By Matt Rivers
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Governor Chris Christie is responding to shocking revelations in a New Jersey bridge scandal.
We saw for the first time today emails linking his administration to traffic jams that may have been engineered as political payback.
A month’s long saga took a dramatic turn Wednesday.
Documents obtained by the Bergen Record newspaper and others show top aides to Governor Chris Christie knew about, and even orchestrated, serious traffic problems on the George Washington Bridge back in September. Several lanes were closed on the world’s busiest bridge on the 9th. That made for extreme gridlock in Fort Lee, NJ, where the access lanes are located. The problems lasted for days, preventing school buses from getting around, and impeding first responders.
Originally, officials said the closures were part of a traffic study. But emails released Wednesday suggest something else. On August 13th, Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly emailed David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at Port Authority, the agency that runs the bridge.
The email reads, “time for some traffic problems at Fort Lee.” Wildstein responds with “Got it.”
Media reports began speculating the traffic problems were intentionally caused by the Christie administration because Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had failed to endorse him in the governor’s race.
Governor Christie has long denied the closures were a political attack and also denied his senior staff had any involvement. The Democratic National Committee put out this video.
Wednesday’s document release appears to prove otherwise. The governor cancelled a planned 11 a.m. public event in Manahawkin and Eyewitness News has the exclusive video of organizers telling a disappointed crowd without giving a reason why. New Jersey democrats seized on the situation, Wednesday.
“The documents that have been published are both shocking and outrageous,” Dem. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Deputy Speaker said.
“We will hear the whole story of who knew what, when,” Dem. State Senator Loretta Weinberg, Majority Leader said.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had this reaction.
“Who behaves that way? And these are people in incredibly powerful positions. And that’s just so disheartening to me,” he said.
Governor Christie today issued the following statement:
“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”
And this story could gather even more steam Thursday. David Wildstein, the port authority official mentioned, has been subpoenaed to testify in front of an assembly committee here in Trenton.
Now Wildstein’s lawyer put forward a motion that would quash that subpoena. That will be decided in court tomorrow morning, but if Wildstein’s lawyer is unsuccessful, we will hear from Wildstein on this issue under oath in front of a committee here in Trenton around noon.