• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 42s

“Humiliated,” Christie axes aide over traffic scandal

By Rebecca Kaplan / CBS News 7:55 AM January 9, 2014

He fired Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff, for lying

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologized to the people of New Jersey Thursday for last year’s lane closure on the George Washington Bridge last year and announced he was firing his deputy chief of staff for lying to him.

“I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey. I apologize to the people of Fort Lee, and I apologize to the members of the state legislature. I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team. There’s no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for their appropriate role in government and for the people that were trusted to serve,” Christie said.

He announced that he had fired Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff, for lying when he sought the truth about the bridge closures from his staff a month ago.

What seemed to be a poorly-planned lane closure to conduct a traffic study exploded into a full-blown scandal Wednesday after a series of communications between a Christie aide and two of his political appointees to the Port Authority became public. The email and text messages suggested that Bridget Anne Kelly, one of Christie’s three deputy chiefs of staff, ordered the lane closures

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in an Aug. 13 message to David Wildstein, a top executive at the Port Authority who was appointed by Christie.

“Got it,” replied Wildstein, who would later resign as a result of the outburst of anger surrounding the lane closings, which snarled traffic, prevented school buses from running on time, and even delayed emergency vehicles trying to reach a 91-year-old woman who was unconscious and later died.

Other exchanges reveal mockery of the school children who were late to school because of the traffic, with one person saying, “”They are the children of Buono voters,” a reference to Christie’s Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial election, State Sen. Barbara Buono.

The various messages, many sent from private email accounts, were produced by Wildstein in response to a subpoena from a panel of New Jersey lawmakers. He is being compelled to testify to the New Jersey Assembly’s transportation committee at noon Thursday, though his attorneys have tried to quash the subpoena with a variety of arguments, including a challenge to Assemblyman John Wisniewski’s signature, subpoena power and potential conflicts of interest.

A judge is scheduled to rule on the matter Thursday morning, although the fallout will likely continue even if Wildstein’s attorney prevails. The U.S. Attorney is opening an inquiry into the lane closures, the New York Times reported Thursday. Earlier in December, before the communications were revealed, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee announced it would launch its own investigation.

The messages are also littered with derogatory references to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, who did not endorse Christie for re-election, suggesting a political motive for the bridge closings. He was derided an “idiot” and the “little Serbian” — though Sokolich is actually Croatian.

He certainly believes he was targeted as a form of retribution. “Their job is to keep us safe and to make the right decisions and to make those decisions with venomous motivation is completely inexcusable to me,” Sokolich said Wednesday. “I think people think they will never get caught and they can do what they want that is not the way it works.”

The messages were mostly sent through personal email accounts, and include or mention several Christie associates, including Bill Stepien, his campaign manager – who was named head of the New Jersey GOP Tuesday – and Michael Drewniak, his spokesman. Amid investigations by New Jersey legislators and the Port Authority’s inspector general, two Christie appointees, including Wildstein, resigned.

Despite the documents, Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, has her defenders. “I don’t know who the person is that gave the ultimate order,” Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., whose district includes Fort Lee, told the Bergen Record. He has known Kelly since she was an aide to a Republican state assemblyman. “This did not, the young lady did not just wake up one morning, when you see the emails, she didn’t just wake up one morning and decide let’s screw up the traffic in Fort Lee.”

Even if Christie is found to have had no knowledge of what his aides and associates did, it will inevitably remain a sticking point for any future political ambitions, including a potential 2016 presidential bid. In order to survive, he will have to face it head on, said CBS News political director John Dickerson.

“Chris Christie has styled himself as a truth-teller, a person who faces tough realities. And so, if he is going to run for president, that is the theme he will strike,” Dickerson said on “CBS This Morning.”

Latest Stories

  • DayBreak

    Daybreak Adopt-A-Pet: April 28, 2017

    by Daybreak Staff on Apr 28, 14:00

    From Anchorage Animal Care and Control: Twenty-four cats: We have cats from young to middle-aged,  playful cats to lap-lover cats, short-haired to long-haired, black to white — basically, all kinds of cats. Three chickens: Got a vacancy in that backyard chicken coop? There are three chickens up for adoption this week. Caption contest winner: This week’s […]

  • DayBreak

    Recipe Box: Honey-Please Cake

    by Sierra Starks on Apr 28, 13:18

    In this week’s Recipe Box, Amanda Cash uses Alaska-made honey to create a sweet treat — Honey-Please Cake, which is new to The Magpie food truck. The light and fluffy cake be found at The Magpie’s Spenard nest and throughout the summer in Downtown Anchorage.  

  • Judge sentences couple investigated after boy overdoses

    by Associated Press on Apr 28, 11:43

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A Palmer man and woman investigated for drug dealing after a teenager died of an overdose at their home will serve federal prison terms. U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason on Thursday sentenced 41-year-old Tod Rodolph to 12 years in prison and fined him $30,000. Gleason sentenced 36-year-old Jessica Hopkins to six […]

  • Weather

    Much-needed rainfall to end the work week, drier conditions in store for the weekend

    by Rachael Penton on Apr 28, 11:25

    Anchorage is experiencing some much-needed rainfall, after a dry start to the month. April is usually the driest month of the year for Anchorage, with average precipitation of 0.47 inches.  However, only 0.05 inches of rain was recorded in Anchorage through last Monday, April 24 — putting Anchorage into a shortage for the month. Measurable rainfall […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: Dr. Tamara McCoy and Friends

    by Daybreak Staff on Apr 28, 10:35

    Dr. Tamara McCoy is a pianist, vocalist, conductor and instructor, she was also an integral part of the Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility’s Lullaby Project. Now McCoy is organizing a concert to bring aid to Syria. On Friday, May 19, McCoy will be holding a concert for relief efforts in Syra called Beyond our Borders. It […]

  • News

    Northwest Arctic Borough to receive almost $200 million over 10 years from Red Dog Mine

    by Davis Hovey / KNOM on Apr 28, 10:07

    After a borough meeting tuesday night, a new payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) agreement has been struck between the Northwest Arctic Borough (NAB) and Teck Alaska, the operator of Red Dog Mine, KNOM reported Friday. For the next ten years, NAB will receive annual payments from Teck Alaska based on a fixed asset value […]

  • Lifestyle

    DHSS: Alaskan, who recently traveled abroad, with confirmed case of Zika virus

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 28, 9:33

    An Alaskan who recently traveled to Central America tested positive for the Zika virus after returning to their home state, according to a Friday morning release from the Department of Health and Social Services. “Dr. Jay Butler, Director of Public Health and Chief Medical Officer for Alaska, says Alaskans can rest assured they are in […]

  • Sports

    PGA Tour hands out 1st slow-play penalty since 1995

    by Associated Press on Apr 28, 9:09

    AVONDALE, La. (AP) – The first team event on the PGA Tour in 36 years has produced the first penalty for slow play since 1995. PGA Tour officials say Miguel Angel Carballo and Brian Campbell were penalized one shot on the 14th hole of the opening round at the Zurich Classic for their second bad […]