Emails, texts suggest top aide to Christie engineered traffic jam as political payback - InfoNews

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Emails, texts suggest top aide to Christie engineered traffic jam as political payback

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering in Union City, N.J., Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. A top aide to Christie is linked through emails and text messages to a seemingly deliberate plan to create traffic gridlock in a town at the base of the George Washington Bridge after its mayor refused to endorse Christie for re-election. Christie, who has denied any knowledge of the plan, released a statement late Wednesday. “What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.” (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
January 08, 2014 - 10:08 PM

TRENTON, N.J. - A political furor surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a rising star in the Republican party and top contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, intensified with the release of emails and text messages that suggest one of his top aides deliberately created traffic jams last September to punish a mayor.

The scandal could be especially damaging to Christie who has sought to cast himself as a pragmatic leader willing to work with his political opponents. It also tarnishes his reputation as a straight talker since he earlier denied that either he or his staff had been involved.

An "outraged and deeply saddened" Christie said he was misled by his aide, and he denied any involvement in the apparent act of political payback.

The messages were obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations Wednesday amid a statehouse investigation into whether the huge traffic backup was retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for re-election last fall.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote in August in a message to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"Got it," Wildstein replied. A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the heavily travelled George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City.

The messages do not directly implicate Christie in the shutdown.

Democrats seized on the material as more evidence that the potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 is a bully.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Christie said: "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge."

"People will be held responsible for their actions," he added, but gave no details.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich called it "appalling" that the traffic jams appear to have been engineered.

"When it's man-made and when it was done with venom and when it was done intentionally, it is, in my mind, the prime example of political pettiness," he said. He said the gridlock put people in danger by holding up emergency vehicles, and he added that those responsible should resign.

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Associated Press writers Katie Zezima in Newark, New Jersey, and Steve Peoples in Washington contributed.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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