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Christie's Office Blasts Latest Bridgegate Accusations

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie waves to guests as he attends the Super Bowl Hand-Off Ceremony in New York on Saturday.
Eduardo Munoz
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie waves to guests as he attends the Super Bowl Hand-Off Ceremony in New York on Saturday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's political team is going on the offensive against charges that he knew more than he admits about a plan to use lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as part of a political vendetta.

In an email to donors and journalists headlined "5 Things You Should Know about the Bombshell That's Not a Bombshell," on Saturday, political aides to the governor pushed back on accusations by David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official who oversaw the lane closures.

In a letter from the attorney for Wildstein, who resigned as the scandal broke, the former official claimed that evidence exists to show that Christie knew more. In the email sent Saturday, the governor's aides suggested that Wildstein was grasping at straws: "David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein."

The Associated Press says:

"Christie's team denies that Christie knew about the traffic jam or its political motive until after it was over and bashes Wildstein, a former mayor who later became an anonymous political blogger."

"Much of the letter quoted previous newspaper articles that took critical looks at Wildstein, including a 2012 article in The Record of Bergen County [that] says Wildstein 'was a very contentious person.'"

"But the email does not mention other comments about Wildstein in that same story, including from Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak: 'He is there in that job because he is well suited to the task of playing a role in reforming the Port Authority in accordance with the governor's goals,' Drewniak said. 'If he's not liked for that role, and if he's accused of being zealous in that regard, then we plead guilty.'"

The Star-Ledger reports that the email also took on The New York Times, which first published Wildstein's accusations, saying that the paper's initial characterization of Wildstein's accusations, that he claimed to have evidence to prove Christie's involvement, was later nuanced to quoted Wildstein as saying only that "evidence exists."

"A media firestorm was set off by sloppy reporting from the New York Times and their suggestion that there was actually 'evidence' when it was a letter alleging that 'evidence exists,' according to the email."

The push back came on the same day that the governor was booed by a large crowd gathered in New York's Times Square, where he officially handed off the Super Bowl to Arizona, which will host next year's championship game, the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, the special counsel for a New Jersey legislative panel investigating allegations says its probe won't interfere with a federal investigation headed up by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The AP says subpoenas have been issued and are due back to the state panel on Monday.

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET: Investigator Says 'No Proof' Christie Knew Of Lane Closures:

"Nothing yet implicates the governor directly," state lawmaker John Wisniewski, who co-chairs the state investigative committee, said on NBC's M eet the Press on Sunday. "We don't have any proof right now that the governor said, go and close the lanes."

Of Wildstein's accusations, Wisniewski wondered "What does he have and why doesn't the committee have it?"

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.