In his first interview since a jury found two of his former allies guilty of shutting down lanes on the George Washington Bridge in a politically-motivated revenge plot, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said the verdict proved he had no hand in the “stupid” Bridgegate scheme.
Christie told CBS’s Charlie Rose that former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former Port Authority official Bill Baroni went rogue with their 2013 plan to create days of gridlock in the town of Fort Lee, and kept him in the dark. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers in the high-profile case argued that Christie knew about the plot as it unfolded.
“The jury confirmed what I thought on January 9, 2014, nearly three years ago,” Christie said. “I had 24 hours to make decisions back then. And I felt there were three people responsible: David Wildstein, Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly.
Baroni and Kelly were both found guilty on fraud and conspiracy charges Friday, while Wildstein, another former Port Authority appointee, struck a plea deal with the federal government for his central role in the plot.
Rose asked the governor if the scandal still reflected badly on him since he hired the individuals at the heart of it.
“I thought about this in the last week. I’ve had 25 people serve on my senior staff over seven years, and had one person who didn’t get it,” he said, referring to Kelly. “One out of 25. So I don’t think it says anything about me. I think it says everything about that person.”
Asked why she did it, Christie said he didn’t know but that it was “one of the most abjectly stupid things I’ve ever seen.”
The governor repeated his long-held claim that he was never informed about the gridlock in Fort Lee or the political motivation behind it until internal emails from his aides were made public on Jan. 9, 2014.
“If they would have told me that, ‘Hey, we’re creating traffic in the George Washington Bridge in order to punish the mayor for not endorsing you’ I would have remembered that. And they never said that,” Christie said.
“By the way, Charlie, I think this is a really important point: In the whole trial no one, not even Bridget Kelly, Bill Baroni or David Wildstein, ever testified that anyone ever said to me that this was an act of political retribution,” he went on.”
Yet Kelly testified that she told Christie that Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, was concerned that the traffic jam was an act of “government retribution” on the fourth day of the lane closures.
Kelly also testified that she spoke to Christie repeatedly about the gridlock on the bridge while it was underway, and Wildstein testified that he and Baroni bragged to the governor about the “tremendous” amount of traffic in Fort Lee three days into the closures. According to Wildstein, they joked with Christie about Sokolich’s frantic phone calls going unanswered.
Baroni’s lawyer, Michael Baldassare, said the interview proved that Christie was “ignorant” of the information laid out during the seven-week trial.
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Christie seemed unconcerned by the damage the scandal has done to his political career.
He told CBS that Donald Trump, whose transition team he leads, never asked him outright to serve as his vice president and that Bridgegate was not brought up as the reason why.
“You’d have to ask Donald Trump. But Donald Trump didn’t call me and say, ‘You’re not gonna be vice president because of Bridgegate,’” Christie said.
The governor, whose approval rating in New Jersey currently stands at an all-time low of 21 percent, declined to rule out a future run for office.
“You never say never in this life,” Christie said.
Watch video of the interview below via CBS: