Chris Christie's bridge scandal may have just gotten a lot bigger: One of the key figures in the mess now insists that the New Jersey governor knew about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as they were happening, reports the New York Times. In a newly released letter, the attorney for former Port Authority official David Wildstein says "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." (At a press conference earlier this month, Christie said, "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,” recounts the Star-Ledger.)
In a statement late this afternoon, Christie's office downplayed the letter's significance:
- “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 letter, meanwhile, states that Wildstein "contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some." The development is significant because it's the first time a Christie insider "has implicated the governor directly to the scandal," observes the Bergen Record
. The lawyer wrote the letter to the Port Authority to protest its decision not to pay Wildstein's legal bills, but the Times
says it is "clearly meant as a threat to the governor." Wildstein, who oversaw the lane closings, refused last month
to answer lawmakers' questions about the scandal.