New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held a two hour news briefing on yesterday in which he apologized to the citizens of Fort Lee, NJ for the inconvenience experienced due to the lane closure in September. Unfortunately The George Washington Bridge is part of the I-95 corridor and is used by more than just the citizens of Fort Lee.
In his news briefing Christie stated that he had fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly because she lied to him in regard to having any knowledge or involvement in the lane closure. He also asked Bill Stepien who managed his two gubernatorial campaigns to withdraw his name from consideration of becoming the head of the New Jersey Republican Party. Steipen's name surfaced in the emails generated by Kelly to the Port Authority giving the go ahead with causing the traffic problems in Fort Lee.
The George Washington Bridge is the most traveled bridge in the world. It is also under constant scrutiny as a possible target from a terrorist attack. It is also a heavily traveled route for truckers going into the New England states. Truckers pay an average of $50 for the privilege to cross the bridge and time is of the essence due to limited hours to drive and few places to pull over and wait out the traffic jam.
In Christie's news briefing he made it clear that he had not taken the situation seriously until he was made aware of the emails by Kelly becoming public in a local newspaper on Wednesday. It was then according to Christie that he knew that Kelly had lied to him and requested he resignation.
The George Washington Bridge is in a unique jurisdiction because it crosses a state line. That uniqueness puts the bridge's oversight under the Port Authority which covers parts of New York and New Jersey. It is also this uniqueness that puts the bridge under the jurisdiction of the federal government that covers interstate commerce (ICC). That in essence made the politically motivated scandal a federal crime.
David Wildstein who was a high school classmate of Christie and a former executive with the Port Authority appeared before state legislators Wednesday and pleaded the 5th Amendment on everything except the spelling of his name and the fact that he was presently unemployed. He was the recipient of the email from Kelly saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
The executive, David Wildstein, replied: "Got it."
The passage of the Patriot Act following the attack on Sept. 11, 2001 made some specific laws regarding the term "Domestic Terrorist." One of those qualifiers was the interference with mass transportation. One of the most least understood qualifiers has to do with interfering with the operation of a business. Not being a constitutional scholar I'm not going to attempt to define the statues here. But when the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys office get involved in what seemingly was a political prank, Chris Christie is going to have to do a lot more than talk for two hours and change his story every time he opens his mouth.