In a day full of inconsistencies and wrinkles in the developing story of how cars on the country’s most trafficked bridge came to a halt to please NJ Governor Chris Christie’s senior officials, the Wall Street Journal adds another: Christie has said numerous times when he first heard of the lane closings, and the stories don’t align.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Ted Mann, who was the first reporter for a nationally distributed newspaper to cover the story, collected the various instances of reporters asking Christie when he first heard that the traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge that lead to and from Fort Lee, New Jersey had been closed. Not only are Christie’s stories inconsistent, but the change in his stories comes after the revelations Mann published that senior aides David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly not only knew of the closings but orchestrated them for political retribution.
“The first I ever heard of the issue was when it was reported in the press, which I think was in the aftermath of the leaking of Mr. Foye’s email,” Mann notes Christie told the media at a press conference in December. Patrick Foye, the Executive Director of the Port Authority, wrote a private but scathing letter ordering the bridge lanes to be reopened after a week of four-hour traffic jams.
Foye is widely accused of being the leak in the massive thousand-page document dump of emails the New Jersey Legislature released last Friday, and many in the media are depicting him as the one righteous figure in the story for reopening the lanes and being disparaged generally by everyone considered to be a villain in the story, particularly Christie aides David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly and spokesperson Michael Drewniak. Foye’s letter, in which he says he is “appalled” at the study, was leaked last October.
During Christie’s press conference on Thursday, he recalled a different time in which he first heard of the story. In fact, he explicitly said it “wasn’t while Pat Foye’s emails [leaked],” but from “an earlier story than that.” Christie later said he simply didn’t remember.
The major difference between the December press conference and last week’s is the clear evidence that David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly, both senior Christie staffers, knew and maliciously carried out the bridge lane closing for some political retribution. The emails do not make clear exactly against whom the retribution was carried out or why, but the traffic study, referred to in scare quotes in the email, is clearly discussed as a ruse. If people in Christie’s Trenton office knew and carried out the plan so close to him, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that Christie only knew of the scandal when Foye’s email leaked to the press.
Christie isn’t the only one with a cloudy memory today. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich – the alleged target of the bridge closings – curiously remembered today that he actually was asked for his endorsement by a Christie official and declined to answer yes of no. Sokolich had previously said he did not remember being asked for his endorsement.