New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office sent a long, sharply worded email to supporters on Saturday attempting to refute Bridgegate mastermind David Wildstein’s claim that Christie knew of the lane closings before they happened.
After the administration’s initially tepid public response, the email rails against Wildstein as a man capable of anything to save himself.
The email, obtained by Politico, was allegedly sent to “friends and allies.” It repeatedly quoted from Christie’s press conferences to emphasize that Christie has been consistent in public about when he heard that pivotal traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge into Fort Lee had been closed. Unlike the short press statement released yesterday merely denying Wildstein’s allegations, Christie’s office takes 700 words to take apart the New York Times‘s “sloppy reporting” and the “tumultuous” personality of David Wildstein.
Heavy on the quotes and links, the email concludes with a simple, clear, ad hominem attack: “David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein.” To prove its point, the email quotes six different sources questioning Wildstein’s integrity, including Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.
Closing the lanes on the bridge is believed to have been political retribution against Sokolich, potentially for not endorsing Christie in last year’s gubernatorial election. Wildstein had referred to Sokolich as “little Serbian” in private correspondence unearthed in the Bridgegate investigation, to which Sokolich replied on MSNBC that Wildstein “deserves an ass-kicking.”
Wildstein, who was personally on hand to close down the Fort Lee lanes on the George Washington Bridge last autumn in response to a request from Christie’s former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, made headlines this Friday as a letter from his attorney to the New Jersey legislative committee in charge of investigations hit The New York Times. The letter claimed that “evidence exists” that Christie might have known of closures before they happened, but did not suggest that Wildstein had it. It also described the closings as a “Christie administration order” and once again requested prosecutorial immunity for Wildstein, who was held in contempt last time he came before the New Jersey legislature on the matter for refusing to answer any questions.
The letter attacks The New York Times for initially claiming that Wildstein had evidence against Christie and “almost immediately” having to rephrase that claim into Wildstein’s attorney’s, which is merely that “evidence exists.” However, it is much more forceful in its attacks on Wildstein himself. If Wildstein’s attorney was willing to call Bridgegate a “Christie administration order,” the Christie team was not hesitant to describe the affair as “David Wildstein’s scheme,” a plot he was responsible for in which Christie had no hand.
The letter lists a number of controversies in Wildstein’s past, from a lawsuit he pursued at age 16 to his years writing about politics under the pseudonym “Wally Edge,” the job in which Wildstein gave MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki his first big break.
The clear intent is to paint Wildstein as untrustworthy, if not outright slimy. Few in Christie’s opposition would deny that, which creates an obvious problem: it affects the public trust of Christie’s judgment if he knew that Wildstein was so “tumultuous” and problematic and then hired him to be his “eyes and ears” into the Port Authority. The email even links to an article alleging that Wildstein created a “culture of fear” in the Port Authority as an employee benefitting Christie.
A Christie spokesman counters such a thought process in a statement to Politico, suggesting that, whoever Wildstein was before Bridgegate, “punitively shut[ting] down lanes on a bridge for political purposes overshadows anything he had done previously.” Neither Wildstein nor his attorney have spoken publicly following the release of the latter’s letter claiming the existence of evidence that Christie knew of the closings.