Following allegations made Friday by an attorney for former Port Authority official David Wildstein regarding the closure of George Washington Bridge lanes, Gov. Chris Christie’s office issued a cool-headed denial.
But Team Christie has since gone on the offensive, according to an email obtained by Politico. The message, purportedly sent Saturday from Christie’s office to the governor’s allies, is titled “5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That’s Not A Bombshell” and slams Wildstein, who was appointed to his former post by Christie and attended high school with the governor.
Largely written in numbered and bullet point lists, the email concludes with the bolded statement, “Bottom line - David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein.”
The email also asserts that, “as a 16-year-old kid, [Wildstein] sued over a local school board election” and that Wildstein “was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.”
Other claims include that Wildstein “had a controversial tenure as Mayor of Livingston,” anonymously blogged under the pseudonym Wally Edge and “had a strange habit of registering web address for other people’s names without telling them.”
The back-and-forth stems from the September closure of two access lanes of the busy George Washington Bridge, which caused four days of gridlock in the town of Fort Lee, N.J. and led to speculation the shutdown may have been a form of political payback. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich did not endorse Christie in his bid for governor.
Wildstein, who facilitated the closures, resigned from his Port Authority post as the scandal brewed and was ordered to appear before an investigative panel of New Jersey state law makers. Wildstein three weeks ago pleaded the fifth during a hearing held by the panel. One of Christie's aides was fired after also being implicated in the closings.
A letter released Friday from Wildstein’s lawyer, Alan Zegas, called the decision to close the lanes “the Christie administration’s order.” The attorney also wrote “evidence exists” Christie knew about the shutdown at the time the lanes were closed and that Wildstein "contests the accuracy of various statements that the Governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some."
Christie's office responded Friday with a statement that Zegas confirmed "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."
The email purportedly sent Saturday reasserts those claims but criticizes Wildstein more harshly, stating that “people and newspaper accounts” have in the past described him as “'tumultuous’ and someone who ‘made moves that were not productive.’”
“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 reads.
Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.
Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.