New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a town hall meeting in Union City, New Jersey, February 9, 2011. This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Photographed by Luigi Novi. Licensed under Creative Commons proper attribution. Retrieved 9:54 AM Eastern, January 17, 2014.
(Long Island, NY) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is currently embroiled in a powder keg of a scandal involving some of his top aides which threatens to put a damper on his any plans to run for President of the United States in 2016.
Internal emails that were recently released to the public as a part of a Democratic State Legislator investigation strongly implicate that one of Christie’s top aides orchestrated terrible traffic problems Fort Lee, New Jersey in mid-September of 2013. The act was said to amount to political payback against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat that endorsed Barbara Buono, Christie’s opponent when the Governor was running for re-election in 2013.
In the middle of September 2013, the Port Authority of both New York and New Jersey closed two access lanes on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge without any prior warning or notice, according to Fort Lee lawmakers. The closure of the roadway resulted in a horrendous traffic jam that all but brought the streets of Fort Lee, situated nearby, to a complete standstill. The incident shockingly lasted for an entire week and affected school transportation, medical and police personnel, and commuters bound for and from Manhattan.
The Port Authority later stated that a “traffic study” was the reason for the closure.
However, word spread shortly after the traffic jam that the act was, in reality, payback of sorts at Mayor Sokolich; eventually, New Jersey Democrats launched an investigation and uncovered a trail that lead to two members of the Port Authority- deputy executive director Bill Baroni, and director of interstate capital projects David Wildstein. Both men, who have close ties to Christie and his administration, have since resigned and have retained legal counsel.
Both Christie, a Republican, and members of his administration have denied repeatedly that they were in any way involved with the incident, calling suggestions to the contrary “crazy.” However, in light of the recently-released emails mentioned above, many of Christie’s claims of innocence are being tainted with a veneer of doubt, which could have severe repercussions for his proposed 2016 Presidential campaign.
Christie is not directly implicated in the traffic jam incident; none of the emails delivered by New Jersey Democrats are copied to him in any way; however, the emails do raise light on the fact that several members of Christie’s inner administrative circle may have had involvement in the incident, including Port Authority chairman David Samson and Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak. Christie had repeatedly maintained that none of his associates were involved with the closure of the traffic lanes, but these emails appear to dispute that; whether it’s a matter of Christie being involved or unaware of the actions of his associates is still a matter that is under investigation.
The revealed content of the emails not only included plans to cause the Fort Lee traffic jam, but also the degree of maliciousness behind the intent to do so; several of Christie’s associates were said to have been joking and making fun of the traffic-related chaos caused and how it was affecting both the Mayor and the citizens of Fort Lee.
Since then, the New Jersey’s US attorney announced that they will open an inquiry into the scandal, and in a press conference held on January 9, Christie announced that he had fired Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff, for her part in the incident. Kelly was among those included in the recovered emails, and had stated in one of them that is was, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” Christie said at the press conference.
Fort Lee paramedics reported of several emergency incidents requiring their response that were delayed due to the traffic jams, including an unconscious 91 year-old woman and a car accident that resulted in four injured people.
Several Christie aides have already testified in front of a panel assembled by New Jersey’s US attorney, including David Wildstein, who was held in contempt for refusing to answer questions regarding his involvement in the incident, which is a misdemeanor offense. The inquiry and investigation is currently ongoing.