Kevin O’Dowd, Christie’s chief of staff, entered Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton, as usual by the side entrance, filing through the kitchen and the dining room, where he was surprised to see Gov. Chris Christie sitting huddled in conversation with Bill Stepien, Christie’s campaign manager who had helped the governor pile up a landslide reelection victory the month before.
Christie motioned him over. “Kevin, this bridge issue is still out there,” Christie said. “All the noise on political retribution is still out there. This is a major distraction. I need you to talk to Bridget Kelly and ask her whether or not she had anything to do with closing the lanes."
It was just before 11 a.m. on December 12th, the day before the pivotal press conference at which Christie would proclaim that no one on his staff had any knowledge of the George Washington Bridge lane closures -- a claim Christie would be forced to recant less than a month later in abroadcast nationwide.
It marked the beginning of a critical 30-hour period during which Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni would be fired, Kelly would be questioned, and Christie and O’Dowd would have one last opportunity to learn the truth about Bridgegate before Kelly’s explosivewould take the initiative out of their hands and unleash a media feeding frenzy that would threaten Christie’s national ambitions and sidetrack O’Dowd’s nomination as attorney general.