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updated: 2/3/2014 7:14 PM

Christie reiterates: No role in lane closures

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  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sits in a studio during his radio program, "Ask the Governor" broadcast Monday. During the program, Christie took questions from callers for the first time in more than three weeks as his campaign looked for a way to pay for lawyers as a political payback scandal continues.

      New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sits in a studio during his radio program, "Ask the Governor" broadcast Monday. During the program, Christie took questions from callers for the first time in more than three weeks as his campaign looked for a way to pay for lawyers as a political payback scandal continues.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. -- Gov. Chris Christie says he may have heard about traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee while they were going on last September, but it didn't register with him as a major issue if he did.

He says a news report several days after the lanes were reopened got his attention and he asked staffers to look into it. The report indicated that the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did not authorize the lane closings.

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Christie says in a radio interview that before then anything he heard seemed like another story about a traffic tie-up.

It was the first time he has spoken publicly about the scandal since a former ally suggested last week that Christie knew about the closures while they were going on.

Meanwhile, 20 people and organizations close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are due to turn over emails, text messages and other documents involving the apparent vindictive plot to block traffic near the George Washington Bridge, though almost all the subpoena recipients have requested more time.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-chairman of the joint legislative panel leading the investigation, told The Associated Press that some extensions of Monday's deadline were granted. The requests of others who were asked to produce documents on a rolling basis were also being considered.

The subpoena returns are likely to be voluminous, as the committee seeks to unravel how high up Christie's chain of command the order to shut traffic lanes went, whether the operation was meant to punish a Democratic adversary, and if so, why?

Christie has denied knowing about the planning or execution of the operation, and has said he learned that members of his inner circle were involved after an original batch of subpoenaed documents was published on Jan. 8. However, one former loyalist, David Wildstein, indicated Friday there was contradictory evidence to show that the governor knew about the closings as they were happening.

Five people close to the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate have been fired or resigned amid the scandal, including Wildstein, who is seeking immunity from prosecution. The AP on Sunday confirmed the most recent resignation, that of Christina Genovese Renna, on Friday. Renna is among those subpoenaed by the legislative panel. She worked directly under Bridget Kelly, the fired deputy chief of staff who set in motion the lane closings with an email to Wildstein saying, "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Fellow Republicans, meanwhile, remained adamant that Christie should not resign from his post as chairman of the Republican Governors Association following Wildstein's latest claim, for which he has so far produced no evidence.

The support from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other prominent Republicans put party faithful on the offensive and Wisniewski on the defensive as East Rutherford, N.J., hosted the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather city on Sunday.

Christie, who did not take questions at Super Bowl ceremonies and received a smattering of boos at an event in New York's Times Square on Saturday, was scheduled to appear on a radio call-in program Monday night. He and his family watched the game from a luxury box at MetLife Stadium.

Giuliani, who has been one of Christie's staunchest supporters, took aim at the credibility of Wildstein and Wisniewski during an appearance Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Giuliani described Wildstein as a person who "wants somebody else to pay his legal bills and he can't get them paid unless the governor is responsible."

He described Wisniewski, a Democrat, as a "guy who'd like to be governor."

The unannounced lane closures caused massive gridlock in the northern New Jersey town of Fort Lee in September, delaying emergency vehicles and school buses and tying up some commuters for hours over four mornings. New Jersey legislators are investigating whether Christie aides engineered the lane closures to send a message to the town's Democratic mayor. The U.S. attorney's office also is investigating.

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."

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