New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’s facing a new string of accusations – including that he knew about his staffers’ alleged plan in September to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge as they were happening – answered questions from his state’s residents on Monday night.
The Republican appeared on the radio call-in show, “Ask the Governor,” on NJ 101.5 FM. It’s the first time Christie has answered questions on his troubles since his epic, two-hour long press conference on Jan. 9. At that Q&A, Christie insisted that he didn’t know about so-called “Bridgegate” until “after it was over.”
Last Friday, however, a lawyer for David Wildstein – the Christie-appointed, Port Authority official who ordered the lane closings, said “evidence exists 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.”
And since that initial presser, a number of officials have accused the Christie Administration of abusing its power, including Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. The Democrat told msnbc two weeks ago that two officials in the Christie administration had threated to withhold relief funds until she approved a redevelopment project favored by the governor.
State and federal agencies are probing the bridge scandal, and 20 subpoenas were served to key members of Christie’s administration and re-election. Documents related to the scandal were due to be handed over on Monday. Christina Genovese Renna, the director of departmental relations for Christie (who was subpoenaed) resigned on Friday, the same day Wildstein claimed to have evidence tying to governor to the scheme to allegedly create traffic to punish Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.
The governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has maintained a relatively low profile, especially during what should have been a celebratory Super Bowl weekend taking place in his state. He did sports radio interviews on the condition that the subject did not stray away from sports. Christie was reportedly booed by a crowd in Times Square for the Super Bowl handoff ceremony to Arizona, the host of next year’s game. He did attend the big game with his family at MetLife Stadium, but ignored questions from the media.
Meanwhile, Team Christie is dismissing Wildstein’s claims. His office attacked both Wildstein and The New York Times, which first published the former Port Authority executive’s letter.
“Bottom line - David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein,” said the email, which was obtained by NBC News.
“As he has said repeatedly, Governor Christie had no involvement, knowledge or understanding of the real motives behind David Wildstein’s scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge,” it added. The email also ripped The New York Times for “sloppy reporting” and for “their suggestion that there was actually ‘evidence’ when it was a letter alleging that ‘evidence exists.’”
New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who’s spearheading the Christie investigation, told NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday said Wildstein turned in about 900 pages in documents in response to his subpoena. However, it’s still unclear exactly what evidence he has.
“We don’t really know what the evidence is,” the Democrat said. “…Apparently what he’s talking about must be something other than what he submitted.” Wisniewski said Wildstein’s choice of words in the letter were “curious.”
“The use of the words ‘evidence exists,’ as opposed to saying, ‘I have documents,’ or, ‘I have an e-mail,’ it’s a curious choice of words,” said Wisinewski. “Maybe this is something else that is not within the scope of the subpoena the committee issued. So it raises questions about what does he have and why doesn’t the committee have it?”
Several Republicans came to Christie’s defense over the weekend, urging Americans not to jump to conclusions. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told ABC’s This Week that “all we know is one person’s word against another.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said on CNN’s State of the Union that Christie should keep his coveted position as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized the Democratic “pile on” against Christie. He added that if Christie’s lying “it’s a really bad situation. If he’s not lying, then something very unfair is being done to him. So let’s see what happens.”