TRENTON, N.J. (TIP): An outraged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Thursday, January 9, fired a top aide who apparently helped orchestrate massive traffic jams at a busy commuter bridge to settle a score, saying he had been blindsided in the scandal that threatened to tarnish his political image. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he was “misled” by an aide who told an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey it was “time for some traffic problems” before lane closings that paralyzed a town whose Democratic mayor didn’t endorse him.
As Christie apologized publicly for the abrupt lane closings seemingly ordered by some of his staff, and which he said he did not know about beforehand, the office of the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey said it was launching an investigation. Also on Thursday, January 9, a class-action lawsuit over the traffic jams was filed against Christie and other government officials by Fort Lee-area residents. Revelations that his staff may have had a hand in plotting the four-day lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in September, causing hourslong jams that stalled commuters, school buses and ambulances, come as Christie has emerged as a powerful figure in the Republican Party and a possible presidential contender.
The controversy erupted with the release on Wednesday, January 8, of emails showing Christie’s aide and allies appearing to plan lane closings in what critics said was a bid to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, at the New Jersey end of the bridge, because he had declined to endorse Christie’s re-election effort. “I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” Christie said. “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.” As the head of the party’s governors association and a possible 2016 White House contender, the tough-talking governor has sought to present himself as a leader who can work with opponents and forge bipartisan alliances. Christie said at his news conference that he dismissed his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who in the most damning of the emails, wrote to a Port Authority executive in August, saying: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The executive, David Wildstein, replied: “Got it.” Wildstein later admitted ordering the lane closures and resigned his post. He supplied the emails to the media in response to a subpoena issued by a panel of state lawmakers.