New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday "unequivocally" denied knowing about the politically tainted George Washington Bridge lane closures before he read about his top aides' involvement last month.
"Did I have any knowledge of it beforehand? Unequivocally, no," Christie adamantly insisted on his monthly "Ask the Governor" radio show.
"The first time it came into my consciousness . . . is when the email was leaked to the media . . . it was news accounts. I read it in The Wall Street Journal."
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Christie — once considered at the top of the GOP heap of potential presidential candidates — repeated his denial three more times
during the hour-long question-and-answer show, describing what he said he knew and when he knew it for the first time since the scandal broke in early January.
His repeated denials of prior knowledge — or even an awareness of anything different about the traffic problems last September — also come in the wake of former Port Authority official David Wildstein's assertion
that evidence exists to prove Christie knew of the lane closures as they were occurring.
"I knew about press accounts about traffic issues up there," he said. "I didn't know there was actually closed lanes up there."
"I've been very clear about this . . . before these lane were closed . . . I knew nothing about it," he said, adding that he has hired an outside law firm to investigate the matter.
"I wanted to find out what happened here . . . so I can make changes, so I can assure the people of New Jersey it won't happen again," he said.
A third assertion of his innocence came when Christie was asked how his family was handling the controversy.
"I told them the same thing: I had nothing to do with this. And I'm so disappointed this has happened, but I'm also determined to get to the bottom and fix this . . . and move on and get to the job the people of New Jersey have elected me to do," he said. "I'll be damned if I let anything get in the way of me doing my job.
"I had nothing to do with this, no knowledge, no authorization, nothing," he declared.
In one disquieting exchange, the governor said he still doesn't know "if there's a traffic study"
that prompted the lanes closures — as had initially been suggested — prompting a surprised radio host to ask, "You still don't know?"
"I was told at the time, the Port Authority was engaged in a traffic study . . . to find if [three dedicated lanes for Fort Lee drivers] were needed," he said. "That's what we were told, that's what the Legislature was told, that's what we've been told all along until these emails came out Jan. 8."
Christie explained he now doesn't know "if this started as a traffic study that morphed into these political shenanigans, or did it start as shenanigans that morphed into a traffic study."
"My point is . . . we saw the emails and text messages produced, that [was] the first time I saw some politics involved," he said.
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