Christie Fires Aide, Apologizes for Traffic Jams

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A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the heavily-traveled George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich called it “appalling” that the traffic jams appear to have been deliberately created.

Christie said he would go to Fort Lee on Thursday to apologize to Sokolich.

Beyond the specifics of the lane closures, critics suggest the incident reflects a darker side of Christie’s brand of politics that contradicts the image he’d like to project as he eyes the presidency.

The governor repeatedly sidestepped criticism that he bullied adversaries in an overwhelming re-election victory in November. Facing a little-known and underfunded opponent, he cast himself as a different kind of Republican: a compromising, consensus builder who ultimately earned strong support from minorities, union members and even many Democrats.

It was described as the opening argument for Christie’s prospective White House run. That argument is now clouded, at least temporarily, during one of the most important transitions of his political career.

In less than two weeks, he is scheduled to celebrate his second inauguration in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty on historic Ellis Island, a symbolic beginning to a second term designed to expand Christie’s bipartisan appeal. He also is expected to unveil his second-term priorities — solidifying his presidential resume — in a state-of-the-state address later this month, while beginning an aggressive national travel schedule as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Wildstein, a childhood friend of the governor, is scheduled to testify later Thursday before a state Assembly committee. He asked a judge Thursday to squash the subpoena, but the judge refused to do so.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said the “revelations are troubling for any public official.” But she said: “They also 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.”

Christie on Thursday said he also asked his choice for state GOP chairman, his former campaign manager Bill Stepien, to withdraw for consideration for the post because of the “callous indifference” he displayed in emails on the traffic jams.

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