The New York Times with the latest break in the the bridge scandal that has threated Gov. Chris Christie's presidential ambitions—and it appears to be a big one:
The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that “evidence exists” the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening.
In a letter released by his lawyer, the former official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “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” three weeks ago.
“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him, and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.
To be clear, the letter does not say what exactly the evidence is, but nonetheless is the strongest suggestion to date that Christie knew what was going on while the closures were taking place. The governor has steadfastly maintained that he only found out this month that anyone in his administration was responsible for the September closures.
Wildstein, for those who need the refresher, was the official who responded "Got it" in a reply to an email from Christie's since-ousted deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, who had told Wildstein that it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." He and Christie were also reportedly at the same place at the same time—for a public event at the World Trade Center—during the third day of the closures, and well after the traffic jams had triggered outrage among local officials. That report appeared to contradict Christie's contention during his press conference that he had not encountered Wildstein "in a long time." He added then: "You know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I've had with David since he worked at the Port Authority."
Update 6:05 p.m.: Christie's official statement: “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. As the Governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th. The Governor denies Mr. Wildstein's lawyer's other assertions.”
This post has been updated.