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Report: Christie knew about GWB lane closures, ex-Port Authority official says

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Gov. Chris Christie, shown here at the Jan. 9 press conference, may have known about the lane closures on the GW Bridge, according to The New York Times.
Gov. Chris Christie, shown here at the Jan. 9 press conference, may have known about the lane closures on the GW Bridge, according to The New York Times. - (Andrew George / NJBIZ)

Despite publicly denying having any knowledge or involvement in the matter, Gov. Chris Christie knew about the ordered lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last September as they happened, according to a report late Friday afternoon by The New York Times.

The Times reported that it has obtained a letter indicating as much from Alan Zegas, the attorney of David Wildstein, the former Christie appointee at the Port Authority that resigned amid the growing scandal in December.

The letter was addressed to Port Authority General Counsel Darrell Buchbinder requesting that Wildstein's legal fees be paid for by the authority.

According to the Times, the letter said the lanes were closed by "the Christie administration's order" and that "evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference" earlier this month.

During the Jan. 9 press conference, Christie not only denied having any knowledge of the lane closures, but also said that he was only then made aware that members of his staff were involved.

"Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some," the letter included according to the Times.

Since related documents were released earlier this month, Wildstein has emerged as a central figure in the scandal. In one of the more noteworthy exchanges seen to date, it was Wildstein who replied "Got it" to an email sent by Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff who was fired on Jan. 9, which read, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

In the press conference, Christie attempted to distance himself from Wildstein, noting that they barely knew one another when they were both students at Livingston High School and that he could most likely count the number of times he'd seen Wildstein since he was appointed to the authority on one hand.

On the same day as Christie's press conference, Wildstein appeared before the Assembly Transportation Committee to testify on the matter but invoked the Fifth Amendment for every question posed to him. He was later found in-contempt of the committee.

In a statement Friday afternoon, the Christie administration said Wildstein's letter did not shine a light on any new information and, if anything, backed up what Christie has said all along.

"Mr. Wildstein's lawyer confirms what the governor has said all along — he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein's motivations were for closing them to begin with," the administration said.

"As the governor said in a Dec. 13 press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and, as he said in his Jan. 9 press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of Jan. 8. The governor denies Mr. Wildstein's lawyer's other assertions."

PREVIOUSLY:

Christie's office, inner circle targeted in latest round of GWB scandal subpoenas

Wisniewski refers Wildstein contempt charges to county prosecutor

More documents on GWB scandal released (UPDATE: Emails show rift at Port Authority between N.J., N.Y. officials)

VIDEO: Christie's GWB lane closure press conference

Christie apologizes 'to the people of New Jersey' for GW Bridge scandal, fires top staffer involved

As Christie, Democrats react to GWB messages, ex-official attempts to quash order to testify

Report: Christie's office involved in GWB lane closures

David Wildstein resigns amid GW Bridge lane closure controversy

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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