Amid the growing political scandal involving the partial closing of the George Washington Bridge, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie fires one of his top aides who spearheaded the plan. Reuters reports today that Governor Christie has made multiple public apologies for the sudden and unauthorized lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. The governor states that he was blindsided by this event and has launched an investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
In September of 2013 multiple lanes of the George Washington Bridge were closed for several days because of a “traffic study.” However, it is now suspected to have been an act of political vengeance. The New York Times reports that several of the Governor’s associates resigned following the events of last fall.
Recent probes into the alleged suspects have unearthed multiple e-mails between Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and a Port Authority official, David Wildstein, both Christie appointees. The findings suggest that they conspired to create a politically-motivated attack against Fort Lee, New Jersey Mayor Mark Sokolich. According to Fox News, this was retaliation for the Fort Lee Mayor not endorsing Christie for governor last November – even though Christie won by a landslide.
Perhaps the most shocking e-mail, Reuters reports, is one that Kelly wrote to Wildstein just one month before the closings. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote. Wildstein replied, “Got it.” All correspondence between the alleged perpetrators of the scandal was gathered by subpoena during the investigation. When called to panel today to answer questions regarding his involvement in the event, Wildstein invoked his Fifth Amendment right and kept quiet.
Republican strategist Alex Castellanos commented, “Christie himself says he was not involved, which I do not believe he would say if he was,” Politico reports. Known for his head-on approach to politics, Christie is also assuming damage control by firing many of his appointees, including some with whom he had a personal relationship. His Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, who Christie has known since high school was fired “effective immediately,” Fox News Reports. Her firing was sparked by her “lies” regarding the foolhardy traffic audit conducted on the bridge linking New Jersey with Manhattan. Fox also reports that Bill Stepien has been let go and will “not be considered for the state GOP Chairman consulting contract with the Republican Governor’s association.”
Even though Christie has spent hours answering questions and apologizing for the matter multiple times, his critics are salivating over the ordeal. Those same critics have called Christie a bully. Nevertheless, the apologetic and seemingly sincere Christie reiterated, “I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team. I am who I am, but I am not a bully,” Reuters reports.
Since Christie is an early frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, he will be the a target at which Democrats take their aim. The “bridge scandal,” as some are calling this, undoubtedly, will not help his cause.
In 2016 Governor Christie will have to defend himself from harsh political rhetoric and challenges against his character. It now seems he will have to defend himself against further backlash from rogue political action within his own administration as well.
As honesty is seemingly the best policy, Christie must forge the truth from within his Administration so that the bridge doesn’t close on his future political endeavors. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey is now searching to find out not if, but which and how many state and federal laws were violated by some of Christie’s top aides. As the bridge scandal unfolds further, it will fall on Christie if more damage control is needed involving his aides and those that support his administration.
By Alex Lemieux