New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, facing the biggest scandal of his career after newly released emails directly tied one of the governor’s top aides to the disastrous traffic jam on the heavily traveled, George Washington Bridge last September, will hold a press conference Thursday morning at 11:00 a.m., the Associated Press has reported.
New Jersey’s newspaper, The Record, was the first to obtain and report on the seemingly vindictive emails and text messages sent from the personal email account of Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and a Christie Port Authority appointee, David Wildstein.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in August after Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich “declined to endorse Christie” in his reelection bid last fall.
One minute later, The Record reported, Wildstein responded, “Got it.”
And so began the Sept. 9 lane closures on the bridge that paralyzed traffic with “four-hour traffic jams that also stranded children on buses on their first day of school,” the article said.
According to The Record’s report:
An unconscious 91-year-old woman who later died of cardiac arrest. A car accident with multiple injuries. A missing 4-year-old.
[Emergency responders] struggled to answer calls for help — including these and other potentially life-or-death situations. It took an hour for help to arrive at a building where a person was experiencing chest pains. Paramedics couldn’t even get to an elderly woman in cardiac arrest — they had to meet the ambulance en route to a hospital.
An enraged Sokolich, who took the brunt of complaints for months over the inexplicable lane closures on the bridge, blasted Christie and his staff Wednesday after the emails were published.
“I think they should all be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed,” he said. “I don’t think they should come within 50 miles of representing people and being in positions that are designed to protect and serve the quality of people’s lives. You don’t deserve it. [Public service] is one of the highest calling.”
“Somebody ought to get on the phone with the families … the family of the missing person … the thousands of families who couldn’t [get their kids to school on time] and apologize and try to convince them that something like this will never ever happen again,” he said, according to the article.
If there was any doubt Sokolich – referred to in the emails as the “little Serbian,” when he is in fact, Croatian, and “an idiot,” was the intended target of retaliation, consider this exchange via The Record:
In one exchange of text messages on the second day of the lane closures, Wildstein alludes to messages Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had left complaining that school buses were having trouble getting through the traffic.
“Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” the recipient of the text message responded to Wildstein. The person’s identity is not clear because the documents are partially redacted for unknown reasons.
“No,” Wildstein wrote in response.
“I feel badly about the kids,” the person replied to Wildstein. “I guess.”
“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein wrote, making a reference to Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, who lost to Christie in a landslide in November.
“How dare you schedule a man-made traffic disaster in my community?” Sokolich said when he learned of this particular exchange, according to The Record. “It’s the example of the pettiest and most venomous side of politics.”
“I’m embarrassed for the people that participated in this,” he added. “I didn’t know whether my reaction should be comical or criminal,” he said about first hearing the news.
Christie released the following statement Wednesday, denying knowledge of the incident, claiming to have been “misled” by Kelly:
What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.
Read The Record’s timeline of events here.
View the emails, some heavily redacted, here: