Gov. Chris Christie stood by his claim Wednesday that he has not had any knowledge or involvement in the four-day September closures of local lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee.
After cancelling a public appearance in the morning, the governor put out a statement later in the day after a series of damning emails and text messages sent between top staffers and Port Authority officials were released and widely published showing an apparent direct link between his office and the closures.
The messages also hint at the move coming as a form of political retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat for not endorsing Christie in his 2013 reelection bid.
In the statement, Christie again absolved himself of having any knowledge about the closures.
"What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable," Christie said. "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."
Though Christie did not name anyone directly in the statement nor indicate any personnel changes were on the way, he did promise to hold actors accountable.
"One this is clear; this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better," Christie said. "This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions."
But the governor's claim to ignorance fell on the deaf ears of state and national Democrats Wednesday.
Addressing a crowded room of reporters at the Statehouse, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), chair of the transportation committee that subpoenaed the documents, said that Christie "either doesn't know what's going on in his front office or he is lying."
"The governor has a lot of explaining to do," Wisniewski said.
On Thursday, Wisniewski will first look to hear from David Wildstein, the former Christie appointee at the Port Authority who appears to be at the center of the message exchange. Wildstein, who resigned in December as others testified that he was the one who ordered the move, has been subpoenaed to testify before Wisniewski's committee.
But a motion filed by Wildstein's attorneys Wednesday in state Superior Court in Mercer County is attempting quash the order. Vicinage assignment judge Mary Jacobson is slated to rule on the order at 9:30 a.m. Thursday ahead of the scheduled hearing at 12 p.m.
Wisniewski has said that he expects Wildstein to testify and added that more subpoenas will be issued on the matter as the committee sees fit.