Chris Christie 'flat-out lied' while distancing himself from 'Bridgegate' scandal, new court documents suggest

The court documents are an embarrassment but could have been much worse if Christie had been the Republican nominee

David Usborne
New York
Wednesday 10 August 2016 20:18
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Governor Christie answering questions on 'Bridgegate' in 2013
Governor Christie answering questions on 'Bridgegate' in 2013

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey “flat-out lied” to reporters about the so-called ‘Bridgegate’ scandal involving the closing of lanes over a key span to Manhattan, according to newly revealed court documents filed in connection with the case.

The filing by Bill Baroni, a former top official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, contains snippets of text messages by New Jersey offiicals at the time that appear directly to contradict Mr Christie’s assertion a nationally broadcast press conference in December 2015 that no one among his senior staff were aware of the situation.

Mr Christie, who was later to make an ultimately unsuccessful run at the Republican presidential nomination, struggled at the time to distance himself from the controversy that erupted after road crews strangled access to the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey in retribution to a local mayor who had declined to support him for re-election after his first term as governor.

“I've made it very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it, and they've all assured me that they don't,” Mr Christie said at the time.

Mr Baroni is one of two former Christie allies facing trial next month on criminal charges in relation to the closures.

The court filing in the case concerns a text message allegedly sent by Christina Renna, former director of Mr Christie's intergovernmental affairs office, during the press conference to Peter Sheridan, a member of the governor;s re-election campaign.

“Are you listening? He just flat out lied about senior staff and Stepien not being involved,” her first text said, referring to Bill Stepien, campaign manager for Mr Christie in both his campaigns for governor. She sent another text saying, “it could be bad” if emails were later uncovered through a subpoena or court discovery.

The revelation might have caused significant damage to Mr Christie had he prevailed in the Republican nomination race. Instead he dropped out early on in the primary contests and shocked the Republican establishment by coming out in favour of Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, a Christie spokesman downplayed the significance of the text message. “The governor's statements have been clear,” Brian Murray said. “Nothing contained in this text message changes that in any way.”

Weeks after it first erupted, Mr Christie apologised for the bridge fiasco, which had car commuters tied up for hours trying to get to their offices in Manhattan as well as other drivers. He fired a deputy chief of staff and cut ties with Mr Stepien.

There was speculation for months after that his ambitions to run for president had already been dealt a fatal blow by the affair because it seemed to play into an already well-established narrative that he was a bully and authoritarian figure with ambitions larger than his ethics.

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