Bill Stepien, a one-time Christie campaign manager that the governor recently asked to run the state Republican party, also had that invitation revoked. In the messages released on Wednesday, Stepien referred to the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, as an "idiot."
Asked if everything about the incident had come to light, Christie couldn't say it had. "I have no evidence as we speak that it went further. … But I can't make a warrantee on that." He has 65,000 employees in the state, he pointed out, and that there was "no way" he could know everything that's going on.
He flatly denied that he'd asked for the traffic problems as political retribution for the town's mayor having not endorsed him, and didn't recall having asked for any endorsement. "I wouldn't have been able to pick [the mayor] out of a line-up," Christie said. "His name was never mentioned to me. His position was never mentioned to me."
Was Christie involved in the decision to change traffic patterns in Fort Lee? "Absolutely not — and I knew nothing about this. … I was told this was a traffic study." In a hearing held by the State Assembly, the head of the Port Authority, which manages the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey, indicated no study was underway. Moving forward, "I think I'm out of the traffic study business," Christie said.
He also denied having a long friendship with David Wildstein, the Port Authority staffer who received Kelly's instructions and who resigned last month. (Called before the state legislature to discuss the issue today, Wildstein plead the Fifth.) The two attended the same high school. "I was class president and played football" in high school, Christie said, implying that Wildstein didn't run in such circles.
How the week-long snarl actually occurred, Christie didn't make clear. But: "I am not a bully," he insisted, in response to a reporter's question. "I have a very blunt, direct personality." Earlier, he said that the Fort Lee incident "is the exception," he said. "It is not the rule of what's happened over the last four years of my administration."
Christie will travel to Fort Lee on Thursday to meet with the town's mayor and residents to apologize. (The mayor subsequently asked that he not, according to a reporter.) He was asked about the death of an elderly woman after emergency vehicles were unable to get to her as quickly as possible, and said it was "awful." But, he couldn't turn back time.
Christie was asked if he ever thought about resigning. "No," he said. "That's a crazy question."
Shortly before the press conference was set to begin, The New York Times reported that a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey would open a preliminary inquiry into the lane closures. "The decision to open an inquiry," it reports, "came 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, the source said." This is not a full investigation, as Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly points out. Asked if he would cooperate with any inquiries, Christie responded, "I have absolutely nothing to hide."
When a reporter asked about 2016, a little smile came to Christie's face. He insisted that any such decision was far in the future.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.