In his lengthy press conference on January 9, in which he denied knowing anything about his aides ordering the closure of several key lanes of the George Washington Bridge as an act of political revenge, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reserved special contempt for his former schoolmate David Wildstein.
Hired as an executive at the Port Authority after Mr. Christie’s first election in 2009, Wildstein was the person who gave the order to shut access lanes dedicated to the town of Fort Lee, which turned the town into a virtual parking lot for four days, impeding emergency vehicles, school buses and other traffic. Christie castigated Wildstein and others for their “abject stupidity” and pushed back against reports that he and Wildstein had been friends in high school.
“David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school,” Christie said. “I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time.”
In fact, Christie was a baseball player, and according to his former coach, Wildstein was the baseball team’s statistician. So either Christie was being dishonest about his familiarity with Wildstein, or the poor guy really was beneath the future governor’s notice.
In any case, however unmemorable Christie may have found Wildstein in high school, he’ll certainly never forget his name now. This afternoon, The New York Times reported that Wildstein, who resigned his position with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as questions were being raised about the bridge closing, claims to have evidence showing that Christie had knowledge of the bridge closings
This raises the question of whether the governor lied to the public when he categorically claimed to have had “no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or it execution.”
In a letter to the general counsel of the Port Authority, Wildstein’s attorney, Alan L. Zegas, wrote, “It has come to light that a person within the Christie administration communicated the Christie administration’s order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge be closed, and evidence exists as well 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….”
The letter from Zegas does not explain what the evidence is, so the allegation that Christie knew all along about the lane closures, and the implication that he lied to the public, could be wrong.
Earlier this month, Wildstein pleaded the Fifth Amendment before the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee on his role in the scandal. The New Jersey lawmakers subsequently voted to hold Wildstein in contempt for refusing to answer questions.
Christie, once seen as the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has seen his stock fall precipitously with the public in the past month, but many analysts believed that if he could weather the bridge closing scandal, he might still stand a chance at the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
But if the claim in Zegas’ letter is true, it looks as though the former baseball star-turned governor and presidential hopeful has just had his career ended by his own former statistician. What are the odds?
Update: In a statement released late Friday, the Christie administration said the Zegas letter supported the governor's earlier claims that he did not know of the closings before they happened.
“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.”
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