Chris Christie’s staff tied to bridge scandal; Christie reponds

BY newsdesk  January 8, 2014 at 5:08 PM EDT

Traffic moves over the Hudson River and across the George Washington Bridge between New York City, right, and Fort Lee, New Jersey. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Update 5:08 p.m. EST

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie released a statement responding to the report:

“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. 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.” _______

Emails obtained by media outlets Wednesday showed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office was tied to lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in September, causing a week-long traffic nightmare.

The emails “provide the strongest indication yet that it was a part of a politically motivated vendetta — a notion that Christie has publicly denied,” according to the New Jersey newspaper The Record.

E-mails linking Christie aide to George Washington Bridge lane closures by The Washington Post

For four days starting on Sept. 9, 2013, two of the three access lanes connecting the New Jersey town of Fort Lee to New York via the double-decked George Washington Bridge were unexpectedly closed, hindering emergency response crews and delaying school buses on the first day of school. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, did not endorse Christie, a Republican, in the gubernatorial race, which fueled speculation that the lane closures were a form of political retribution.

Sokolich told The Wall Street Journal he was being punished for something he didn’t do. “This is the behavior of a bully in a schoolyard,” he said. “It is the greatest example of political payback.”

The emails show that Bridget Kelly, a Christie deputy chief of staff, encouraged the Port Authority to cause gridlock for the town. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she wrote to David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority. He promptly responded, “Got it.” Wildstein resigned in December ahead of the legislative hearing that investigated the lane closures.

Another New Jersey mayor also accused Christie’s administration of political retaliation this week. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop claimed several meetings with state officials and Cabinet members were canceled the day he said he would not endorse Christie’s re-election.

Christie, who has presidential ambitions, has repeatedly denied the lane closures were a form of retribution. “[Sokolich] was not somebody that was on my radar screen in any way, politically, professionally, or in any other way until these stories came out in the aftermath of the closing,” Christie said in a December press conference. His administration has said the lane closures were part of a Port Authority traffic study.

H/T Bridget Bowman