Letter has Chris Christie's 'Bridgegate' woes back on the boil
Reuters in New York
Chris Christie, governor of the US state of New Jersey, knew about politically motivated traffic jams as they happened, a former official has claimed, reigniting a scandal that has taken a toll on the prominent Republican.
The claim, in a letter from a lawyer for the former official at the agency that oversees the nation's busiest bridge, drew a quick response from Christie, who again denied wrongdoing. It also prompted a top New Jersey newspaper to suggest the governor could face impeachment.
Alan Zegas, lawyer for David Wildstein, who resigned his Port Authority post late last year, said in a letter that his client had proof of the "inaccuracy" of some of Christie's statements about the "Bridgegate" scandal, which polls show is weighing on the governor's chances in a potential 2016 White House bid.
Since the scandal came to light, Christie has denied knowing the cause of the George Washington Bridge lane closings, which occurred after the mayor of Fort Lee declined to endorse him in a re-election bid. The closings caused four days of massive traffic jams in that city.
The letter does not indicate that Christie orchestrated the closures, does not specify exactly when he became aware of the jams, and offers no concrete evidence to back up the claim.
"Mr Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some," the letter said.
Wildstein and Christie attended Livingston High School at the same time, but Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has denied knowing Wildstein well.
One key question was exactly when and how Christie learned of the closures, said Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat. "There aren't enough facts. I'm not rooting for him to know or not to know,' he said. "I will tell you, I remain very, very concerned about it. If it was known at the very tail end, possibly, I'm not sure what this letter means at all."
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who has led the investigation into the lane closures, said: "These are serious allegations, because what Mr Zegas' letter is saying is - you shouldn't believe the governor.
"But we need to see the documents to see whether there's any merit to that claim, to not believe the governor."