Chris Christie might be in trouble. According to David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official at the center of the Bridgegate scandal, Christie knew about the lane closures in Fort Lee last year when they were in effect, and Wildstein says there’s proof. In a letter obtained Friday by the New York Times, Wildstein claims to have evidence that Christie was lying when, at a press conference in January, the New Jersey governor said he had no knowledge of the lane closures jammed up Fort Lee until months after the fact. If what Wildstein says is true — and, crucially, if the evidence to which he refers is made public — Christie’s presidential prospects are more or less over.
Wildstein, a former high school buddy of the governor and appointee to the New Jersey Port Authority, ordered the lane closures in September after Bridget Anne Kelly, then Christie’s deputy chief of staff, sent him an email with the now-infamous directive that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” He resigned once the scandal became public, and is currently trying to convince the Port Authority to pay his legal fees.
“A person within the Christie administration communicated the Christie administration’s order that certain lanes on the George Washington bridge were to be closed, and evidence exists as well 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 the two-hour press conference he gave,” Wildstein’s lawyer wrote in a letter to the Port Authority. “Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.”
Of course, there are still tons of unknowns: Did Christie know the purpose behind the lane closures, or just that they had been closed? Did he know they were going to be closed before hand, or only after it happened? And what’s the nature of the evidence to which Wildstein alludes? In addition, the precise phrasing is vague as to what evidence Wildstein actually has, and what evidence, if any, exists but isn’t in Wildstein’s possession.
Still, even if Christie doesn’t end up being directly implicated in the lane closures, the scandal itself has already led to other damaging revelations about the way he’s gone about his governorship: There’s now a federal investigation underway into allegations he withheld Hurricane Sandy relief funds from the city of Hoboken after the city’s mayor, Dawn Zimmer, refused to support a redevelopment project favored by Christie.
Shortly after the revelations broke, the New Jersey's top newspaper published an editorial demanding that Christie resign or be impeached if the new allegations are proven to true.
UPDATE: Christie's office has responded with the following statement:
Mr. 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. As the Governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned the lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th. The Governor denies Mr. Wildstein's lawyer's other assertions.