Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., has issued one more denial in the ongoing saga over the seemingly politically motivated closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge.
The governor’s office this week said that Christie never talked to a Port Authority police officer now under scrutiny about the lane closures, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports.
The officer in question, Lt. Thomas "Chip" Michaels, reportedly chauffeured former Port Authority official David Wildstein through the traffic-congested streets of the city of Fort Lee during the lane closures. Consequently, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye ordered the agency’s police chief to investigate Michaels’ actions.
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Michaels, who comes from the same New Jersey town in which Christie and Wildstein grew up, previously coached Christie’s son in a youth hockey league, the Star-Ledger notes.
A spokesman for Christie said the governor never spoke with Michaels, nor his brother -- Jeffrey Michaels, a Republican lobbyist and former GOP legislative aide -- about the lane closures.
When the lanes were closed in September, creating massive traffic jams, officials said they were conducting a traffic study. However, a series of communications between a Christie aide and two of his political appointees to the Port Authority suggested the closures were retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who did not endorse Christie for re-election.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Bridget Anne Kelly, one of Christie’s three deputy chiefs of staff, wrote in an Aug. 13 message to Wildstein. "Got it," replied Wildstein, who later resigned as a result of the outburst of anger surrounding the lane closings.
Christie has adamantly denied having anything to do with the lane closures, or even being aware of the closures during the alleged “traffic study.”
Michaels’ involvement in the controversy came under scrutiny because he exchanged text messages with Wildstein, which were included in the documents that Wildstein handed over to a legislative panel investigating the matter.
Portions of the documents were redacted, but a lawyer for the legislative panel has the un-redacted documents and is currently negotiating what should be made part of the committee’s record.
Christie, meanwhile, is continuing his tour of the country fundraising for the GOP. Tuesday evening, the governor kicks off the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s winter meeting in New York City. Last week, the Republican Governors Association said that Christie -- the current chairman of the group -- brought in $6 million in January, more than twice as much as it ever raised during that same month in its history.