We disagree on that,” Zegas said.
When it was over, the reticence continued.
Christie’s assessment of the damage?
“I don’t believe I’ve lost the trust of the people of New Jersey. I think the people of New Jersey are looking to see if mistakes were made, how their leaders are going to react,” Christie said.
The reviews are coming in.
Watch the full press conference here.