As all eyes turned to New Jersey’s largest city of Newark for the guilty plea of an ally to Chris Christie, the governor spent the morning 225 miles away in a roundtable breakfast with technology executives in Virginia.
Christie, 52, a Republican considering a 2016 run for president, discussed jobs, immigration, Obamacare and Hurricane Sandy. He repeated his pitch for curbing federal entitlement spending and told the group he’ll probably make an economic announcement next week.
What he didn’t talk about: the traffic scandal that has dogged him for more than a year, and that flared up again this week. David Wildstein, an ally, entered a federal courthouse in Newark on Friday as he prepares to plead guilty to his role in lane closings ordered near the George Washington Bridge, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
“No guys,” Christie yelled to reporters asking him about the plea as he entered a black SUV after the 45-minute appearance in McLean, Virginia.
Wildstein’s plea would be the first conviction in the 16-month U.S. probe of the September 2013 incident, which triggered a broader investigation of Christie allies and aides.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton will hold a proceeding at 11 a.m. in the case, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Friday. Fishman will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. on the probe.
Four years ago, Christie rejected calls to run for president from Republican leaders and executives including Home Depot Inc. co-founder Ken Langone, saying he wasn’t ready.
His popularity, which reached 70 percent in New Jersey during his first term, began to slide in January 2014 after e-mails revealed that an aide and an ally arranged the four-day traffic jam as political retribution.
Christie has denied knowledge of the plot. He plans to announce in May or June whether he will enter the crowded Republican field of presidential candidates.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday in New Brunswick, Christie said he had no knowledge of the Wildstein plea.
“I don’t really see it as a problem,” Christie said when asked if the probe would deter his political prospects. “That matter will take its natural course and will be dictated by the folks who are investigating it. I don’t have anything to do with that, so I’ve said I can’t allow it to affect me and I have seen no indication of any effects.”