August 11, 2016
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie found himself in the middle of a maelstrom Wednesday afternoon following the release of court documents that included a damning text message from a former aide about the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal.
In the midst of a vacation, Christie was stopped by several reporters in New York on Wednesday after he appeared donning a Mets t-shirt on WFAN's "Boomer and Carton Show." As he has done throughout the Bridgegate investigation, Christie vehemently denied any involvement and dismissed the new information as an insignificant "email" presented by the defense.
The latest wave of scrutiny surrounds Christine Renna, who was once an employee of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff. During a Dec. 2013 news conference to address the widening scandal, Renna wrote that Christie "just flat out lied" to a reporter about whether he had spoken to senior members of his staff and political team concerning their possible knowledge of the lane closures.
“Are you listening? He just flat out lied about senior staff and (former deputy chief of staff Bill) Stepien not being involved,” Renna wrote to Pete Sheridan, the New Jersey Republican Party's deputy executive director and a former staffer on Christie's reelection team. "He lied. And if emails are found with the subpoena of (campaign) emails are uncovered in discovery if it come to that it could be bad.”
Christie claimed he had already cleared the issue campaign manager Bill Stepian, who lost his boss's confidence for several reasons including a romantic relationship with Kelly, his eventual replacement.
This is not the first time incriminating correspondence has surfaced in the Bridgegate case. Emails released in 2014 showed that on Aug. 13, 2013, Kelly wrote to Wildstein: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
To date, three people have been indicted in the lane closure investigation.
Christie ally David Wildstein pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, acknowledging that he used a "traffic study" as a front for the lane closures. Kelly and former Port Authority Deputy Director Bill Baroni face nine criminal counts for their alleged involvement in a scheme prosecutors say was intended to punish Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who refused to endorse Christie's re-election bid.
Wednesday's revelations came as attornies representing Kelly and Baroni questioned the admissibility of text messages and other evidence in the federal case, which goes to trial in September.
In response to Renna's text message, the former co-chairs of a legislative committee to investigate Bridgegate have called on the New Jersey Attorney General's Office to determine whether she should be charged for deleting the communication.