On Friday, two of New Jersey officials were convicted of intentionally creating the 2013 traffic jam that came to be known as “Bridgegate,” but prosecutors are no closer to proving that Gov. Chris Christie himself had knowledge of the plot.
Christie’s deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and the Port Authority’s Bill Baroni were found guilty of conspiring to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge as a means of political revenge on Fort Lee’s mayor. Another Port Authority official, David Wildstein, has already pled guilty to being the architect of the plot.
In the trial, several witnesses testified that Gov. Christie was aware of the plot, an accusation he continues to vehemently deny. On Friday, he issued a statement in reaction to the verdicts, saying, “Let me be clear once again: I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments.”
In an interview with CBS This Morning, Christie said the outcome of the trial was exactly what he had expected.
“My first reaction was that the jury confirmed what I thought on January 9, 2014, nearly three years ago,” Christie said. “I had 24 hours to make decisions back then. And I felt there were three people responsible: David Wildstein, Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly. And now here we are, three investigations later, federal grand jury investigation, an investigation by a Democratic-led legislature, and what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is that there were three people responsible.”
Asked why Kelly would participate in such a plot without his knowledge or consent, Christie said, “I wish I knew. I never could figure it out. It was one of the most abjectly stupid things I’ve ever seen. I mean, think about it. You know me. I’m pretty good at this political game. I’m up by 25 points in a reelection in a blue state. And they decide they’re gonna create a traffic jam in a town that’s a Democrat town, that I wound up winning two months later in the election?”
Despite Christie’s denials, the scandal has had a major impact on the governor’s political future. His approval ratings are down to an abysmal 21% and Bridgegate was undoubtedly a stumbling block in the Republican primaries. It remains to be seen if the New Jersey governor can recapture the immense national popularity he enjoyed in 2011, or if he will make another run for the White House in the future.