Former Christie Appointee Claims N.J. Gov. Knew About Lane Closures

In a letter released by his attorney, the Port Authority official who personally oversaw the George Washington Bridge lane closures is alleging that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the action. David Wildstein asserts that evidence exists that will contradict Christie's claims to ignorance about the motives behind the lane closures.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel.

We begin this hour with a letter that may shed new light on the recent George Washington Bridge scandal. In the letter, a former ally of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, through his lawyer, says: The governor knew of traffic tie ups that his staff allegedly ordered at the bridge. David Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority which operates the bridge after the scandal broke.

Member station WNYC's Matt Katz joins us now to talk about this letter that came out this afternoon. And, Matt, this isn't a smoking gun, but it does say something about Governor Christie. What's the letter and what's alleged in it?

MATT KATZ, BYLINE: The letter is regarding - from David Wildstein's attorney, angry that this bridge agency isn't paying his legal bills. But more importantly, it alleges that Wildstein has evidence that would indicate that the governor possibly lied when he said that these lanes were - that he didn't know anything about these lanes being closed and the subsequent traffic jam.

So it falls short of saying the governor ordered the lanes or that he did so out of some sort of political revenge. But it does accuse the governor of lying at this marathon two-hour news conference he held a few weeks ago.

SIEGEL: Well, what has Governor Christie said in response to this letter today?

KATZ: His spokesman released a statement that said that the letter failed to refute in any way what the governor himself had said three weeks ago. And what he said at the time was that he only found out about these lane closures from the press, and then he only found out about these alleged political motivations behind the lane closures from the press. And he said the letter just failed to refute any of that.

SIEGEL: The Christie administration faces quite a few investigations, really, into the George Washington Bridge traffic and also to the use of funds earmarked for recovery from Superstorm Sandy. How do you think this letter and the allegations in it might fit into those proceedings?

KATZ: Well, it's certainly heightened the interest of legislators. There are now more legislators starting to use the word impeachment. And that might be a possibility. And now, we also have new subpoenas related to Sandy aid. There's an allegation that the mayor of the city of Hoboken - she says that Christie officials tried to shake her down over a development deal they wanted and they were threatening to take away her city's Sandy aid if she didn't approve this redevelopment deal. So this is another little piece in a larger abuse of power allegations that are really just piling up against this governor.

SIEGEL: Tell us a bit about David Wildstein. It's always said that he went to high school with the governor. Are they really friends?

KATZ: Christie says they're not friends. He's described them as acquaintances. He says he was an athlete and president of his class every year. And he wasn't even sure what Wildstein was up during high school. Wildstein has been portrayed as something of a nerd and a number's guy. But both were interested in politics. Wildstein became a local mayor, and then he founded a political blog. He was an anonymous blogger for many years. The people who works for him didn't know who he was. And then he was outed when Christie hired him to work at this bridge agency as his sort of eyes and ears.

He was Christie's political man at this bridge agency until everything sort of exploded with these allegations over the last few months.

SIEGEL: OK. Thanks for talking with us, Matt.

KATZ: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's political reporter Matt Katz of member station WNYC.

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