Head of panel investigating bridge lane closures said it's "not credible" that Gov. Chris Christie was unaware of plot.
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie claims no involvement in "Bridgegate" despite spending hours with his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, on the day Kelly was receiving messages related to the shutdown of George Washington Bridge lanes.
The head of the New Jersey Assembly panel investigating the politically motivated lane closures said that's a reason Christie's claim to have been unaware of the plot is "not credible."
Kelly, fired by Christie last week, was the one who gave the code red shutdown order to a Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, saying it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
With the traffic jams in place, Kelly spent time on her personal e-mail account receiving messages from authority officials on what to tell reporters on Sept. 12, the day she later accompanied Christie in response to the Seaside Heights, N.J., boardwalk fire.
"She spent the rest of the day with the governor at the fire scene at the Seaside boardwalk," Assemblyman John Wisniewski said Sunday in an appearance on Face The Nation on CBS. "This senior aide, who was with him that day, who sent the order, never once communicated with him? It's unbelievable.''
Wisniewski, a Middlesex County Democrat who is chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, also said impeachment of Christie is possible if it can be proved the Republican governor had direct involvement or participation in the lane closures.
The most recent impeachment of a U.S. governor occurred in 2009 when the Illinois House voted 117-1 to oust Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges.
Christie's press office did not respond to request for comment.
Bridgegate has put Christie in a tight spot heading into his State of the State address Tuesday and his inauguration speech next week, said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
"We should remember that Gov. Christie enjoyed a stellar 65% job-approval rating in the December Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll. Nothing that came out last week is going to totally wipe out that positive view," said Murray. "Our polling all along has shown that few New Jerseyans have a problem with the 'bullying' aspect of the governor's personality. The real question is the degree to which his integrity has taken a hit."
Wisniewski also said Sunday using public property for political purposes is a crime. The lane closures in September have appeared to be an effort by Christie's team to tie up traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., over four days in September in a plot to punish the town's Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, according to e-mails and text messages made public last week.
"The Assembly has the ability to do articles of impeachment" if necessary, said Wisniewski, who added, "We're way ahead of that, though.''
Subpoenaed documents show involvement of multiple Christie aides, including Regina Egea, then director of the authorities unit, who was promoted last month to become Christie's chief of staff.
On Sept. 9 Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, complained in an e-mail that the closures created "dangers to the public interest." That message was forward by Christie loyalist Bill Baroni, deputy director of the Port Authority, to Egea three hours after Foye's complaint. Foye is an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"I don't think it's credible for a governor to have his chief of staff, his communication director, his deputy chief of staff, his chief counsel, all involved in e-mail communications on the day this took place and the days after, talking to not only the problems that were created in Fort Lee but also talking about how to spin it to the press. I don't think it's possible for all of those people to be involved and know and for the governor to absolutely have no communication," Wisniewski said.