January 8th, 2014
07:12 PM ET
9 years ago

Fort Lee mayor questions Christie's involvement in 'venomous' bridge closures

(CNN) - Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mayor Mark Sokolich on Wednesday questioned Gov. Chris Christie's involvement in the New Jersey bridge scandal, calling the closing of access lanes connecting his town to the George Washington Bridge a "venomous form of political retaliation."

After emails emerged tying a top Christie aide to the lane closures, Christie said in a statement that, "what I've seen today is unacceptable," and that he knew nothing about what had transpired. But Sokolich told CNN in an interview on "The Situation Room" that the emails revealed Wednesday suggesting political motives behind the closures has led him to believe the Christie is more clued in to the controversy than he's admitting.

"As this story continues and as things begin to unravel, with emails, the actions of counterparts, resignations, engagement of defense counsel, that position becomes more and more difficult to understand, more and more difficult to comprehend, and quite frankly more and more difficult to believe," the mayor told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

E-mails among Christie appointees suggest political vendetta

"I'm actually rooting that the highest elected official in the state of New Jersey isn't involved in this but I will tell you, I'm beginning to question my judgment,” he added.

Christie, considered a likely candidate for president in 2016, initially said the closures were a part of a mishandled traffic study and denied the action was a form of payback against the Democratic mayor, whose town holds the traffic lanes feeding into the nation's busiest bridge, which crosses the Hudson River.

Emails between Christie’s top aides obtained by CNN and other news outlets indicate officials in Christie’s administration intentionally closed access lanes in Fort Lee on the first day of school last year. If the emails prove to be accurate, they would bolster Democrats' suspicions that the closures were politically driven and an act of retribution against Sokolich for his failure to endorse Christie's reelection.

"This is absolutely the lowest level of political venom that you could possibly even make up. It's a surreal experience," Sokolich said, adding that there should be a federal investigation into the issue over the closure's effect on interstate commerce.

The emails, the mayor said, prompted him to get involved in the fight, saying his biggest concern is more political retribution when the media stops covering this issue. He also predicted resignations as a result of the emails.

"Now not to speak is an abdication of my responsibility to the folks who put me in office. I'm actually ashamed."

"It's not even remotely acceptable to do what you did. It is the lowest, more venomous form of political retaliation and this in a time when New Jersey needs this like we need a hole in the head," he said.

Sokolich said Christie has yet to reach out to him to apologize, though he insists Christie's efforts should go towards the people of Fort Lee who were affected by the closures.

“Don’t call me, but call the families who were waiting three, four times longer for emergency services when their loved ones were having heart palpitations or when their loved ones had extreme chest pains and were waiting or our ambulance corps to arrive," he said.

"Do me a favor, call and apologize to thousands of families whose kids were late for the first day of school and the three or four days that ensued thereafter. Call our police department. Call our administrators in the school system that had to deal with this. Call the folks that h ad to deal with traffic Armageddon that week. Don’t call me.”

The mayor said that if Christie didn't know of his aides actions then he questions the governor's judgment to put these "reckless" people in his administration. And while he couldn't assess the potential damage this would have on Christie's possible presidential aspirations but "it certainly can't be good."

Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Smitty

    this guy and I agree, but the same goes for the BIGGEST LIAR OF THE YEAR, If you didn't know you should of Same with Obammy who claims to know nothing. Just another lie from another politician.

    January 8, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  2. justiceforall

    If this was done by an ordinary citizen, would he have been arrested for a domestic terrorist act upon the citizens of Fort Lee?

    January 8, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  3. Chris Smith

    Doesn't anyone in the media realize this is the newest political scandal.....Toll Gate! Only in NY/NJ! Which is where so many toll gates are found anyway.

    January 8, 2014 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |

    As a former resident of New Jersey (for 16 LONG years), I can say without hesitation that this type of behavior is all too typical in the garden state. If it's true, this type of retaliation comes as no surprise to me. Politics in the garden state has a terrible reputation and it is well-deserved. That said, I can't imagine Christie himself giving the order to close the access roads. I can, however, very easily imagine a staffer and/or someone from within the republican party giving the order but it makes ZERO sense. If the Ft Lee mayor was some crazy tea party nut who didn't back Christie because he is a 'RINO", then retaliation would not be so far-fetched but the mayor is a DEMOCRAT. Granted, northeast politics is not the insane inbred cesspool of wacko nuttiness that you find in other parts of the country (moderates on both sides and independants will cross party lines for candidate endorsements). However, Christie is a very high-profile guy who clearly has national political aspirations. In this specific situation, If the mayor backed him, it would be political suicide.

    January 8, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  5. Gurgyl

    He is a silly guy. NJ is crazy to elect.

    January 8, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  6. sly

    oh well, a big Republican problem now ... Cruz eliminated himself when he vowed to 'shut down America', and the ObeseOne is now milk toast "I was misfed"

    January 8, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    Gov Christie's aides should be prosecuted for this dirty and dangerous political prank. They may be willing to make a deal with the prosecutor for a lesser sentence by incriminating their boss.

    January 8, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  8. joe800

    This has the culture of Christie written all over it. He's a bully and clearly that bully mentality is part of his peoples ethos. This is exactly the type of GOP behavior that is seen in Congress. Way to go...

    January 8, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  9. davecu

    Does this New Jersey politician, that no one outside of Hudson County ever heard of, have an agenda?

    Have your investigation, hold nothing back, and let's see where this takes us.

    January 8, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  10. sam

    Shame on you Gov. Christie! Im glad I dont live in the State of Repulican New Jersey Fort Lee Mayor and Democrats Unite!!!!!

    January 8, 2014 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  11. Ross

    Chris Christie's chances for a presidential bid just went out the window, I'm afraid.
    If anyone of us shut down a bridge, we would be standing before a judge.
    ...and on the first day of school too, increasing the odds for school bus accidents, just for political revenge.
    It's sad how low some people would sink.

    January 8, 2014 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  12. ladies first

    Who authorized the shutdown of the bridge? YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

    January 8, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  13. Kevin

    We know that Christie has already lied twice about what he knew, and when. First, he laughed it off as a "traffic study." Two staffers quit the day after. Now, today, he claims that this is the first he heard of it? This story's going much, much higher.

    January 8, 2014 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  14. Howard

    Even if he didn't know, doesn't Christie bear some responsibility for the people he surrounds himself with? The voters didn't elect those aides; Christie chose them. If Watergate taught us anything, it is that rotten ethics start at the top rather than working their way up from the bottom.

    January 8, 2014 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  15. Larry L

    The 2016 Republican Clown Car may now have room for two more clowns...

    January 9, 2014 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  16. Marie MD

    The bully at work with what he does best . . . . intimidation and pay back.
    He's toast not that he ever was a real contender for the rest of the country, probably even his own state.

    January 9, 2014 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  17. johnc

    You'd think this would be simple. If Ms Kelly et al was really stupid and ugly enough to have concocted and executed the lane closures, fire them. But she didn't get to an elevated political position by being stupid. What else happened?

    January 9, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  18. Blaine Stevens

    When I was in the Navy, the actions of any member of the ship's crew that would put ship operations in jeopardy was just cause for the Captain to be removed from command for failed leadership. I think the same should apply here to Gov. Christie.

    January 9, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |