He says he’s got evidence, but at this point, I don’t know if it matters. The accusation alone coming from this guy is a five-alarm fire.
Can’t wait for the Christie close-up at the Super Bowl this weekend.
The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.
In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.
“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.
Wildstein’s got two possible reasons to lie. One, obviously, is revenge on Christie. Wildstein resigned in early December, no doubt under pressure from the governor’s office. Maybe he has an axe to grind now, if only because he assumed Christie would go to bat for an old friend like him. The other reason is immunity: He’s spent the last two weeks whispering to people that he’s willing to talk if he’s spared the threat of prosecution. The U.S. Attorney hasn’t taken the bait yet. This is an obvious pot-sweetener.
Will what he says make any difference to Christie’s political future, though? Even if he says something gassy like, “I have no hard evidence but, knowing how the governor’s office operated and knowing the governor personally for many years, I’m sure he knew,” that’ll be enough for Christie’s enemies. There are so many people, left and right, who want him out of the 2016 field that the accusation alone from someone at the heart of the scandal is seriously damaging. If Bridget Kelly comes out and agrees with Wildstein, I don’t know what happens to the rest of Christie’s term.
Here’s the letter from Wildstein’s lawyer. Stand by for updates.
Update: Charles Cooke makes a good point about the key passage from the letter:
Wildstein’s not accusing him of knowing that the lanes were closed to punish a political enemy, merely that he knew that the lanes had been closed — maybe for a “traffic study.” There’s an unspecific accusation that Christie lied in his presser, but lied about what? That he knew this was retaliation or some more minor detail, like the specific date when he found out about the closings?
Update: Actually, per Politico, he did claim during his presser a few weeks ago that he didn’t know about the lane closings until they were over:
“I don’t know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over,” Christie said at the news conference. “And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study. And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday that was brought to my attention or anybody else’s attention.”
If Wildstein can prove what he claims then he can prove that Christie did indeed tell a lie during the presser. Not the key lie — that would be showing that Christie knew why the lanes were closed — but Christie’s enemies will run with it.
Update: Lo and behold:
NYTimes changes online lead, w/o correction. Strikes line that said Wildstein has evidence to prove Christie knew http://t.co/BkOtIQMVDi
— michaelscherer (@michaelscherer) January 31, 2014
He’s right. If you read the key passage from Wildstein’s lawyer closely, you’ll see that he doesn’t claim they have the evidence to prove Christie knew about the lane closings. He says it exists. Then, later, he says they can prove that Christie said something “inaccurate” at his presser. Hmmmm.
Update: The Newark Star-Ledger says that if Wildstein’s claim pans out, Christie must go.
Update: Christie responds:
“Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer confirms what the Governor has said all along – he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein’s motivations were for closing them to begin with. As the Governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th. The Governor denies Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer’s other assertions.”
— Joshua Green (@JoshuaGreen) January 31, 2014