Chris Christie Bridge Scandal: The Next Shoes to Drop
Several unanswered questions linger after the governor stated his case.
Jan. 10, 2014 — -- More than 100 minutes of anger, denial, declarations of disappointment and apologies were insufficient for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to put to rest lingering questions about what exactly inspired his aides to gin up an ill-conceived traffic ploy.
To hear Christie tell it in his news conference Thursday, he was blindsided, "misled" and lied to by his aides. And with that acknowledgement, topped off by an apology, the case should be closed.
On the horizon, however, are a slew of potential issues that could keep Christie on the defensive for some time to come.
1. Blanket denial.
"I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here, regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover," Christie said.
If that turns out to be untrue, for any reason, Chris Christie's political career could be irreparably damaged, all because his staff staged the closing of bridge lanes for political reasons that are still unclear.
2. Thousands of documents.
New Jersey Democrats smell blood in the water and they're going to keep pushing for what answers they can get from Christie's people about what caused his aides to apparently target the mayor of the town of fewer than 40,000 people in a political vendetta. And, most importantly, they'll be probing to find out who else was involved.
A cache of about two dozen pages of emails and text messages blew the case wide open this week, but Jersey Democrats are about to release nearly 5,000 more.
What's in those documents, almost no one knows for sure. In this case, what Christie doesn't know can hurt him.
3. Unknown unknowns.
Christie didn't know a lot of things that were going on with his staff, and he indicated Thursday that he still didn't want to know.
The two aides Christie fired Thursday -- deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and a top political aide, Bill Stepien -- didn't get an exit interview. Christie said he didn't want to know yet what they knew about what caused them to launch into a political vendetta.
"She was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied because it was so obvious that she had," Christie said of Kelly. "And I'm, quite frankly, not interested in the explanation at the moment."
But what Kelly and Stepien know is essential to how long this scandal will continue to trail Christie.
Christie appears to be gambling that it's better for him to have plausible deniability about other damaging information that might emerge. But not knowing what is out there will make it more difficult for his political operation to respond swiftly and effectively.
Not to mention that not knowing what his aides were up to got him into this mess in the first place.
4. Is Christie protecting anyone?
Orchestrating the closing of lanes on a major multistate bridge for a nonexistent traffic study is no small undertaking, and only two people have faced consequences so far.
There's also the curious case of Christie's appointee to the chairmanship of the board of the Port Authority, David Samson, whom Christie appeared to go out of his way to protect Thursday.
"He was one of my interviews. I am convinced that he had absolutely no knowledge of this, that this was executed at the operational level and never brought to the attention of the Board of Commissioners until ... [Port Authority] Executive Director [Patrick] Foye wrote his email to the Board of Commissioners," Christie said.
The trouble is this excerpt from a series of emails between Christie's aides about the lane closings.