Another pivotal character in the ongoing Chris Christie quid pro quo scandal has changed his story. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, reportedly the target of the George Washington Bridge lane closures, now claims Christie’s team spent two years doing him favors in exchange for an endorsement.
“I have all the reason to be a snotty bastard,” Sokolich told the Bergen Record, but after reflecting upon his comments, he has decided to “set the record straight.” Sokolich claims that Fort Lee received a number of favors from the Port Authority–from extra buses to emergency radios–and that Sokolich and his Croatian cousins were given a personal tour of the 9/11 Memorial by David Wildstein, the man personally in charge of shutting down the George Washington Bridge. Sokolich had previously said of Wildstein that he “deserves an ass-kicking” after emails revealed that Wildstein was fond of calling Sokolich, a Croatian-American, “the little Serbian.”
Sokolich also alleges that he attended a Christmas party at Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion, and was personally invited, along with other mayors, to a lunch with Governor Christie. The lunch, allegedly also attended by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, was “about four years ago,” according to Sokolich’s account.
Sokolich claims that he was asked by Christie official Matt Mowers three times whether he was considering endorsing the Governor. He claims he was never outright asked, so he never outright answered because “I needed things out of the Governor.”
Sokolich’s interview with the Record reveals an entirely new disposition. He had previously denied ever being asked for his endorsement, and he did not note any special treatment from the Governor. He stated publicly that he took Christie “at his word” that he had no involvement in the closing of lanes to Fort Lee on the George Washington Bridge and thanked him for visiting the town and personally apologizing.
Christie’s team has responded to the new revelations by highlighting how different they are from Sokolich’s immediate response to the scandal. The mayor had never directly linked the bridge scandal to a call for endorsements, agreeing publicly with Christie that it seemed strange the governor’s team would want him, as a Democrat, to endorse Christie. In mid-January, Sokolich suddenly claimed that he had been courted for an endorsement, without linking that endorsement to the bridge scandal. “What the mayor is now claiming, it’s a direct and absolute contradiction of his public comments up to this point,” said Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman.
Christie is returning this weekend from a trip to Texas on behalf of the Republican Governors Association, in which both current Texas Governor Rick Perry and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott refrained from meeting with him.