New Jersey Governor Chris Christie admits may have heard about bridge traffic jams
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he "unequivocally" had no knowledge of a plan by some of his top aides to create traffic problems near the busy George Washington Bridge but conceded he may have heard about traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee while they were going on last September.
Speaking on a radio broadcast, Mr Christie said he may have heard about traffic jams in Fort Lee while they were going on last September, but it did not register with him as a major issue if he did.
He said a news report several says after the lanes were reopened got his attention and he asked staffers to look into it.
The Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate fielded questions during an hour-long radio call-in program for the first time in three weeks about a scandal that has engulfed his administration and threatened to upend any political ambitions.
Christie, 51, reiterated during the radio show that he did not know about the planning or execution of the lane closings near the bridge in Fort Lee. He disputed the account of a former loyalist, who said Friday there was evidence the governor knew about the closings while they were happening over four days in September, which is earlier than Christie has acknowledged.
Christie also acknowledged during the program that his office has been subpoenaed by federal law enforcement officials conducting a criminal investigation into the bridge scandal. Christie said his office would fully comply with the document request.
Christie said an email from Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge, made him realise the traffic gridlock may not have been routine. That email was forwarded to a top Christie aide on September 13, the day Foye ordered the lanes reopened.
"I know prior to (the Foye email) there were press accounts about traffic issues up there, and if I read that or someone said something ... it wouldn't have been meaningful to me because I didn't know there was any problem up there because I didn't know we had actually closed lanes up there before that," Christie said on TownSquare Media's "Ask the Governor" show.
"Nobody has said I knew about this before it happened, and I think that's the most important question," he said.
Monday was the first time Christie took questions since David Wildstein, Christie's No. 2 man at the Port Authority before he resigned amid the scandal, contradicted the governor's accounting of the lane closings. Christie referred to the dispute over what he knew when as "a game of gotcha."
Meanwhile, a former Christie aide who set the lane closings in motion with an email to Wildstein has invoked her right not to incriminate herself and is refusing to cooperate with a subpoena from a legislative committee looking into the scandal and trying to unravel how high up Christie's chain of command the lane closing order went and whether the operation was meant to punish a Democratic adversary.
The lawyer for former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly sent a letter Monday to the committee's lawyer saying she would not comply because the information demanded "directly overlaps with a parallel federal grand jury investigation."
Christie fired Kelly last month after learning of her email saying, "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" less than a month before the lane closures.
The report indicated that the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did not authorise the lane closings.
Mr Christie said that before then anything he heard seemed like another story about a traffic jam.
It was the first time he has spoken publicly about the scandal since a former ally suggested last week that Mr Christie knew about the closures while they were going on.