TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A new survey shows Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s favorability and job approval ratings in New Jersey are at record lows.
The Rutgers-Eagleton poll on Monday showed a record low of 19 percent have a favorable view of Christie. That’s down four points from six weeks ago.
The weeklong survey ended a day before the jury delivered guilty verdicts in the George Washington Bridge lane closure trial. Former Christie aide Bridget Kelly and bridge authority executive Bill Baroni were found guilty on all counts.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie maintains that he has no recollection of any of his aides telling him about the lane closures on the GWB that were ultimately found to be a political retaliation plot.
“My first reaction was that the jury confirmed what I thought on January 9, 2014, nearly three years ago,” Christie told “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose. “I had 24 hours to make decisions back then. And I felt there were three people responsible: David Wildstein, Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly. And now here we are, three investigations later, federal grand jury investigation, an investigation by a Democratic-led legislature, and what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is that there were three people responsible.”
Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Baroni, an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were convicted of scheming with Wildstein, a former Christie ally, to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Republican Christie when he ran for re-election in 2013. Wildstein pleaded guilty.
Baroni and Wildstein testified Christie was informed about lane closures on the third of their four days. Christie says he has no recollection of them saying anything to him.
“Even Wildstein said that all Baroni said to me was that there was traffic at the George Washington Bridge and that the mayor was not getting his phone calls returned,” Chrstie said. “Now, Charlie, I have to tell ya’, I have absolutely no recollection of any of them saying anything like that. So let’s be clear.”
“So you’re saying you have no recollection?” Rose asked. “You’re not saying, ‘I can swear to you that they never said anything like this’? You’re saying, ‘I don’t remember’?”
“I don’t remember any — but what I will tell you is this, Charlie: If they would have told me that, ‘Hey, we’re creating traffic in the George Washington Bridge in order to punish the mayor for not endorsing you’ I would have remembered that. And they never said that.
“By the way, Charlie, I think this is a really important point: In the whole trial no one, not even Bridget Kelly, Bill Baroni or David Wildstein, ever testified that anyone ever said to me that this was an act of political retribution.”
Kelly and Baroni testified they believed the lane closings were part of a legitimate traffic study because, they said, that was what Wildstein told them. Wildstein testified that both defendants were aware of the plan to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.
It was unclear from Wildstein’s testimony whether Christie knew then that the mess was manufactured for political reasons; however, Kelly testified she told Christie about Sokolich’s concerns about political retaliation during the week of the traffic jams at the bridge.
The federal jury of seven men and five women were presented with more than 7,000 pieces of evidence over the course of six weeks. They took five days to reach a verdict.
Baroni’s attorney, Michael Baldassare, called the case “a disgrace” and said the U.S. attorney’s office should be “ashamed” of where it drew the line on who to charge.
“They should have had belief in their own case to charge powerful people, and they did not,” Baldassare said.
Both defendants announced plans to appeal, citing issues including disputed jury instructions.
The poll also found the governor’s job approval rating slipped six points to 20 percent, compared with six weeks ago.
The poll surveyed 772 residents with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
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