Christie facing more ‘Bridge-gate’ fallout

Two government bodies may investigate Christie's administration, as class action is filed

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters Borough Hall in Fort Lee to apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich, Jan. 9, 2014.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The political ramifications for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his administration are just beginning to become apparent.

Christie spent Thursday doing damage control after revelations surfaced that the Republican governor’s closest aides ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as political retribution for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's refusal to endorse Christie.

After holding a press conference this morning, Christie visited Sokolich to apologize. Christie said they had a "productive meeting." Sokolich said he accepted Christie's apology, but he warned that the relationship wasn't completely mended.

"My concern is making sure that it never happens again in Fort Lee," Sokolich told reporters.

Meanwhile, the chief federal prosecutor in New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, said he is "reviewing the matter to determine whether a federal law was implicated."

The New Jersey Legislature also is investigating whether Christie's administration used public resources for political ends, which can be a crime.

Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor and mayor, said there was "no doubt" a crime was committed.

Earlier in the day, David Wildstein, a Christie appointee who resigned from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after being implicated in the scandal, was found in contempt by a legislative committee after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions.

A national issue

A local New Jersey lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, filed a federal class action complaint against Christie and his aides on behalf of six residents. Arnold told the press she hoped anyone who was harmed or inconvenienced by the lane closure would join the suit.

The furor over the local traffic flap has turned into a national issue in the last few days, raising questions about Christie's leadership and integrity as he lays the groundwork for a White House bid.

Democrats at the national level have seized on the scandal as evidence that Christie is a bully.

The governor brushed off questions about the effect on his presidential prospects, saying he was too busy governing the state to think about that.

"I am absolutely nowhere near beginning that consideration process," he said. "I haven't even been sworn in for my second term yet."

Some political analysts on both sides of the aisle said Christie would probably pull through OK — provided there are no more surprises.

Democratic operative David Axelrod complimented Christie for handling the news conference "as well as he could," writing on Twitter, "Unless smoking gun turns up tying him to scheme, or others arise, he lives 2 fight another day."

Christie said he is still looking into the traffic-jam episode and will take action against other senior staff members if it is warranted.

Over and over, Christie took responsibility for the affair by virtue of his role as governor and simultaneously blamed his staff for doing something "stupid" and for not telling him the truth when he asked.

He said he saw the emails and text messages for the first time on Wednesday and was "blindsided" by what he read and outraged by the callous language. He said he was left "heartbroken" and "betrayed" by his tight-knit circle of advisers.

"I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or execution," Christie said of the lane closings. "And I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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