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Gov. Christie fires aide, says he's ultimately responsible

By Angela Delli Santi & Geoff Mulvihill

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:12 a.m. HST, Jan 09, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. » Gov. Chris Christie today apologized to his constituents and said he was "embarrassed and humiliated" by his staff but had no idea his aides may have closed highway lanes to exact political retribution.

Christie also said he was firing Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, "because she lied to me."

Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election.

The revelations thrust a regional transportation issue into a national conversation raising new questions about the ambitious governor's leadership on the eve of a second term designed to jumpstart his road to the White House.

The U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Paul Fishman, said he was "reviewing the matter to determine whether a federal law was implicated."

The messages do not directly implicate Christie, but they contradicted his assertions that the closings were not punitive and that his staff was not involved.

Christie acknowledged today that was a lie, because his staff didn't tell him what they had done.

He also said he had "no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or execution" and was stunned by the "abject stupidity that was shown." Nevertheless, he said, he was responsible for what happened.

Email and text messages were obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press and other news organizations amid a statehouse investigation into whether the lane closings that led to the tie-ups were retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for re-election last fall.

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

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

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

Christie said he would go to Fort Lee today to apologize to Sokolich.

Kelly hasn't commented, and Christie said he hadn't spoken to her since the emails were released.

Beyond the specifics of the lane closures, critics suggest the incident reflects a darker side of Christie's brand of politics that contradicts the image he'd like to project as he eyes the presidency.

The governor repeatedly sidestepped criticism that he bullied adversaries in an overwhelming re-election victory in November. Facing a little-known and underfunded opponent, he cast himself as a different kind of Republican: a compromising, consensus builder who ultimately earned strong support from minorities, union members and even many Democrats.

It was described as the opening argument for Christie's prospective White House run. That argument is now clouded, at least temporarily, during one of the most important transitions of his political career.

In less than two weeks, he is scheduled to celebrate his second inauguration in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty on historic Ellis Island, a symbolic beginning to a second term designed to expand Christie's bipartisan appeal. He also is expected to unveil his second-term priorities — solidifying his presidential resume — in a state-of-the-state address later this month, while beginning an aggressive national travel schedule as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Wildstein, a childhood friend of the governor, is scheduled to testify later today before a state Assembly committee. He asked a judge today to squash the subpoena, but the judge refused to do so.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said the "revelations are troubling for any public official." But she said: "They also indicate what we've come to expect from Gov. Christie — when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his administration, he bullies and attacks."

Christie today said he also asked his choice for state GOP chairman, his former campaign manager Bill Stepien, to withdraw for consideration for the post because of the "callous indifference" he displayed in emails on the traffic jams.

Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.

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AlexandriaB wrote:
He engineered and planned the whole thing. C'mon, this is Jersey we're talking about!
on January 9,2014 | 05:47AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Birds of a feather flock together. A Deputy Chief of Staff should be someone vetted very carefully for ability and character. She could have caused someone to die because first responders were caught in this two day traffic jam.
on January 9,2014 | 05:54AM
ehrhornp wrote:
Someone did die. There was a 91 yr. old woman who is dead today. Emergency people were slowed down getting to her. While she may have died regardless, the fact that an elected politician would do this, is just idiocy. Good bye Christie. You may end up in jail, certainly not the white house.
on January 9,2014 | 05:59AM
ryan02 wrote:
If I was a family member of this poor woman, I would sue. And I generally dislike lawsuits.
on January 9,2014 | 06:56AM
hanalei395 wrote:
You're right, the 91-yr-old woman may have died regardless. But this WILL come up in court. Court proceedings because of that totally unnecessary, stupid bridge closure. And the defendants, including Christie, WILL tell the trruth, ....or else.
on January 9,2014 | 07:13AM
hanalei395 wrote:
The FBI is now involved, to see if a Federal crime was committed.
on January 9,2014 | 08:07AM
hanalei395 wrote:
In court, the Deputy Chief of Staff will be asked if she is taking the "fall" for Christie.
on January 9,2014 | 09:05AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
Funny how the media foams at that mouth when a staffer causes a traffic jam as political reprisal, but can't seem to grasp what it means when the Obama administration sends the IRS after it's political enemies. Allow terrorists to murder an American Ambassador and you get a pass, close a traffic lane and it "threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016." Pravda wasn't this ham-handed and overt in the old Soviet Union.
on January 9,2014 | 06:30AM
hanalei395 wrote:
"close a traffic lane" .......It wasn't A traffic lane, it was the whole bridge. It's "Bridgegate". A modern "Watergate", not with tapes, but now with e-mails.
on January 9,2014 | 06:45AM
lee1957 wrote:
So closing the whole bridge is morally worse than what Keith laid out in his comment?
on January 9,2014 | 10:41AM
eoe wrote:
Except interestingly, liberal groups were caught up in the same "political targeting." And oh yeah, despite months of trying to make something out of Benghazi, it is clear there is nothing there. Remember? The big hero of the day who said they were champing at the bit to go in and "someone high up denied the request" turned out to be a complete liar? Oh, probably fox reported the first part, but not the second, so you missed that.
on January 9,2014 | 06:58AM
ryan02 wrote:
It is illegal for tax-exempt organizations to engage in political activities. It is the JOB of the IRS to investigate organizations that appear to be violating the law. Many people support the political position of the tea baggers, but that doesn't give them the right to claim tax exemption if they're not entitled to it. This was within the scope of the IRS's job. Totally different issue. But when Christie's actions are undefensible, it's worth a shot at misdirecting people's attention toward Obama, right?
on January 9,2014 | 07:00AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
I doubt it came from President Obama, but the IRS did target certain groups on the basis of their conservative political beliefs. I wish you would show the same disdain for bad deeds when it was your team. Otherwise, it just comes across as fake outrage.

Thank to the 24 hour news channels and their faithful viewers, we already have plenty of fake and manufactured outrage.

on January 9,2014 | 09:20AM
lee1957 wrote:
You seem to be completely oblivious to what the IRS was doing.
on January 9,2014 | 10:42AM
PCWarrior wrote:
Allow terrorists to murder an American Ambassador? Aren't you the Compare and Decide guy? Brilliant!
on January 9,2014 | 09:07AM
nalogirl wrote:
I agree with you Keith, it is obvious by the comments that this state is democrat. If this had been a democrat governor this is what he would say; " I had no idea, but my people are good so no one will be fired, it wasn't my fault, not my responsibility, sorry about that." END of STORY. Christie for President, don't let this biased media discourage you from running.
on January 9,2014 | 09:09AM
lee1957 wrote:
The previous governor of NJ, a Democrat, in his post gov job, lost over a billion dollars in investor funds, claimed he had no idea where it went, and was not prosecuted.
on January 9,2014 | 10:44AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Darn it Keith, I hate having to agree with you!
on January 9,2014 | 09:15AM
Ronin006 wrote:
President Obama should be following Christie’s lead and fire the people responsible for the numerous scandals in his administration.
on January 9,2014 | 06:46AM
eoe wrote:
Which ones? The manufactured scandals? I'm sure you were baying for Wolfowitz' and Cheney's heads during the last administration. Not.
on January 9,2014 | 06:59AM
hanalei395 wrote:
After showing part of Christie's press conference, Fox "News" went right back to "Benghazi" and a new one, the Robert Gates' book.
on January 9,2014 | 07:46AM
lee1957 wrote:
You shouldn't watch so much Fox News, your mind might warp.
on January 9,2014 | 10:45AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Now that you know how your mind is warped, you being a chronic Fox "News" watcher, thanks for the warning. But to know what the enemy is saying, one has to watch them now and then.
on January 9,2014 | 12:21PM
ryan02 wrote:
"Nevertheless, he said, he was responsible for what happened." . . . . . . so, when is he going to step down, then?
on January 9,2014 | 06:55AM
control wrote:
I'm not surprised by the Port Authority action. I was on a cruise that ended in New Jersey. The absolute worst part of the trip was dealing with Port Authority employees once we got on shore. I was completely ignored by their porters despite trying to get someone's attention and waving money in their faces. Next I was hassled by their rent-a-cops. Outside the terminal, those who didn't have porter service were ignored and left to stand in long lines while waiting for various transportation. A group of us revolted and said we would start a riot if we were not put in the next shuttle bus. It worked.
on January 9,2014 | 07:12AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
So. It's just like Honolulu airport then?
on January 9,2014 | 09:21AM
localguy wrote:
Christie, a typical beltway bureaucrat, would have us believe his hand picked staff went behind his back on this. Without his knowledge of permission caused the massive traffic jam. And during the traffic jam, Christie didn't have a clue who to ask why this was happening? Really? A governor who hasn't got a clue what is going on? Christie fails to understand he is ultimately responsible for every action his staff does and fails to do. He needs to admit he failed in his job to select quality staff members. He failed to give them clear guidance how to do their job. Admit he failed to check up on what they were doing. Admit when he saw trouble he did nothing to try and stop it. That said, Christie needs to admit his utter failure as a governor, failing his citizens, and quietly resign and just go away. Presidential bid? No way.
on January 9,2014 | 07:34AM
nalogirl wrote:
I think Christie is a great governor. what about all the times Obama had no clue as to what was and still is going on in his abministation. Typical democrat, you only see what you want to see. Christie handled this well, if you had listened to his explanation, there is no reason for him to step down.
on January 9,2014 | 09:16AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
And you live there so you would know?
on January 9,2014 | 11:30AM
808behappy wrote:
Probably watches fox news and believes eveything that biased news station says.
on January 9,2014 | 11:56AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
localguy wrote: "Christie, a typical beltway bureaucrat..."

You are getting your talking points mixed up.

Senator Inouye was a typical beltway bureaucrat. The "beltway" actually goes around Washington DC. Governor Christie is governor of New Jersey. He neither lives nor works anywhere near the beltway.

on January 9,2014 | 09:24AM
lee1957 wrote:
And the beltway may not be long enough to encircle Christie.
on January 9,2014 | 10:46AM
krusha wrote:
The mafia don is throwing everyone under the bus to cover his behind. I hope his former aides come forward to finger the real mastermind of all of this.
on January 9,2014 | 07:46AM
nalogirl wrote:
Give me a break, he said that he asked his people 4 weeks ago that they had 1 hour to come clean if there was anything that he need to know about this, no one came forward. He was blindsided when he was called after his workout about the emails. He had the integrity to explain what transpired and took responsibility, he was also very humiliated by the actions of some of his aides, of which one was fired.
on January 9,2014 | 09:19AM
puamamane wrote:
The liberals are out today
on January 9,2014 | 08:32AM
hanalei395 wrote:
And so are embarrassed, frustrated right-wingers, ... like you.
on January 9,2014 | 08:46AM
nalogirl wrote:
I am not embarrasssed in the least. Are you embarrassed by this ACA? Are you emabrassed that the taxpayers pay for multi-million dollar vacations for the President? Are you embarrassed about beer gate, trayvon martin? We need people like Chris Christie.
on January 9,2014 | 09:21AM
beachbum11 wrote:
And the presidents family vacations. To other counties and at movies stars homes. LOL.
on January 9,2014 | 10:10AM
nalogirl wrote:
Finally a politician who takes action. He took responsibility and fired the main culprit. Obama has never held anyone accountable for the messes that have been made with his stupid website fiasco. I will vote for Christie for President, he didn't even need a teleprompter
on January 9,2014 | 09:06AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Only after he felt the uproar from the heat his culture bred in his office I suppose.
on January 9,2014 | 11:32AM
808behappy wrote:
Thats because the culprits got caught red handed!
on January 9,2014 | 11:58AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Like with Nixon, lie, because there was "no proof" about Watergate, ... until the tapes showed up. The same with Christie, made jokes and lied about Bridgegate, because he THOUGHT there wasn't any "proof", ... untill ... the e-mails.
on January 9,2014 | 01:28PM
beachbum11 wrote:
Sent for approval. What joke the SA is.
on January 9,2014 | 10:11AM
environmental_lady wrote:
I'm reminded of Tonya Harding who denied her role in the knee-whacking conspiracy against Nancy Kerrigan to disable her for the upcoming Olympics. Like Tonya Harding, Chris Chrstie denied any role in the Toll Bridge Scandal. Hope the truth comes out eventually.
on January 9,2014 | 11:55AM
hikine wrote:
Politicians are a funny lot. They grossly demean their opponents while they can't say good things about themselves! Strong arm politics seems to be the norm these days and retaliation is rampant. Even Obama used this tactic with Boehner and Romney to get sympathy from the public. "My way or the highway" seems to be the motto and if the plan fails they blame the very people who supported them.
on January 9,2014 | 12:57PM
loquaciousone wrote:
He sounds like Nixon when Dicky said, "I AM NOT A CROOK", or William Jefferson Clinton when Billy said, "I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH THAT WOMAN".
on January 9,2014 | 01:15PM
loquaciousone wrote:
He sounds like Nixon when Dicky said, "I AM NOT A CROOK", or William Jefferson Clinton when Billy said, "I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH THAT WOMAN".
on January 9,2014 | 01:15PM
lajekal wrote:
So when the event occurred, Gov Christie couldn't at least call the Department of Transportation or Port Authority on why the GW bridge was shutdown and his constituents were stuck in a traffic gridlock.? He is a liar!
on January 9,2014 | 02:20PM
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