An attorney for a principal figure in the "Bridgegate" scandal that has plagued Gov. Chris Christie's administration reversed course Friday, indicating the governor knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures in Fort Lee all along, according to a Star-Ledger report.
In a statement following the report's release, the Christie administration again denied the governor had any knowledge of the "Bridgegate" scandal, and the political motivation behind it, until he read about it in news reports.
"As the governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press, and as he said in his Jan. 9 press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of Jan. 8. The governor denies Mr. Wildstein's lawyer's other assertions,” according to the statement from the governor's office.
The attorney representing David Wildstein, the former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official who ordered the lane closures last year, said evidence exists tying Gov. Christie Christie to knowing about the closures that administration officials used as political retaliation against the Fort Lee mayor, according to The Star-Ledger.
The charge, which was made in a letter sent by attorney Alan Zegas to the Port Authority, said Wildstein "contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some," according to the report.
In its statement, the Christie administration did say Wildstein's lawyer "confirms what the governor has said all along - he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein's motivations were for closing them to begin with."
Wildstein appeared before an Assembly committee earlier this month and refused to answer questions related to the "Bridgegate" scandal. The panel, led by John Wisniewski, D-Parlin, held Wildstein in contempt, saying he waived his Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent.
In a statement, Wisniewski said his committee members "have read the letter from Mr. Wildstein’s attorney and will consider it as our investigation moves forward.”
State officials last month released thousands of pages of documents subpoenaed from the Port Authority in the wake of a continuing investigation into whether staffers and appointees of Gov. Chris Christie orchestrated a September traffic nightmare in Fort Lee.
Also last month, Christie, a potential presidential candidate, took questions for more than an hour in a press conference that stood in bold relief when played alongside a clip of Christie sarcastically answering a question about the “traffic study” from the same wooden podium several months ago.
After the press conference, the governor travelled to Fort Lee, where he apologized to its mayor, Mark Sokolich, and its citizens. Sokolich accepted Christie's apology, and also said he believed the governor had no role in the closures.
Emails first obtained by The Record show Christie staffer Bridget Anne Kelly told a Port Authority official close to Christie that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” about two weeks before the lanes were closed.
“Got it,” replied the Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, who resigned last month as national media and incensed local politicians turned up the heat on the scandal.
Wildstein appeared before a Legislative hearing Thursday afternoon and continually invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the committee found him in contempt.