Statement Analysis®

Governor Chris Christie and the Bridge Scandal

In December 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got caught up in what is being called the Bridge Scandal. It appears that in September 2013 a top Christie aid was instrumental in closing two access lanes on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge which spans the Hudson River connecting New York to New Jersey. The weeklong traffic jam clogged the streets of Fort Lee, NJ. The Port Authority said they were conducting a traffic study. However, it looks like the closure was political payback against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who endorsed Governor Chris Christie's opponent in the 2013 gubernatorial campaign. Many people wondered if Governor Christie knew about the closures or even sanctioned the closures as retribution.

When the story broke Governor Christie addressed the scandal in a December 13, 2013 press conference.

"I'm responsible for everything that happens in this government...I didn't know anything about it, but I'm responsible."

The Governor gives a fairly good denial stating he "didn't know anything about it." It would have been nice if he had elaborated and said that no one on his staff told him about the lane closures. However, his denial indicates that. If he had authorized the so-called traffic study or his aids told him about it, then he would not be able to truthfully say, "I didn't know anything about it."

In January 2014, the scandal continued to grow when Governor Christie discovered that one of the members of his staff had lied to him about her involvement in the lane closures. Christie fired the aid made the following denials at a January 9 news conference.

"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."

Again, the Governor gives a good denial stating he had no knowledge or involvement in shutting down of two lanes on the George Washington Bridge. He tells us he did not know it was being planned or executed.

"So what I can tell you is if people find that hard to believe, I don't know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this -- of the planning, the execution or anything about it - - and that I first found out about it after it was over."

The Governor reaffirms his denial and then adds to it by saying that the first time he found out about the lane closures was "after it was over." He again is telling us he had no prior knowledge about what was going on.

In talking about the member of his staff whom he fired, Governor Christie gave the following denial.

"And so if she acted in a manner which exceeded her authority, which seems, you know, to be a possibility, you know, that's what she did. But I had no knowledge of this and neither did the chief of staff."

Again, he tells us that he had no knowledge what was happening. He adds that neither did his chief of staff have any knowledge.

On January 31, 2014, a lawyer for David Wildstein, an ex-Port Authority official appointed by Christie, said that "Evidence exists...tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear before the Transportation Committee."

Governor Christie's office denied the accusation saying, "Mr. Wildstein's lawyer confirms what the Governor has said all along - he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein's motivations were for closing them to begin with. As the Governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th. The Governor denies Mr. Wildstein's lawyer's other assertions."

We must remember that this denial did not necessarily come from Governor Christie but came from his office. It does back up what the Governor has been saying. So far, Governor Christie's denials look good. He had no knowledge and did not participate in the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge. We will have to see what evidence, if any, David Wildstein has to contradict the Governor's denials.

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