FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The highest-ranking official in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration testified Monday before lawmakers about last fall’s traffic jams plot.
Kevin O’Dowd, who is Christie’s chief of staff and nominee for state attorney general, told the panel he believed a subordinate who said she had nothing to do with the plot to block traffic near the George Washington Bridge last September. That claim was later revealed to be false.
The subordinate, Bridget Kelly, was fired after emails showed she set the plot in motion by writing, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
“She said she had nothing to do with closing the lanes,” O’Dowd testified, adding he never saw the infamous email.
O’Dowd also told the panel Monday that he played no role in the political retribution plot. O’Dowd had told lawyers hired by Christie that he learned in January — four months after the lanes were blocked for four days — that Kelly put the scheme in motion.
The panel is hoping to gain more information about who in Christie’s circle ordered traffic diverted near the bridge to create gridlock in the town of Fort Lee to punish the mayor.
O’Dowd’s testimony came less than a week after Pat Schuber’s.
Schuber, who is on the Port Authority‘s board of commissioners and was appointed by Christie, testified that he saw September’s lane closures as a political football as the governor ran for re-election, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“I would never condone the use of governmental powers to exact political retribution,” Schuber said.
The scandal has threatened the presidential ambitions of Christie, considered a top contender if he decides to run in 2016. He has denied advance knowledge of the scheme, insisting to CBS 2’s Christine Sloan that he did not understand the seriousness of the issue until January when Kelly’s alleged email was released by the legislative committee.
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