NJ Gov. Chris Christie apologizes for GW bridge lane closures but denies involvement

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday apologized for the sudden lane closures on the George Washington bridge but denied any involvement in what appeared to be an act of political retribution against Fort Lee’s mayor Mark Sokolich.

Christie issued his apology after emails released on Wednesday revealed that top aides to the governor ordered the lane closures, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee for four days in September and delayed response times by police and ambulances.

Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, emailed David Wildstein, who was appointed to the Port Authority by Christie, that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” seemingly because Sokolich did not endorse Christie for re-election.

“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,” said Christie, a potential presidential contender in 2016. “I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.”

Read more: Chris Christie fires 2 top aides involved in politically-motivated GW bridge lane closures

At the press conference on Thursday, Christie announced that he had fired Kelly and asked his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to withdraw his nomination for state party chairman and discontinue his consultancy with the Republican Governor’s Association.

“Ultimately, I am responsible for what happens under my watch – the good and the bad. And when mistakes are made, then I have to won up to them and take the action that I believe is necessary in order to remediate them,” he said.

Christie said he will visit Fort Lee to apologize to Sokolich and community members in person.

“People of those communities for four days were impacted in a completely callous and indifferent way, and I’m going to go and apologize for that,” he said.

In December, Christie dismissed allegations that the lane closures were politically motivated and sanctioned by members of his staff. He also apologized for his earlier denial.

But Christie maintained that he knew nothing about the incident despite the involvement of his top aides and Port Authority appointee.

“I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here,” said Christie, who claimed that he was told the bridge lanes were closed for a traffic study.

Christie indicated that he was shocked and confused as to why Sokolich was targeted by Kelly for retribution.

“Mayor Sokolich was never on my radar screen. He was never mentioned to me as somebody whose endorsement we were even pursuing,” said Christie. “I don’t remember ever meeting Mayor Sokolich in that context…until I saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a line-up.”

However, Christie said he can’t guarantee that this was an isolated incident of political payback committed by his aides.

“I don’t have any evidence before me as we speak that it went beyond this incident, but I can’t tell you that I know that for sure as to every aspect of everything,” he said. “In the end, I have 65,000 people working for me everyday and i cannot know what each of them is doing at every minute.”

But Christie said his administration will fully cooperate with the investigations being conducted by the Office of Inspector General and the state legislature.

“I have nothing to hide so any questions anybody wants to ask me they can ask from law enforcement,” said Christie. “We have nothing to hide and this administration has nothing to hide.”

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