New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Monday acknowledged that his office had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey in relation to the bridge scandal that has rocked his administration.
Christie said his office would comply with the federal subpoena.
The Republican governor’s acknowledgement comes after a former aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, who allegedly conspired to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a local mayor invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the state legislature’s investigation.
Christie nonetheless sought to maintain his footing by waving off new questions about the precise timing of when he learned about closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge last fall as “just a game of gotcha.”
Speaking for the first time since a former Port Authority officia said that “evidence exists” to contradict the governor’s blanket denials about his knowledge of the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, the New Jersey governor waved off the suggestion that he wasn’t being forthcoming.
“The most important issue is, did I know anything about the plan to close these lanes? Did I authorize it, did I know about it, did I approve it — did I have any knowledge about it beforehand?” he said during a regularly-scheduled appearance on an “Ask the Governor” segment on WKXW radio in New Jersey. “And the answer is still the same: it’s unequivocally no.”
Christie later continued: “Here’s the thing that I find so interesting, because what’s going on now with all this other stuff is just a game of gotcha. When did I first learn about this or that, well, the fact of the matter is, I’ve been very clear about this. Before these lanes were closed, I knew nothing about it, I didn’t plan it, I didn’t authorize it, I didn’t approve it. I knew nothing about it.”
The governor’s words represent an attempt to parry questions about the extent of his knowledge of the lane closings last fall after an attorney for David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official now at the center of the scandal, wrote to dispute Christie’s assertions during a press conference following revelations that one of his aides had conspired to orchestrate the lane closings.
Christie said it’s conceivable that someone might have mentioned gridlock in the city of Ft. Lee, or that he might have read about it. But he said he didn’t realize it was a serious issue worth of investigation until the concerns of the Port Authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye, were reported publicly in the press.
“Whether I read any of those — if I did, or heard anything from anybody about traffic — it would not have been meaningful to me,” he said.
Christie had kept a low pubic profile since Wildstein’s letter broke last Friday, mostly attending to affairs involving last weekend’s Super Bowl in New Jersey. The governor’s associates had lashed out at both Wildstein and the New York Times (which first broke news of the letter before slightly revising its stories) in leaked memos to various media outlets.
The scandal has taken a toll on Christie’s once-sterling reputation as a tell-it-like-it governor with bipartisan appeal. The governor’s poll numbers have steadily drop since the scandal first emerged; more alarmingly, Christie has lost ground versus Hillary Clinton in early polls testing the possible 2016 presidential matchup.
Christie’s office began producing documents “on a rolling basis” for the New Jersey state legislature on Monday to comply with various subpoenas related to the inquiry. Christie also confirmed his office has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, and he said his office would similarly comply.