High-profile Republicans were adamant Sunday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should not resign from his post as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after a recent claim from a former ally that there is evidence Christie knew about an apparently politically motivated traffic jam earlier than he has said.
The support from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan put Republicans on the offensive and the Democratic chairman of a state legislative committee investigating the September lane closures near the George Washington Bridge on the defensive the day Christie’s state hosts the Super Bowl.
Christie, a potential 2016 presidential contender, has been going about Super Bowl ceremonial duties and has not taken questions about the scandal in recent days. He didn’t respond Saturday when some spectators booed him at an appearance in New York City’s Times Square. He’s scheduled to watch Sunday’s game with his family from a luxury box at MetLife Stadium.
Giuliani, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” took aim at the credibility of two figures central to the scandal: John Wisniewski, who’s leading the investigative probe, and David Wildstein, the former Christie loyalist who as an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey last year ordered the lane closures, as someone with less than pure motives.
He said Wildstein “wants somebody else to pay his legal bills and he can’t get them paid unless the governor is responsible.”
On Friday, Wildstein’s lawyer wrote a letter to the Port Authority saying evidence exists that Christie knew about the traffic jams in Fort Lee as they happened. But he did not disclose any evidence in the letter.
Giuliani said Wisniewski is prejudiced and has ulterior motivations as a “guy who’d like to be governor.”
Wisniewski also appeared on “Face the Nation” and defended his role and his previously stated doubts about what Christie knew and when.
“What I’ve said is I have skepticism about the governor’s statement,” he said. “I haven’t said that the governor has responsibility for this. I haven’t said that the governor knew when this was happening.”
Democrats have taken to other forums to bash the governor. The Democratic National Committee started posted an online ad Sunday comparing Christie to a football player who seemed unstoppable before the scandal. “It’s going to be a long game,” the ad says.
By Saturday, Christie’s allies were striking back after Wildstein’s claim. The governor’s team sent an email to politically plugged-in allies who might be in a position to defend Christie, bashing Wildstein and his accusations.
The message to donors, journalists and voters: Christie was not ceding ground.
And the supporters picked up those themes.
Ryan, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” described Wildstein’s allegations as “one person’s word against the other” and said, “Nothing has been proven and you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kinds of situations.”
Jindal, last year’s RGA chairman, said Democrats who have called for Christie to step down from the RGA don’t understand the organization or the role of its chairman. “The reality is within RGA, no one governor is more important than the other,” he said.
(AP Photo: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands between Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, left, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, showoff souvenir football helmets after a ceremony to pass official hosting duties of next year’s Super Bowl to Arizona, Saturday Feb. 1, 2014 in New York.)