Friday, April 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Christie fires aide, apologizes for traffic jams

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie fired one of his top aides Thursday and apologized over and over for his staff’s “stupid” behavior, insisting during a nearly two-hour news conference that he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams as part of a political vendetta against a Democratic mayor.

“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” he said as he addressed the widening scandal that could cast a shadow over his expected run for the White House in 2016.

The famously blunt Republican fielded dozens of questions from reporters with uncharacteristic patience and at times a sorrowful tone.

Christie, who had previously assured the public that his staff had nothing to do with the lane closings in September that caused major backups at the George Washington Bridge, said he fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly “because she lied to me” when he demanded weeks ago that anyone who knew anything about the episode come forward.

The gridlock in Fort Lee delayed emergency vehicles, school buses and countless commuters for four days.

Kelly was the latest casualty in the scandal. Two other top Christie appointees have resigned in the past few weeks.

The investigation broke wide open on Wednesday, with the release of emails and text messages that suggested Kelly arranged the traffic jams to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

In other developments:

— The chief federal prosecutor in New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, said he is “reviewing the matter to determine whether a federal law was implicated.” The Legislature is also investigating. Using public resources for political ends can be a crime.

— David Wildstein, a Christie appointee who resigned from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after being implicated in the scandal, was found in contempt Thursday by a legislative committee after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions. The Port Authority operates the bridge.

— Christie traveled to Fort Lee later in the day and apologized in person to Mayor Mark Sokolich.

The political-payback allegations turned a local traffic furor into a national issue and raised questions about Christie’s leadership and integrity as he lays the groundwork for a White House bid. Democrats at the national level have seized on the scandal as more evidence that Christie is a bully.

The governor brushed off questions about the effect on his presidential prospects, saying he was too busy governing the state to think about that.

“I am absolutely nowhere near beginning that consideration process,” he said. “I haven’t even been sworn in for my second term yet.”

Afterward, some political analysts on both sides of the aisle said Christie would probably pull through OK — provided there are no more surprises.

Democratic operative David Axelrod complimented Christie for handling the news conference “as well as he could,” writing on Twitter: “Unless smoking gun turns up tying him to scheme, or others arise, he lives 2 fight another day.”

Besides firing Kelly, Christie cut ties to former campaign manager Bill Stepien, asking him to withdraw a bid to become the next state GOP chairman. The governor said he was disturbed by the “callous indifference” displayed by Stepien in the emails released Wednesday.

Stepien had widely been seen as a potential campaign manager for Christie if he runs for president.

Christie said he is still looking into the traffic-jam episode and will take action against other senior staff members if it is warranted.

Over and over, Christie took responsibility for the affair by virtue of his role as governor, while simultaneously blaming his staff for doing something “stupid” and for not telling him the truth when he asked.

He said he saw the emails and text messages for the first time on Wednesday, and was “blindsided” by what he read and outraged by the callous language. He said he was left “heartbroken” and “betrayed” by his tight-knit circle of advisers.

“I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or execution,” Christie said of the lane closings. “And I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here.”

Kelly hasn’t commented. Christie said he hadn’t spoken to her or asked to hear her side of the story since the emails were released, saying he didn’t want to be accused of trying to influence a possible witness.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in August in a message to Wildstein.

“Got it,” Wildstein replied. A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City and is one of the busiest spans in the world, crossed by more than 100 million vehicles a year.

In the back-and-forth emails and text messages that followed, Christie loyalists gloated over the traffic jam sand called the Fort Lee mayor “an idiot” and “this little Serbian.”

For weeks, Christie had asserted that the closings were not punitive, but part of a traffic study, and that no one on his staff was involved. On Thursday, he acknowledged that was a lie, that his staff misled him. He said he still has no idea whether there even was a traffic study.

Christie said he believed his staff in part because he had never heard of Sokolich and had no idea the Christie camp was even seeking the Democrat’s endorsement.

Still, the governor said: “I am responsible for what happened. I am sad to report to the people of New Jersey that we fell short.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 10 comments

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 10, 2014 - 6:19 am

    Of course he did. C'mon be realistic, dude never had a chance to win the presidency even before this mess. Beautiful sun-shiny blue skies...road trip! Hope you all have a very nice day! :)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielJanuary 10, 2014 - 7:09 am

    We have catastrophe after catastrophe with Obama as President and all the DNC controlled lame-stream and MSNBC pinheads go hysterical over N.J. traffic, Cruz and Palin. As that delusional crowd grows so grows the demise of the U.S.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895January 10, 2014 - 8:30 am

    That's a real shame, isn't it, D? But that's the way politics works on. Now turn that around and think of what all the phony complaints about Obama are covering up on the other side.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Google...January 10, 2014 - 8:45 am

    Obama creation of CIA............Google....Bilderberg Obama Clinton Secret Meeting......Let me repeat....repeat....repeat...that both presidential candidates both Republican and Democrat and all the contestants for the Presidency are pre-approved by the Globalist Bankers...People it just don't matter anymore, both sides are evil.....The Globalists have a checklist of items they are trying to complete....The inside job that was 9/11 allowed them to do the Middle East consolidations that the Luciferian Globalist Bankers want completed....Clinton took care of Yugoslavia for them, Bushes did Afghanistan, Iraq, Obama took care of Egypt, Libya, now trying to do Syria....Socialized Healthcare was on the Globalist list ( it is not about actually getting good Healthcare for all of us, it is about controlling the population and the economy, if our economy was strong and righteous people were in charge then I would be all for some form of universal health care ).....we had the false flag Gun PSOPS staged to get us to shout for taking away our gun rights...Aurora, Sandyhooks were mini staged 9/11s...Diane Feinstein and Pelosi are so 'in on it", they are evil....for some reason Iran is really on their checklist....Obama will not save us he is another Globalist puppet....WAKE UP PEOPLE

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rhee MedboyJanuary 10, 2014 - 2:38 pm

    It is interesting, isn't it? Last night on the nightly news, there must have been at least 2 minutes of coverage about this--'What did he know and when?', 'When did he find out?', and the best of all--'It looks like his presidential aspirations are gone.' Yet, how much was coverage was given to the IRS, Bengazi, and all the other scandals going on. Reports are that the msm is only going to print good stories about obamacare, much like their Journolist when Obama was first running.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The MisterJanuary 10, 2014 - 6:57 am

    The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And he's a fallin'.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacJanuary 10, 2014 - 7:42 am

    Get rid of Obamacare! No healthcare for poor folks, not permitted in a rich country. Got it!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielJanuary 10, 2014 - 8:46 am

    Porno you're apparently to pig headed to understand Obamacare has nothing to do with healthcare for the poor.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensJanuary 10, 2014 - 11:38 am

    I hope the courts and the people barbeque Christie's morbidly obese derrière over this. Christie should go join Obama's Rat Political Party.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacJanuary 10, 2014 - 5:05 pm

    Got it! Get rid of Obamacare. No healthcare for rich folks.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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