Allegations that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lied when he said he did not know of the George Washington Bridge lane closures when they happened have moved his state’s biggest newspaper to call on him to “resign or be impeached” if the charges are true.
“Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor,” the editorial board of the The Star-Ledger
wrote Friday night in the wake of reports that the governor knew about the bridge closures as they were happening – and that there was evidence to prove it.
The stunning accusation
came from the former Port Authority official who ordered the closures, David Wildstein, and was first reported by The New York Times and Star-Ledger.
“If this proves to be true, then the governor must resign or be impeached,” the editorial board demanded. “Because it will show that everything he said at his famous two-hour press conference was a lie. And not just a typical political lie - this was like a Broadway show of lies, and would leave Christie so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively.
“He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to step aside. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.”
Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history professor who specializes in presidential politics, told Reuters that Wildstein’s allegation was "the first time a high-level official has contradicted the governor.”
The key question, he added, is whether Wildstein can produce "smoking gun" evidence proving Christie's knowledge of the events.
Nevertheless, the Democratic National Committee, which already had Christie in its crosshairs as the No. 1 threat in the 2016 presidential election, also was quick to pounce.
"He's repeatedly said that he had no knowledge of the lane closures," said Mo Elleithee, a DNC spokesman. "Today's revelations raise serious questions about whether that is true."
Loretta Weinberg, the New Jersey state majority leader – and co-chair of a joint committee charged with investigating the scandal – told CNN the allegations “prove beyond a shadow of a doubt…. the people of New Jersey deserve a complete, honest rundown of what took place in this sordid business.”
The possibility of impeachment also was raised by New Jersey Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak, The Star-Ledger reported
. "If Wildstein's statement is sustained, I would hope the governor would do the right thing and not put the state through a trial, and he would resign," he said.
But Lesniak said the Assembly would have to investigate the allegation of an abuse of governmental power — and if found true, the Assembly would draft articles for impeachment and the Senate would hold a trial.
"It was always hard for me to believe he was in on the lane closures himself," Lesniak said. "But Wildstein was the guy who ordered the bridge closures. So if he knew, that establishes reasonable suspicion."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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