New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) still hasn’t offered an alternate – read: more believable – explanation for his administration’s controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The most plausible explanation – that the governor’s administration was punishing a mayor who refused to endorse Christie – is the most politically damaging one, but also the most credible pending further revelations.
For his part, the New Jersey governor remains committed to the notion that Fort Lee was crippled deliberately because of a “traffic study” that doesn’t appear to exist. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was asked yesterday whether he believes Christie’s implausible version of events.
Asked on Monday if he believed Mr. Christie’s explanation that the cause was a study, not politics, Mr. Cuomo first paused for a full six seconds.“It’s a season of loaded questions,” he eventually responded. “The governor and I have a good relationship–a professional relationship and a personal relationship. The issue of the traffic study was primarily a New Jersey incident, so our basic operating agreement is, when it has to do with New Jersey, Gov. Christie handles it. When it has to do with New York, I handle it. If it’s a management issue, dealing with the Port itself, we do it jointly. But I’m sure it is as Gov. Christie says it is.”
Of course, if Cuomo was actually sure, he probably wouldn’t have paused for a full six seconds. (Remember, in a press conference, six seconds of dead silence is quite awkward.) For that matter, Cuomo’s own executive director of the Port Authority has already rejected Christie’s explanation and said during sworn testimony that there was no traffic study.
Looking ahead, this story clearly isn’t going away. As Rachel highlighted on the show last night, a New Jersey state senator is asking Congress to investigate Port Authority misdeeds. Even if federal lawmakers decline, the state legislative investigation will continue – just yesterday, Assemblyman John Wisnieswki (D) subpoenaed all correspondence on the matter between Christie and Port Authority officials. Officials have until Thursday to respond.
In the meantime, the story continues to draw fresh attention from major news outlets. The New York Times reports this morning, for example, “A host of circumstantial evidence, not to mention a mother lode of common sense, suggests that aides close to [Christie] shut several traffic ramps to the George Washington Bridge after the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee failed to see the wisdom in endorsing the Republican governor.”
Elsewhere, the Washington Post today published the first national op-ed on the controversy, while the New York Daily News editorialized, “The most credible explanation is that [longtime Christie pal David Wildstein] ordered the lane closures as payback to the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Republican Christie’s reelection. The result was four mornings of the worst traffic jams of all time.” Politico also published its first piece on the scandal overnight.
For her part, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) added in a press statement, “The resignations of the two highest-ranking New Jersey officials at the Port Authority is clearly an admission of guilt, but it doesn’t put an end to this story. We still don’t have a full accounting of what happened, why it was allowed to occur, everyone who was involved and what their motivations were…. We are still looking for answers on the lane closures and for assurances that changes will be made to the operating standards and the professional culture of the Port Authority before we can be confident that this won’t happen again.”
Update: In a new Washington Post report, Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, called for a “comprehensive investigation” into the lane closure. He said the incident “exacerbates my concerns with the governance and previous oversight of the Port Authority.”
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