Andrew Kelly / Reuters
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sits on stage during the Super Bowl hand-off ceremony on Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square, as part of the Super Bowl lead up in New York, Feb, 1, 2014.
An email from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office Saturday launched a double-barreled attack against the former ally who ordered the September bridge closures and The New York Times for publishing his allegations that Christie knew of them at the time.
“Bottom line – David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein,” the email, obtained by NBC News Saturday afternoon, concluded.
Wildstein, the Port Authority official who actually ordered the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge last year, set off a political storm Friday over precisely when Christie learned about the controversial incident.
In a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a lawyer for Wildstein said “evidence exists 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 a Jan. 9 news conference at which he apologized for the scandal, Christie said, “I first found out about it after it was over.”
Later on Friday, Christie’s office released a statement saying Wildstein’s letter, in fact, “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 email revealed Saturday, a markedly more aggressive response, not only strongly states that Christie was not involved in the controversy dubbed Bridgegate, but also attacks Wildstein’s character.
“As he has said repeatedly, Governor Christie had no involvement, knowledge or understanding of the real motives behind David Wildstein’s scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge,” the email reads.
It then goes on to describe Wildstein as a “tumultuous” figure.
“In David Wildstein’s past, people and newspaper accounts have described him as ‘tumultuous’ and someone who ‘made moves that were not productive,'” the email reads. “David Wildstein has been publicly asking for immunity since the beginning, been held in contempt by the New Jersey legislature for refusing to testify, failed to provide this so-called ‘evidence’ when he was first subpoenaed by the NJ Legislature and is looking for the Port Authority to pay his legal bills.”
“A media firestorm was set off by sloppy reporting from the New York Times and their suggestion that there was actually ‘evidence’ when it was a letter alleging that ‘evidence exists,'” the email reads.
Wildstein’s letter was first reported Friday by the Times.
Christie’s office on Saturday declined to comment on the memo, while Wildstein’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark on Friday met privately with the chief lawyer for New Jersey lawmakers investigating the bridge traffic jams and requested that the panel not take any steps that might interfere with its criminal probe, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Christie — who’s considered a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — has repeatedly denied having ordered the closing of two of three local access lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., to the bridge, which is one of the busiest in the world. The closing froze traffic for four days — allegedly in retaliation over the mayor’s refusal to endorse him in the 2013 governor’s race.