It’s difficult to come across good news these days when you are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but it’s a headline when anything positive related to the politically motivated closing of the George Washington Bridge surfaces. At least, Christie can now celebrate that his underlings’ shenanigans did not kill anybody.
This AP report is the closest to good news the Christie administration has gotten in months: “A traffic jam deliberately orchestrated by members of Gov. Chris Christie’s staff that caused days of gridlock in northern New Jersey appeared not to lead to anyone’s death.” The AP concluded that no one was severely injured or was unable to receive the medical help they needed during the four-hour delays on the George Washington Bridge that poured over into Fort Lee and adjacent towns.
The AP discovered this by listening to hours of 911 emergency phone calls, reading call logs, and interviewing medical personnel. These calls were both from Fort Lee and neighboring towns, as the traffic spilled out of Fort Lee for hours and blocked roads elsewhere in northern New Jersey. The review officially puts to rest claims that some died due to the inability of first responders to reach emergency situations, particularly the case of one 91-year-old Fort Lee woman who died after complaining of chest pains and calling 911 during the lane closures. That woman’s family has since told the press that they do not attribute her death to a slow response from emergency personnel, but that it was simply her time.
The report notes that any lack of death or injury was purely the result of “good fortune.” Nothing happened that week that required such a rapid response in a gridlocked area for the bridge lane closings to have been the direct cause of death or injury. That is not to say that there were not delays in emergency responses; on some calls, dispatchers could be heard complaining of 30-minute delays to situations that needed immediate attention. Ultimately, however, tragedy did not strike.
The news that BridgeGate did not kill anyone is the closest to good news the Christie administration has received this month. After receiving little back from the first 20 subpoenas sent out, the New Jersey Legislature not only extended the deadlines on the old subpoenas but sent out 18 additional requests, including one to determine whether Christie had flown over Fort Lee during the traffic disaster. (He had not, the subpoena unveiled.) Meanwhile, New Jersey’s biggest newspaper rescinded their October endorsement of the Governor and called him a “creep” in the process. In Illinois, working to raise funds for the Republican Governors Association, Christie once again found himself isolated from prominent members of the state party. And then there is Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who has backtracked and now claims that he was, in fact, courted by Christie for his endorsement with special town perks and vague communication.
In the next few weeks, the New Jersey Legislature will begin to publish the documents they are receiving through their subpoenas. Should those directly implicated in the matter–former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, former campaign manager Bill Stepien, and former Port Authority official David Wildstein–not be allowed to plead their Fifth Amendment rights and are forced to hand over private correspondence, the weeks ahead look stormy for the once-prominent 2016 hopeful.