TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he may have heard about congestion on the George Washington Bridge last fall but it didn't register as anything more than regular traffic jams because he wasn't aware his aides had ordered lanes blocked, apparently for political retribution.
Christie also acknowledged during an hour-long radio call-in program that his office has been subpoenaed by federal law enforcement officials conducting a criminal investigation into the bridge scandal. Christie said his office would fully comply with the document request.
The Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate fielded questions for the first time in three weeks about a scandal that has engulfed his administration and threatened to upend any political ambitions.
Christie, 51, reiterated during the radio show that he did not know about the planning or execution of the lane closings near the bridge in Fort Lee. He disputed the account of a former loyalist, who said Friday there was evidence the governor knew about the closings while they were happening over four days in September, which is earlier than Christie has acknowledged.
Christie said an email from Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge, made him realize the traffic gridlock may not have been routine. That email was forwarded to a top Christie aide on Sept. 13, the day Foye ordered the lanes reopened.
"I know prior to (the Foye email) there were press accounts about traffic issues up there, and if I read that or someone said something ... it wouldn't have been meaningful to me because I didn't know there was any problem up there because I didn't know we had actually closed lanes up there before that," Christie said on TownSquare Media's "Ask the Governor" show.
"Nobody has said I knew about this before it happened, and I think that's the most important question," he said.
Christie has been asked before when he learned of the lane closures, which has cost five people close to the governor their jobs. During a Dec. 13 news conference, he said, "It was certainly well after the whole thing was over before I heard about it."
Monday was the first time Christie took questions since David Wildstein, Christie's No. 2 man at the Port Authority before he resigned amid the scandal, contradicted the governor's accounting of the lane closings. Christie referred to the dispute over what he knew when as "a game of gotcha."