It’s the cliche scandal question: what did he know and when did he know it? But it’s an important one for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
As the George Washington Bridge scandal has unfolded, Christie has several times addressed questions about when he learned about the closures. His answers, or at least their emphasis, has evolved over time.
Take a look:
Dec. 13, 2013 press conference:
At a press conference on Dec. 13, Christie addressed testimony about the lane closings given by Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority.
“When you listen to Mr. Foye’s testimony … he said he didn’t know about it until Friday,” Christie said, alluding to the fact that the lanes were first closed on a Monday, according to a transcript from the Associated Press. “Now, he’s the executive director of the Port Authority. […] If the traffic was so awful, no one brought it to his attention until the fifth day in. So if it didn’t get to the executive director of the Port Authority, you can guarantee it didn’t get to me. And, factually, it didn’t get to me.”
“The first I ever heard about the issue was when it was reported in the press, which I think was in the aftermath of the leaking of Mr. Foye’s email,” Christie also said, apparently referring to an Oct. 1 Wall Street Journal article. “I think that was the first I heard of it, but it was certainly well after the whole thing was over before I heard about it.”
Jan. 9, 2014 press conference:
Following the release of the first batch of subpoenaed documents related to the investigation — including his close aide’s infamous “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email — Christie held a marathon press conference, where he declared that he had been “blindsided” by the revelations.
Several times during that press conference, Christie addressed when he first learned about the lane closures.
“I don’t know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over,” Christie said at one point, according to a transcript from The Washington Post. “And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study. And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday that was brought to my attention or anybody else’s attention.”
“I knew nothing about this,” Christie also said. “And until it started to be reported in the papers about the closure, but even then I was told this was a traffic study.”
Later, speaking about his former aide Bridge Kelly — the sender of the “traffic problems” email — Christie said that she had been given “no prior approval.”
“She had no prior approval from the chief of staff, who was her direct report,” Christie said. “And she had no prior approval from the governor. She did not seek it. We weren’t informed about it. And so if she acted in a manner which exceeded her authority, which seems, you know, to be a possibility, you know, that’s what she did. But I had no knowledge of this and neither did the chief of staff.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Christie also said that he first learned of the issue earlier than the Oct. 1 article about Foye’s email.
“It wasn’t when Pat Foye’s emails — I think there was an earlier story than that,” Christie said.
Jan. 31, 2014 statement:
Christie’s office put out a statement responding to a letter released by the lawyer for former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive David Wildstein. (“Evidence exists as well,” the letter stated, “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.”) In the statement, Christie’s office argued that the Wildstein letter somehow confirmed what Christie “has said all along”:
“Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer confirms what the Governor has said all along – he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein’s motivations were for closing them to begin with,” the statement said. “As the Governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th. The Governor denies Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer’s other assertions.”
Feb. 3, 2014 radio interview:
During WKXW’s monthly “Ask The Governor” radio show, Christie said that he had “nothing to do with” the lane closures.
“I had nothing to do with this,” Christie said. “No knowledge, no authority, no planning – nothing to do with this before this decision was made to close these lanes by the Port Authority.”
In Christie’s mind, that should be the focus: whether or not he had prior knowledge about the plan to close the lanes.
“The most important issue is: Did I know anything about a plan to close these lanes?” Christie also said during the program. “Did I authorize it? Did I know about it? Did I approve it? Did I have any knowledge of it beforehand? And the answer is still the same, it’s unequivocally no. And in fact, no one’s ever accused me of that.”