Wisniewski made it clear that yesterday’s hearing was just the beginning. “We intend to continue our investigation, but this would all be made a lot easier if Gov. Christie did the right thing and voluntarily released all communications so everyone could find out with certainty what happened,” he said.
Wisniewski and Assembly Transportation Committee Vice Chair Linda Stender (D-Union) said they did not believe Christie was being fully forthcoming in his mea culpa press conference yesterday.
“Based on what we’ve seen and heard so far, I don’t believe the governor is being truthful to the people of this state when he denies any knowledge of this incident prior to yesterday,” Stender said. “Weeks ago, he mockingly dismissed the notion that he would have anything to do with a traffic study, and yet we saw in the documents released yesterday that he did in fact approve a study for the town of Springfield."
“The Governor was right on one thing, however, when he said this is about politics -- it’s about the politics of fear. The fact is, a punitive and vindictive culture was apparently allowed to thrive in the governor’s office where staff thought abusing public resources and jeopardizing public safety in the name of retribution was acceptable behavior. In the end, there were grave public safety consequences as a result of this vendetta, consequences that cannot be undone by a mere apology,” she said.
Wisniewski said the committee still needed to determine what the governor and senior members of his staff knew about the lane closures and when they knew it.
“I find it hard to believe that Bridget Kelly on her own can come up with the idea to block traffic lanes in Fort Lee,” Wisniewski said.
Christie said he fired Kelly, his deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, because the Wildstein emails obtained by the media Wednesday showed she lied about her involvement in the Bridgegate scandal when he asked his senior staff a month ago if any of them were involved.
“I would never have come out here four or five weeks ago and made a joke about these lane closures if I had ever had an inkling that anyone on my staff would’ve been so stupid but to be involved and then so deceitful as to just not disclose the information of their involvement to me when directly asked by their superior,” Christie said.
Christie, however, did not meet with Kelly or ask her any questions about the Bridgegate scandal before having her fired yesterday morning, saying he did not want to interfere with the Wisniewski committee’s investigation.
“I don’t know whether this is a traffic study that morphed into a political vendetta, or a political vendetta that morphed into a traffic study,” Christie said, continuing to offer support to Baroni’s contention in his testimony before the Wisniewski committee that the lane closures were part of a legitimate traffic study.
Christie also did not ask Stepien any questions about his involvement. He said he fired Stepien because he lost confidence in his judgment after seeing “the tone and behavior and attitude and callous indifference” he showed about the Bridgegate scandal in his emails with Wildstein.
He told Stepien to withdraw his name from consideration as the next New Jersey Republican Party chairman -- a post Christie had recommended him for heartily on Tuesday -- and announced he was terminating his contract with the Republican Governors Association. Christie is the RGA chairman this year.
Christie did say that he met for two hours with Samson, the former state attorney general whom he appointed as Port Authority chairman, and that he was confident that Samson had no involvement in the Bridgegate scandal.
He dismissed a question about whether any of his senior staff had played a role in covering up the political mess that followed the September lane closures. “You’re calling it a cover-up,” he accused the reporter.