January 31st, 2014
08:31 PM ET

Ex-Official: Chris Christie knew about bridge lane closures

The New York Times says there's "evidence" New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate knew about the lane closures on the George Washington bridge - the scandal threatening his political career.

The big question is: Where is the proof?

The headline the New York Times first posted Friday read: "Christie Knew About Lane Closings, Ex-Port Authority Official Says"

That headline implies, he knew about them before they happened. Now, they've toned that down to:

"Ex-Port Authority Official Says 'Evidence Exists' Christie Knew About Lane Closings".

The implication relies on the two and a half page letter from Steve Wildstein's attorney. Wildstein is the man at the center of Bridgegate.

The now former Port Authority official, David Wildstein authorized the lane closures allegedly to punish a local mayor for not endorsing Christie in the governor's race. The Times cites a letter written by Wildstein's attorney describing the move to shut down the lanes.

Here is the key part of the letter:

"It has also come to light that a person within the Christie administration communicated the Christie administration's order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge were to be closed, and evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear before the Transportation Committee."

The Christie administration initially said the lane closures were part of a traffic study, which has since been called into question by e-mails suggesting key advisers carried them out.

Lawyer for scandal figure: 'Evidence' disputes Christie on bridge lane closures

"I knew nothing about this," Christie said at the press conference. "And until it started to be reported in the papers about the closure, but even then I was told this was a traffic study. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning, or its execution or anything about it."

There are two big questions.

Did the governor know about the lane closures before they happened? And did he order their closing?

A source in the governor's office tells CNN's Erin Burnett that Christie stands behind what he said at that press conference. The source says categorically that while the governor has not been specific about the exact date he learned about the lane closures, he heard about them through press reports.

The source says Christie stands by his earlier remarks that he did not direct Wildstein to close the lanes and he knew nothing about the closures prior to the event.

So is this latest development damaging to Christie?

OutFront: Political analyst Steve Adubato and CNN political analyst Paul Begala.

Filed under: Bridge Scandal • Chris Christie • News • Politics
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