When David Wildstein, a Chris Christie-appointed official at the Port Authority, pleaded the Fifth during a hearing about the bridge-closure scandal earlier this month, speculation abounded that he had something to hide. Now, according to a letter from his lawyer, it looks like he did.
The letter, obtained by The New York Times, suggests that the order to close the bridge was “the Christie administration’s order” and that “evidence exists as well 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 letter, published by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, Wildstein’s laywer writes that his client “contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.”
Christie responded to the letter in a statement late Friday afternoon.
“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 read.
During his marathon press conference on Jan. 9, Gov. Chris Christie said he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the lane closures, and insisted that he only learned of his office’s involvement the same day the public did, through leaked email correspondence, just the day before. “I was blindsided,” he told the reporters.
At a Jan. 9 hearing before the New Jersey Legislature about the scandal, Wildstein refused to answer questions, citing his right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment, which prompted the Legislature to hold him in contempt.
But the point of this letter was not to explain Wildstein’s earlier silence, or even to take a stab at Christie’s denials. Wildstein’s lawyer wrote the letter to contest the Port Authority’s decision to not cover Wildstein’s legal fees as the investigation into the bridge closure continues.
In August, the governor’s deputy chief of staff sent Wildstein a note that read, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein wrote back, “Got it.”
Wildstein resigned from the position of director of Interstate Capital Projects at the Port Authority in December amid growing controversy about the lane closures. “My plan was to leave the agency at some point next year, but the Fort Lee issue has been a distraction, and I think it’s better to move on earlier,” he said at the time.
Shawn Boburg, the Record reporter who broke the original story, told CNN that Wildstein was a longtime Christie confidant, the “eyes and ears inside this massive agency.” Christie’s version of his relationship with Wildstein is anything but. “David and I were not friends in high school,” he said Thursday. “I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.”