The bridge scandal revolving around lane closures continues as Gov. Chris Christie released a memo in reply to a former employee calling him a liar. David Wildstein has openly accused the governor of knowing about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Though Christie states that he had no idea before the incident occurred, it does not prove him innocent. It has not been proven that he did or did not know about the incident while it was occurring.
Wildstein, who previously ranked high as a Port Authority official, complicated issues surrounding the bridge scandal when his lawyer presented the Port Authority with a letter on Friday. He asked for help with his legal bills in exchange for information about Christie’s direct involvement with the lane closures. His statements about the governor go against everything Christie said in the initial press conference regarding the incident. He also pointed out that Christie may be allocating Port Authority funds elsewhere. Funds were not provided to those who did not support his political campaign, he said.
It all started back in August when an email was sent asking for traffic issues in Fort Lee to punish the mayor of New Jersey for not supporting Christie’s re-election. Two lanes were closed and traffic was at a stand still for four days in September.
Wildstein was the one who pulled the trigger and ordered workers to block the two lanes. The administration claimed the inconvenience was due to a traffic study. It was not until the subpoena was issued that the email surfaced and called this information into question. Officials at the Port authority state that there never was a traffic study at that time.
Christie’s administration has gone through a number of changes since the scandal was made public. He fired his aide, Bridgette Anne Kelly. Wildstein resigned in early December, stating that the scandal was too distracting. Two other officials have stepped down from the positions, as well.
His administration responded to Wildstein’s letter in a memo. Aside from pointing out personal flaws in Wildstein’s character dating back to high school, the memo indicates that Wildstein has an ulterior motive for accusing the governor of being involved in the lane closures.
The memo alluded to his need for help with legal fees and his request for immunity being the real reasons for submitting the letter on Friday. He said that Wildstein would do anything to save himself. The administration also stand by the statement that Christie was unaware of the lane closures or the email surrounding them. His prior knowledge does not prove that he is innocent of the bridge scandal, though.
Wildstein’s accusations came at a critical time for Christie, as the news about the scandal was finally subsiding and he was preparing for the Super Bowl. The ongoing scandal is also affecting Christie’s outlook as a presidential candidate. According to a poll from the Fairleigh Dickinson University, his approval rating with residents of New Jersey has dropped from 62 percent approval rating in October to 48 percent as of Jan. 28.
Christie’s office has responded, stating that he did not know about the lane closures on the bridge before they happened. But whether he knew about them during the four days in which the incident took place has not yet been determined. The memo does not prove that he is innocent or guilt of the bridge scandal.
By Tracy Rose
Bloomberg Business Week