Gov. Christie's Denials Haven't Placated Feds
(CN) - An investigation is under way into the traffic lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, federal prosecutors confirmed Thursday as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denied any involvement in the scheming of his top aides.
Christie's former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and Port Authority executive David Wildstein exchanged gleeful emails about apparently causing lane closures this past fall as political retribution against a mayor in Fort Lee who refused to endorse Christie, as reported by several news outlets on Wednesday.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly wrote in an Aug. 13 email.
Weeks later, Wildstein wrote, "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian," referring to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Croat.
Their machinations apparently led to the stanch of access to the George Washington Bridge toll plaza that Fort Lee experienced from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12, 2013, when two of the three available lanes were closed.
In one instance, the gridlock stopped an emergency vehicle from reaching an unconscious 91-year-old woman who later died, the Bergen Record reported.
The paper's editorial called Thursday morning, the day after it revealed the explosive emails, for federal and New York officials to investigate the matter.
Christie appointed New Jersey's attorney general, the paper noted.
The U.S. Attorney's Office of Newark confirmed that the matter was referred to it by the Port Authority Office of Inspector General.
"Our office is reviewing it to determine whether a federal law was implicated," U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael said in a statement.
Carmichael did not indicate which statutes she believed might apply.
The New York Attorney General will not be looking into the matter, a spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, Christie insisted during a two-hour press conference Thursday morning that he did "not understand the true nature of the problem" until the bridge scandal made widespread headlines on Wednesday.
He said that the controversy made him lose two nights of sleep, even though the revelations only have been public for one day.
At the conference, Christie also announced that he fired Kelly and denied knowing Wildstein, whom The New York Times reported was Christie's close friend from high school.
Christie likewise distanced himself from Sokolich, saying the man's "name was never mentioned to me."
"This can't have anything to do with politics," Christie said. "I don't even know this guy."
Sokolich did not immediately respond to a request for comment.