Christie: No recollection of aides telling of lane closures

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) " New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie maintained in an interview aired Monday that he has no recollection of any of his aides telling him about lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that were ultimately found to be a political retaliation plot.

Two of Christie's former aides were convicted Friday of causing epic traffic jams near the nation's busiest bridge, a plot that Christie called "one of the most abjectly stupid things I've ever seen."

Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were convicted of scheming with former Christie ally David Wildstein to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing Republican Christie when he ran for re-election in 2013. Wildstein pleaded guilty.

Here are some of the highlights of Christie's first comments since the verdict.

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DID CHRISTIE KNOW MORE THAN HE'S SAID?

Testimony contradicted Christie's statements about when he knew about the four days of gridlock at the base of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee in September 2013.

Wildstein testified that Baroni told Christie about the traffic jam at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York while the gridlock was in progress. He said Christie laughed and made a sarcastic joke when he learned of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's distress over not getting his calls returned.

It was unclear from Wildstein's testimony whether Christie knew then that the mess was manufactured for political reasons. However, Kelly testified she told Christie about Sokolich's concerns about political retaliation during the week of the traffic jams at the bridge, which connects New York and Fort Lee. She said Christie told her that it was a "Port Authority project, let Wildstein handle it."

Christie said Monday that no one testified they told him it was an act of political retribution.

"If they would have told me that they were creating traffic at 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.

Other testimony described some of Christie's top advisers and confidants knowing about the plan ahead of time or soon afterward and being aware of the political motivation well before Christie told reporters in December 2013 that none of his staff was involved.

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ON THE 'ABSOLUTELY STUPID' PLOT

Christie said that he could never figure out why aides would have retaliated against the mayor considering Christie had a large lead.

"I'm pretty good at this political game, I'm up by 25 points in a re-election in a blue state and they decide they're going to create a traffic jam in a town that's a Democrat town that I wound up winning two months later in the election?" Christie said. "Absolutely stupid."

Christie's big edge in the polls notwithstanding, the Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs, headed by Kelly, had spent more than two years before the bridge scandal courting Democratic mayors, even keeping a spreadsheet ranking them on their likelihood to endorse Christie and listing what favors they had received, according to testimony.

Several weeks before the lane closures, Christie's office apparently felt betrayed by Democratic Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who they viewed as a potential endorser. According to Kelly's testimony, the order came from Christie to cancel scheduled meetings with Fulop.

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ON WHAT THE VERDICT SAYS ABOUT HIS MANAGEMENT

Christie said Kelly was "one out of 25" people to serve on his senior staff who "didn't get it."

"So I don't think it says anything about me," he said. "I think it says everything about that person."

One of Christie's closest political allies, David Samson, pleaded guilty this year to using his position as chairman of the Port Authority to get an airline to start a flight so he could have an easier trip to his vacation home. Christie appointed him to the position.

Also, Christie cut ties with his former campaign manager because of his alleged role in the bridge plot. Bill Stepien is now involved in Donald Trump's presidential campaign. So is Christie.

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ON WHETHER BRIDGEGATE COST HIM POLITICALLY

At the time the scandal unfolded, Christie was considered a top presidential contender. Chis campaign failed and Christie said recently the scandal probably influenced Trump's decision not to pick him as a running mate.

Christie is chairman of Trump's transition team, in charge of hiring thousands of employees if he wins the presidency.

Christie said in the interview that he was runner-up to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be Trump's running mate, but that you'd have to ask Trump what role Bridgegate played in him not getting the nod.

Christie's scheduled campaign stops for Trump on Saturday were canceled after the verdict.

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Associated Press Writer David Porter, in Newark, contributed to this report.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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