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'Betrayed' Christie Apologizes, Fires Top Aide in Wake of Lane-Closure Revelations

Christie said he was 'embarrassed' by the revelations that a top staffer worked to orchestrate choking traffic jams in Fort Lee.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. AP Photo/Mel Evans
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. AP Photo/Mel Evans
By Keith Brown

A contrite Gov. Chris Christie apologized Thursday for the role a top staffer played in purposely creating days of choking traffic jams in early September at the Fort Lee entrance to the George Washington Bridge.

Damning emails released Wednesday seemingly revealed that Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Ramsey native Bridget Anne Kelly, worked with a Port Authority executive to orchestrate punitive lane closures at Fort Lee’s entrance to America’s busiest bridge.

Christie did not mince words Thursday in revealing that he’d fired Kelly for lying to him about her role in bringing traffic to a halt atop the Palisades. He said her actions were “stupid” and that she was partially to blame for his early -- and now apparently inaccurate -- insistence that the lane closures were part of a traffic study.

"I'm sick over this," Christie said. "What I want the people of New Jersey to know is that this is the exception, not the rule.”

“I trusted that I was being told the truth, and I wasn’t,” Christie said. “And I wasn’t by somebody who I placed a significant amount of trust in. ... How incredibly sad and betrayed I felt."

The potential presidential candidate took questions for more than an hour in front of a contingent of national media not seen since at the statehouse in such numbers since former Gov. Jim McGreevey’s resignation nearly a decade ago.

The serious tone of the press conference stood in bold relief when played alongside a clip of Christie sarcastically answering a question about the “traffic study” from the same wooden podium several months ago, in which he told reporters that he personally placed the cones that closed off the toll lanes.

The governor, who was reelected in a landslide in November, also pulled his support for the appointment of his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, as state Republican Party chairman. More importantly for future campaigning plans, Christie said he had severed political ties with Stepien.

“I would not place him at the head of my political operation because of the lack of judgment that was shown in the emails,” Christie said.

Christie said he would cooperate with any investigation into the closures and did not rule out additional firings.

The governor later travelled to Fort Lee, where he apologized to its mayor, Mark Sokolich, and its citizens.

Sokolich accepted Christie's apology, and also said late Thursday afternoon that he believed the governor had no role in the closures.

"The most important concern that we had was that this never, ever happens again in the future. We were unconditionally and unequivocally given that assurance," Sokolich said after the closed meeting.

Fort Lee residents waiting outside borough hall to hear from the governor had mixed reactions. The lane closures slowed emergency response time to at least four incidents, including reaching an unconscious 91-year-old woman who later died from cardiac arrest.

Fort Lee resident Julio Balmaseda said he was happy Christie took action against those involved.

"The traffic here is bad as it is," Balmaseda said. "For somebody to do something intentionally that disrupts that even more, it's not nice. And what do they have to gain by it? They're not punishing the mayor. They're not only punishing the people of this town, but people from all over. I mean, this is the busiest bridge in the world."

Emails first obtained by The Record show Kelly told a Port Authority official close to Christie that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” about two weeks before the lanes were closed.

“Got it,” replied the Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, who resigned last month as national media and incensed local politicians turned up the heat on the scandal.

Wildstein appeared before a Legislative hearing Thursday afternoon a judge refused to quash the committee’s subpoena. He continually invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the committee found him in contempt.

Christie said he was shocked "by the abject stupidity" in the emails. He's now asking himself: "What did I do wrong to make these folks think that it was okay to lie to me?"

Some are predicting the fallout from the scandal could prove troublesome for Christie, who is widely believed to be planning a run for the White House in 2016.

Fawkes January 10, 2014 at 07:11 PM
Parent, The fact that you would insinuate that I am a liberal shows just how ignorant you are. And this discussion isn't about corruption at the federal level (which is obviously stacked with nothing but criminals), it's on the state level, and Christie is just as bad as any troll in Washington. He spends like crazy, but shows no accountability for it. Stop trying to push the narrative that it is okay for Christie to be corrupt just because everyone else is. He is an absolute demon, and you apologizing for him helps no one.
Parent January 10, 2014 at 07:21 PM
It is not ok for anyone to be a crook, but if they are all crooks, and I agree, then give me the guy who takes the least out of my pocket. The bridge closure is what he got caught for, there are so many other things on all levels that go on that do not get exposed. We can both agree that we live in the twilight zone, and ignorant, which I am not, is what runs this country. If he is found guilty then hang him.
Parent January 10, 2014 at 07:22 PM
Let a Buono or Booker take his spot then we will all pay.
Fawkes January 10, 2014 at 11:48 PM
I don't know why you keep insisting that there's a difference between the Democratic and Republican Party criminals. I don't know what has led you to that conclusion, but there isn't a shred of difference, and they're both every bit as bad as the other. You think somehow it'd get any different under Buono, Booker, or anyone else for that matter? It's all part of one big regime.
Steve Becker January 11, 2014 at 12:32 AM
The one thing you are all missing here, is that the reason the corruption goes on ( and the irony of Mr. Clean Christie getting caught doesn't matter much in the grand scheme) is because the man who has been running the state for years is another two-bit thug in an expensive suit, George Norcross, who laughs all the way to the bank no matter who the puppet is in Trenton.
caryle tracy January 11, 2014 at 12:39 AM
A Question... Several people have made statements that several of these people involved were at least fired. The question? Will they receive their pensions? It seems that quite a few government/political employees are still eligible to collect pensions, no matter what they do, even if it may be a crime. (have seen many stories about this over time)...... So did any of these people apply for their pension prior to resigning? Or will they?
theresa barnett January 11, 2014 at 10:34 AM
Well well well.. ..It took something like this to make me realize how emotional I can get,I guess it was Ms. Kelly's brain storming. I personally could of been put in jail many a time if I did not show some kind of control. I'm still up set over Ms. Kelly. Ms.Kelly .... if you came from a 2.08 mile town you would of had the police walk you out of your job taken to the police station , held for TERRORISM and put in jail and band to enter different places. let's see how they'll get you out of this one, interesting. Of course let's not forget a book can be writtenand whatever. AND LET'S NOT FORGET THE EMT'S HAD A PROBLEM GETTING THROUGH.I thank God it wasn't any of my relatives that needed to be rushed to the hospital the day you chose to show your bully mentality.
Stephen January 11, 2014 at 10:45 AM
@B Everything Kelly Dubois says is utterly idiotic. The troll posts under 5 different names here & it's ALWAYS the same low-brow obtuse talk. It's scary people like Kelly walk the streets. Kelly posted on one of her other names that the arrests on the lawyer that was carjacked & killed in Short Hills mall were race motivated & that Kelly "heard" some 'white guys did it & the police just picked up the first brothers they found". Kelly is the absolute dumbest person on the patch sites.
anonymous January 11, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Bullying will not be tolerated!!!!!!!!!! anonymous
Captain Joel S. Fogel January 11, 2014 at 03:27 PM
Totally busted....jig is up ! He's throwing everyone under the bus to save himself ! Terrible behavior......
John Santaella January 12, 2014 at 01:26 PM
New Jersians and New Yorkers may like the 'in your face' demeanor of a Christie but Middle America does not. Put a fork in him.
Art Vatsky January 12, 2014 at 03:05 PM
Is it only me but shouldn't the Port Authority have the decency to give all those who paid tolls on those 4 days in Sept at the Ft. Lee Toll Booths a REFUND/CREDIT EQUAL TO TRIPLE EACH TOLL PAID? Why triple? To compensate those who were inconvenienced for the TIME LOST. They know when and who paid tolls from EZPass. Easy to do and a lesson to all. Don't mess with NJ commuters! C'mon Gov. Christie, isn't that the right thing to do? I am afraid the Gov. Christie has shown plenty of talent, that of a barroom bouncer. If you give him any trouble in the bar, one of his "friends" will slash your tires or, as the saying goes, they will throw you under the bus. Are we to believe that Ms. Kelly thought this whole thing up and was able to get it enacted by the loyal staff of the Gov. without him knowing? Reminds me of Watergate. I am afraid that Mr. Christie has "bought the farm". Hope no one suggests taking a bat to you.
JohnJay January 13, 2014 at 12:34 AM
THE OTHER DAY WHEN MAIN STREET IN FORT LEE WAS AT A STAND STILL, EVEN THROUGH FORT LEE MAYOR MARK S. SAID HE DIDN'T WANT CHRIS THE HEIFER CRISTY, TO COME TO FORT LEE .WHAT DID THE BIG GUY DO HE MADE HIS WAY UP TO FORT LEE, IF NOT TO WASTE YOUR & MY TAX PAYER DOLLARS FOR AN IN PERSON APOLOGIZE, HE RATER WOULD HAVE DONE THIS , BECAUSE THE NEXT DAY FRIDAY, HE WAS BUSY AT A LOCAL SCHOOL, THEN OFF TO FLORIDA WITH SOME FELLOW REPUBLICANS , TO DRUM UP SOME MONEY AND AWARENESS ABOUT THE HEFERS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 2016. HE SHOULD HAVE PAID TO THE TAX PAYERS OF NY FOR THE GAS & HIS DETAIL, EXPENSES ..
JohnJay January 13, 2014 at 01:51 AM
I stand corrected, PAY THE NJ TAX PAYERS FOR HIS DRIVING DETAIL , SECURITY DETAIL & AND THE FACT THAT HE CAME TO FORT LEE ON A THURSDAY AFTERNOON, TO BLOCK & DISRUPT TRAFFIC AGAIN, EXCEPT HE , THE BIG HERFER WAS THE CAUSE THIS TIME, HE SHOULD FORCE THE PA OF NY & NJ TO REPAY FOR PEOPLE'S EXPENSE FOR TRAVEL TIME LOST ,SITTING ,WAITING , AND INCLUDING THE DEATH OF THAT POOR WOMAN WHO DIED AS A RESULT OF THE TRAFFIC JAMS THAT DAY ! TO GET BACK AT SOMEONE, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T APPROVE OF SOMEONE, TALK ABOUT POLITICAL CLOUT !!! ASSHOLES ..
JohnJay January 13, 2014 at 01:54 AM
Hey Damn Brigdid, rimes with FRIGGEN, YOU KNOW THE OPPOSITE OF FUCK !!
JohnJay January 13, 2014 at 01:56 AM
All Scala, Great comment, Especially the end line, get it end, Hefer !! Porky..cc
John Santaella January 13, 2014 at 01:53 PM
It's a misspelling for Krispy Kreme donuts.
Susan January 13, 2014 at 06:25 PM
I agree Christy is toast. He has angered a lot of people and no one is buying his excuses; Least of all me. In my eyes he is nothing but a bully, a liar, a thug and a criminal. His moral character is not good enough to serve the people. His maturity is lacking demonstrated by his bullying and thug behavior with no regard for the citizens he was entrusted to serve. and I do not care what anyone says, we deserve someone with character and morals and someone with a heart who cares about doing things the right way no matter what. to say that all people in politics are expected to be liars is the wrong way to look at it. Its stereotyping. I think many have become disillusioned to be sure probably because our morals as a society are lacking. However, I expect the person in public office to be of high moral character and I expect nothing less. Christy needs to be shown the door.
vic January 13, 2014 at 06:36 PM
here's another stereotype.......susan sounds like a nj teacher.
Mel Sharples January 13, 2014 at 06:54 PM
At least CC has the support of his party's base to carry him through this. Oh, wait. He doesn't. They hate him too. THAT'S why he's toast.
Fawkes January 13, 2014 at 07:14 PM
vic, Why does Susan sound like a teacher? I can't stand the teacher's union, but I like Christie even less. Unless you're being facetious, I don't see what she said that would make you think she's a teacher.
Car14 January 14, 2014 at 05:25 PM
Let's put this in perspective of all Politicans scandals...humm so many..Watergate, whitewater, Clinton and Lewinski, Former members of sen/congr in the KKK, Obama and IRS, Obamacare, Benghazi & 4 deaths..there's too many to name. So in that perspective..a little traffic Jam..come on. Everyone sits in traffic coming and going to work. And at least he fired people- who did Obama fire in the IRS scandal or the Benghazi mess? So regardless of party bias which most of the comments are tainted with- all the crap these politicians do- this is at the bottom of my list.
Car14 January 14, 2014 at 05:27 PM
Oh and btw, the 90 something yr old woman who died was in poor health for years and it was found she would not have made it anyway. Traffic or no traffic would have made a difference.
Susan January 14, 2014 at 07:58 PM
Christy doesn't get to play God with people's safety or for that matter people's money. We can thank God that yours or my loved ones were not effected because that's exactly how we need to look at this. that's like getting behind the wheel of a car drunk and saying well the old lady I ran off the road would have had that heart attack anyway even if I didn't run her off the road. He needs to be held accountable for his actions. If this was done intentionally for political reasons, what kind of child is running the show here. Selfish, egotistical bully. How can it ever be justified that a Governor who abuses his power to this degree is what we want in office. BTW I would never defend the teachers Union. ty for the complement too. I believe everyone is totally entitled to their opinions. this is America is it not.
vic January 14, 2014 at 11:13 PM
susan, what proof do you have, that nobody else has, that governor Christie was involved with the bridge closing. you just sound like a Christie hater.
Fawkes January 14, 2014 at 11:27 PM
vic, So it turns out you are just a troll. It's always nice to have my suspicions validated. Whatever you do, don't let logic or reason get in the way of your Chris Christie worship.
vic January 14, 2014 at 11:35 PM
trolls are people who pre-judge. I never voted for Christie, and I don't worship at his alter. I just don't believe in convicting somebody until you come up with some evidence. fawkes, you sound like a hater.
Fawkes January 14, 2014 at 11:42 PM
You're darn right I hate Christie. He's a fascist piece of trash, and all this scandal is doing is shining a light on it.
Steve Becker January 15, 2014 at 02:00 AM
The irony here for all the Tbagger denial posers is this: Lardball has been bending over backwards to please the Far Wrongers who favor smaller government because they are paranoid about abuse of power. Yet here is power being abused strictly to punish the public, the very proof of what they fear, being done by one of their own. You couldn't write a better script to show how insane they all are. He either knew about it, OK'd it, or should have known about it early on after it happened like everyone else in the state did. And if he didn't, he isn't qualified to lead a scout troop, much less be trusted to staff and run a government. He railed against cronyism as a candidate, then packed his staff with his henchmen. There's the door, just hope it's a double-wide.
John Santaella January 15, 2014 at 06:16 AM
Mr. Christie says he has 68,000 people working for him and he doesn't know what they are all doing. Fine, but two of them worked directly for him and he should have known what THEY were doing. If he didn't then he should quit this job as he can't handle it much less the one he is seeking. For the record I believe he knew what these two were doing.

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