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Ex-loyalist contradicts Christie on shutdown of bridge lanes

One of the key players in a scandal surrounding Chris Christie accused the New Jersey governor on Friday of lying about his role.

David Wildstein, a former Christie appointee who presided over the George Washington Bridge lane closures at the center of the controversy, said through a letter from his attorney 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."

The accusation was denied by the office of Christie, a possible Republican presidential hopeful.

Wildstein is the first Christie ally to publicly question the governor's account, and his claim could further damage Christie as he tries to restore his image amid aggressive investigations by Democratic lawmakers and a federal prosecutor.

Also Friday, Bill Stepien, a longtime political adviser to Christie, said he would refuse to testify before the state legislative committee investigating the episode — raising the possibility that more damaging information could emerge.

Wildstein, who attended the same high school as Christie, was hired with the governor's blessing to a position at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge.

In September, Wildstein and another of Christie's top appointees at the Port Authority ordered the lane closures, causing four days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., apparently as retribution against the town's mayor for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

Wildstein resigned in December.

"Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he could prove the accuracy of some," wrote his attorney, Alan Zegas.

Wildstein gave almost no details about what he is asserting is untrue in Christie's accounts. And he said nothing about what the important evidence is, or who has it. That made it hard to judge what role Wildstein's letter would play in the investigations.

During a news conference in January, Christie said he had only recently learned that the closures had been ordered by his administration.

"I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over," Christie said then.

Ex-loyalist contradicts Christie on shutdown of bridge lanes 01/31/14 [Last modified: Saturday, February 1, 2014 12:54am]
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