TRENTON, N.J. — A political furor surrounding Gov. Chris Christie intensified Wednesday with the release of emails and text messages that suggest one of his top aides deliberately created traffic jams in a New Jersey town last September to punish its mayor.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly wrote in August to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“Got it,” Wildstein replied. A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City.
The shutdown caused major backups in Fort Lee — whose mayor had refused to endorse Christie for re-election last fall.
The messages, obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations Wednesday amid a state legislative investigation into the dirty-tricks allegations, do not directly implicate Christie in the lane closings.
But they contradict Christie’s assertions that the closings were not punitive and that his staff was not involved. And Democrats seized on the material as more evidence that the potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 is a bully.
The messages “indicate what we’ve come to expect from Gov. Christie — when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his administration, he bullies and attacks,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich called it “appalling” that the traffic jams appear to have been engineered.
“When it’s man-made and when it was done with venom and when it was done intentionally, it is, in my mind, the prime example of political pettiness,” he said. He said the gridlock put people in danger by holding up emergency vehicles, and he added that those responsible should resign.
While Sokolich is a Democrat, Christie sought bipartisan support during his re-election campaign to bolster his image as a pragmatic leader willing to work with his political opponents.
Neither Kelly nor the governor’s office had any immediate comment. Christie abruptly postponed a morning event after the emails were made public.
Democratic state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who has been leading the investigation, said the material in the documents is “shocking” and “outrageous” and calls into question the honesty of the governor and his staff.
The traffic jams occurred between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13. Port Authority officials later said the closings were part of a traffic study. But no study has been produced.