(NEW YORK) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared on a local radio show Monday evening and again denied having any prior knowledge of the lane closure scandal that has engulfed his administration.
He said he “unequivocally” had no knowledge of a plan by top aides to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge for political retribution.
“Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat which I think is the most important issue and the most important issue is: Did I know anything about a plan to close these lanes?” Christie said on the monthly radio program Ask the Governor on New Jersey’s 101.5 FM.
“Did I authorize it? Did I know about it? Did I approve it? Did I have any knowledge of it beforehand? And the answer is still the same, it’s unequivocally no,” he said.
Christie again repeated that he first found out about the traffic snarl from press coverage, specifically saying he read it in the Wall Street Journal when it reported on leaked e-mails from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye saying he had no knowledge of the traffic study.
Christie added that he hears reports of bad traffic on the George Washington Bridge, as well as the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, quite often but they do not reach the “gubernatorial level.”
Christie did not mention his former political ally, David Wildstein, but said he wanted to clear up some of what was “reported over the weekend.”
“Nobody has said that I knew anything about this before it happened and I think that’s the most important question,” Christie said.
In a letter through his attorney Friday, Wildstein said “evidence exists” that Christie knew about the lanes closing earlier than he has said, but he did not reveal any evidence and no evidence has been uncovered showing a direct link between the governor and the closing of the lanes by aides as a form of political payback.
“The fact of the matter is I’ve been very clear about this,” Christie said on the hour-long radio show, the first since the scandal has engulfed his administration. “Before these lanes were closed I knew nothing about it. I didn’t plan it, I didn’t authorize it, I didn’t approve it. I knew nothing about it.”
He promised to “make changes if necessary” if the investigation finds wrongdoing and promised if “there is anyone else who needs to be held to account then I’ll hold them to account.”
Though the scandal is the biggest one Christie has faced as governor, he told the radio host and his constituents listening that his family is holding up well, saying this is just an example of things that happen in “public life.”
“I’m so disappointed this has happened but I’m also determined to get to the bottom of it to fix it once and for all,” Christie said. “I’ll be dammed if I’m going to let anything get in the way of me doing my job.”
During the question and answer portion of the show, constituents asked him about a range of issues, but only one asked about the developing scandal and Christie again said “I had nothing to do with this.”
“While I am disappointed by what happened here, I am determined to fix it,” Christie said. “I’ve told people all the time in this job, I can’t promise you that we’re going to be perfect. But what I can promise you is we’re going to do our best, and when there are mistakes, that we’re going to do our best to fix them. And that’s what we’re in the process of doing.”
Christie added that he wants the internal investigation being conducted to be “thorough” and “efficient.”
As he did during his nearly two-hour news conference when the scandal first broke, Christie said he still doesn’t know “whether there was a traffic study that morphed into some political shenanigans or did it start as political shenanigans that became a traffic study.”
Despite the heavy press coverage of the scandal, listeners were all quite positive towards their governor, with almost all of them telling him they voted for him. One woman even urged Christie, “don’t change a thing about yourself.”
Democrats quickly responded to Christie, with the New Jersey Democratic chairman saying in a statement, “After an hour of screened questions, the only thing we really learned is that Governor Christie thinks the frustrating breakdown of his administration is just a distraction brewed up by others.”
“His continual denial of the scandalous allegations confronting him, not to mention their impact on New Jerseyans, is truly appalling,” John Currie said.
Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority as the scandal began to erupt. Christie fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former campaign manager Bill Stepien last month when e-mails released showed their reason for closing lanes leading to the bridge was to punish a Democratic mayor who declined to endorse Christie in his re-election effort.
According to a five-page letter sent to the Legislature Monday, Kelly’s lawyer Michael Critchley said Kelly “will not produce the information demanded in the Committee’s subpoena.”
Kelly is now the third key figure in the scandal to decline to cooperate with the committee investigating the scandal by invoking the Fifth Amendment. Wildstein took the Fifth during a hearing last month, and Stepien notified the Legislature on Friday that he would be taking the Fifth.
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