New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has faced controversy in the past; however, the most recent scandal plaguing his office is shaping up to be a defining moment in his political career. A likely presidential contender in 2016, the outspoken Republican faced reporters Thursday to address accusations that his subordinates purposely closed traffic lanes in Fort Lee to exact political payback.
After profusely apologizing for the traffic jams caused by the action, Christie assured the crowd he played no role in the incident.
He accepted responsibility, though he confirmed he had “no knowledge or involvement” in the lane closures. Additionally, he said Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly would be out of a job “because she lied” to him about the incident. Another state GOP leader, Bill Stepian, also received a pink slip Thursday, Christie confirmed.
“I can never allow personal feelings or longstanding relationships to get in the way of my doing my job,” he said upon announcing the terminations.
A number of email correspondences were released between Kelly and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey representative David Wildstein. The notes alluded to Kelly’s desire to cause “some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Sure enough, Wildstein reportedly ordered two of the three lanes between Fort Lee and the George Washington Bridge closed a short time later.
A longtime friend of Christie, Wildstein has been subpoenaed to testify on the matter.
None of the emails directly point to the governor himself; however, he expressed his deep apologies to those affected. He answered questions for about an hour and a half Thursday, rolling back his previous assertions that the ordeal was not perpetrated by his staff and was not prompted by a political vendetta.
Admitting “abject stupidity” was behind the plot, Christie vehemently denied any beforehand knowledge of the scheme.
“Ultimately,” he said, “I am responsible for what happens under my watch.”
Christie expressed his intention to travel to Fort Lee and apologize for the “conduct of some of the people on my team.”
An ongoing investigation will seek to reveal further details of the plot, though some on the left are eager to paint Christie as a guilty conspirator already.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz declared that this scandal represents “what we’ve come to expect from Gov. Christie,” portraying him as someone who “bullies and attacks” when confronted with opposition.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo credit: Bob Jagendorf (Creative Commons)