Haley Barbour, the prominent Republican Party leader, former Mississippi governor and a mentor of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, declared that "the liberal media elite" is treating the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal "like the Lincoln assassination," NJ.com reported.
Christie staffers are alleged to have purposefully slowed traffic off the bridge and into North Jersey's Fort Lee for four days in September 2013 as part of a political vendetta against that city's Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich. Christie and Sokolich both deny that they had been feuding.
Barbour, who is associated with the moderate wing of the GOP, lauded Christie for apologizing and taking responsibility rather than claiming the behavior was someone else's responsibility. The New Jersey governor told a Jan. 9 news conference that he was "embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team."
He fired his deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and his veteran campaign manager Bill Stepien. Christie's senior political operative on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the George Washington Bridge, David Wildstein, also resigned.
"He stepped up to the plate and said what a great Democratic president once said: 'The buck stops here. I take responsibility,'" said Barbour. "The American people are dying for that after five years of President Obama always saying it's someone else's fault," Barbour told The Star-Ledger.
United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman also came under criticism from Barbour for launching an investigation into the lane closings.
"The Justice Department, while they don't investigate the IRS for trampling on the rights of conservative groups, is going to be after this like a dog with a bone because it's all about politics," Barbour said.
While some political operatives are wondering whether a "smoking gun"
will yet emerge to link Christie directly to the lane closings, Barbour pointed out that Christie is himself a former federal prosecutor.
"He understands that most people in politics who get in trouble don't get in trouble for what they did, they get in trouble for not telling the truth."
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