Christie's scapegoat strikes back: David Wildstein wants to talk

David Wildstein says "evidence exists" that Christie knew about Bridgegate, says he can prove governor lied

Published January 31, 2014 10:43PM (EST)

Chris Christie stands on stage before being sworn in for his second term as governor in Trenton, New Jersey, January 21, 2014.                           (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
Chris Christie stands on stage before being sworn in for his second term as governor in Trenton, New Jersey, January 21, 2014. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie always goes too far. He couldn’t just talk back to a boardwalk heckler in July 2012, he had to chase the guy and threaten him. He couldn’t just deny knowing about September’s George Washington Bridge lane closings, he had to mock reporters asking about them. ”I worked the cones actually. I was in overalls and a hat, but I was the guy working the cones,” he said, adding, “You’re not really serious with that question.”

And in his press conference to declare he knew nothing about a plot by deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and his Port Authority appointee David Wildstein to create those now-legendary “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie couldn’t just say Wildstein wasn’t a close high school friend, he had to say "David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school " It got worse: “I was the class president and an athlete, I don’t know what David was doing.” Well, actually, David was running the stats for Christie’s high school baseball team, but jocks never remember those nerds.

That’s why “revenge of the nerds” is such a cultural cliché. On Friday the New York Times reported that Wildstein’s lawyer is telling the Port Authority “evidence exists … 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.”

Oh, and contrary to what Christie said about Wildstein? “Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.”

The letter isn’t the smoking gun some thought it was when the Times released it. In fact the paper had to edit its original lead, which reported that the letter said Wildstein had evidence that Christie knew about the lane closures. It’s worded weirdly: “evidence exists.” The only Christie statements the letter says Wildstein can prove are inaccurate are the ones the governor made about Wildstein.

The letter is a big deal nonetheless. It shows, first of all, how aggrieved Wildstein is, and that he’s willing to provide evidence to prove that Christie has lied. Technically, the letter is merely a follow-up seeking immunity from prosecution as well as a Port Authority promise to pay Wildstein’s legal fees. Wildstein’s attorney has already publicly sought immunity for his client, but this is the first public disclosure that he possesses evidence that Christie is lying.

Now, the best case for Christie is that Wildstein can merely prove they were in fact friends – that he produces old photos from high school, the testimony of mutual pals. That would prove Christie is a creep, not corrupt. More likely, though, even if you parse his statement narrowly – that he can prove Christie was lying about Wildstein – he has evidence showing that the governor is lying when he says Wildstein and Kelly acted on their own in the lane closure scandal, and that he didn’t even know about the closures while they were happening.

So it’s still not over for Christie. But now we know David Wildstein is ready to talk and provide evidence that documents that Christie has lied. Lied about what, we’re not sure yet. But there are more than a dozen other Christie associates meeting with their lawyers about their own subpoenas. Not all of them may know as much as Wildstein, and not all of them may be as angry. But there are many more chapters to this story, and Christie is going to be squirming for a while.

Update: Christie's office responds, and goes a little too far:

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. 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.

I don't see how Wildstein's lawyer "confirms" Christie had "absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures." And Christie adds the nice flourish of saying Wildstein closed them "to begin with." Like I said, Christie always goes too far...

By Joan Walsh