Christie attacks former friend who said he knew of bridge lane closings
With his career - and perhaps his freedom - on the line, Govneror Chris Christie attacked his former high school friend who he appointed to the Port Authority of New York, and who said in a letter that Christie knew at the time of the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after a low-key initial response to Friday's explosive allegations about his involvement in a bridge-closing scandal, mounted an aggressive defense late Saturday afternoon, attacking The New York Times and a former political ally in an email to friends and allies obtained by POLITICO.
"Bottom line - David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein," the email from the governor's office says, referring to the former appointee who reignited the controversy.
A letter from Wildstein's lawyer, Alan L. Zegas of Chatham, N.J., asserted Friday that "evidence exists ... 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."
The subject line of the 700-word email from the governor's office is: "5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That's Not A Bombshell." It offers a harshly negative portrayal of Wildstein's character and judgment.
The Christie camp begins by criticizing The Times for its initial characterization of the Wildstein letter: "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.'"
The Times' original story said that Wildstein claimed "he had the evidence to prove it," while later versions stuck to his lawyer's vaguer "evidence exists" formulation.
In a statement Saturday night, the Times said: "We regularly update web stories for clarity as we did in this case. We do not note changes unless it involves an error."
Wildstein's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
It's never a good idea to attack an entity that buys printers' ink by the railroad tank car. But Christie has to go on the offensive or it's over for him.
I would say if there was a close friendship there, this should end it rather abruptly:
Then, it gets personal. "In David Wildstein's past, people and newspaper accounts have described him as 'tumultuous' and someone who 'made moves that were not productive,'" the email continues. "David Wildstein has been publicly asking for immunity since the beginning, been held in contempt by the New Jersey legislature for refusing to testify, failed to provide this so-called 'evidence' when he was first subpoenaed by the NJ Legislature and is looking for the Port Authority to pay his legal bills."
The email dips far back into Wildstein's past to buttress its portrayal of him, even alleging that "He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior."
What does it say about his judgment that he appointed someone of questionable character to such an important job? I'm sure that question, and a lot more, will be asked at Christie's next presser. His answers will be compared to those he gave a few weeks ago and poured over for any discrepancies. Since he's human, there are bound to be a few. And then another feeding frenzy will erupt and calls for him to step down will become even louder.
At this point, I'd say the odds are against Christie that he can survive. But the former prosecutor is a fighter and if he is forced out, he won't go quietly nor will he leave without his opponents knowing they were in a war.