Chris Christie in Trenton, New Jersey. (Reuters)
Jan. 9: Gov. Chris Christie apologised to the people of New Jersey today, saying that he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by revelations that a top aide and other close associates ordered lane closings on the George Washington Bridge to deliberately snarl traffic as an act of political vengeance.
He said he fired that aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff, whom he called “stupid” and “deceitful”.
The revelations became public yesterday, when a series of emails and texts showed that members of his administration and others were deeply involved, contradicting the governor’s own earlier public statements on the matter.
“I am heartbroken that someone I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the past five years betrayed that trust,” he said, speaking at a news conference at the State House where he took questions for over an hour.
Bridget Anne Kelly, 41, is a deputy chief of staff.
It was a dramatic reversal after months of denying that anyone in his administration or campaign played any role in the lane closings, which resulted in a traffic nightmare last September in Fort Lee.
For Christie, one of the leading figures in the Republican Party and a likely candidate for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016, the scandal represents the gravest challenge to his political career.
Just as his news conference began, the US attorney’s office announced that it would open a preliminary inquiry into the matter.
The US attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, opened an inquiry after the matter was referred to the office by the inspector general for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge.
Christie, who recently elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said he had asked his two-time campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to step down as a consultant to the group and to withdraw his name from consideration to be the head of the state Republican Party.
In the news conference, Christie acknowledged that he misled the public, but he said he did so unwittingly. He said he was “blindsided” by the revelations.