TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is going on the offensive after a former loyalist said he has evidence the Republican governor knew more than he has admitted about an apparently politically motivated traffic jam ordered by one of his staffers last year.
The governor’s political team sent an email Saturday to donors, along with columnists and pundits who might be in a position to defend Christie, bashing the man Christie put in a top post at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the accusations the man’s lawyer made in a letter Friday.
The email says the former Port Authority official, David Wildstein, “will do and say anything to save David Wildstein.”
The action from Christie’s supporters comes as Republicans are debating the implications of the scandal that this year has surrounded the administration of the possible 2016 presidential contender. It was sent at a moment when Christie is in the spotlight with his state hosting today’s Super Bowl.
Christie’s team criticizes the initial report Friday about lawyer Alan Zegas’ letter as “sloppy reporting,” noting that Wildstein did not present any proof to back up the claims that his lawyer made. The note also denies that Christie knew about the traffic jam or its political motive until after it was over and bashes Wildstein on a variety of fronts, characterizing him as a litigious teenager, a controversial mayor and for his past career as an anonymous political blogger.
The email, headlined “5 Things You Should Know about the Bombshell That’s Not a Bombshell” was obtained by the Associated Press and confirmed by Christie’s office. It was first reported by Politico.
A lawyer for Wildstein, who was the first of four people with Christie connections to lose a job because of the scandal, did not immediately respond to emails from the AP on Saturday.
The implications of the scandal for Christie have become a source of debate not just for Democrats but also for Republicans.
Some said the accusations could derail hopes of Christie running for president if he can’t shake the scandal soon, while others were quick to express faith in the governor while discrediting his accuser and questioning his motives.
“It’s not good for him,” said Matt Beynon, a Republican operative who worked on former Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign and still has him as a client. “The longer the story goes on, the worse it gets for him. If this is still an issue a year from now, he’s going to have trouble pulling the trigger. ... Gov. Christie will have to think long and hard about running.”
But Ken Langone, a co-founder of Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc. and a staunch Christie supporter, expressed no such reservations.
“I have complete faith and trust that the governor is telling the truth, and I continue to believe that he would be a superb president if he were elected in the future,” Langone said.