Bridgegate: A Refresher On The Scandal That Has Haunted Chris Christie
When Chris Christie won reelection in 2013 with a crushing 60 percent of the vote in Democrat-leaning New Jersey, online political betters were practically measuring the drapes for the Republican governor in the White House.
Two months later, "Bridgegate" broke, and the New Jersey governor has watched his poll numbers gradually erode under a cloud of scandal as the authorities investigated. That moment has finally arrived as the first wave of criminal charges appear to be imminent.
Here's a refresher on what has transpired and what's to come.
Lanes close, traffic chaos ensues
On Sept. 9, 2013, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed two out of three local access lanes from Fort Lee to the busy George Washington Bridge, causing all sorts of traffic chaos. The mayor said children couldn't get to school. The city said emergency assistance and medical services were being delayed. Four days in, after outcries, the lanes were ordered re-opened on Sept. 13. The Port Authority initially claimed they were shut for a traffic study.
Christie ally David Wildstein is expected to plead guilty this week
Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who was found to have ordered the lane closures that caused traffic jams for several days on the George Washington Bridge, is poised to plead guilty to prosecutors on Thursday, Bloomberg's David Voreacos reported.
Other Christie aides are ensnared in the scandal
Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's now-fired deputy chief of staff, appears to be the closest person to the governor who's connected to the scandal. Unearthed e-mails and text messages suggest she initiated the mess that took place in September 2013. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," she wrote to Wildstein. "Got it," he wrote back.
Also in the crosshairs of prosecutors: Bill Baroni, the highest-ranking Christie appointment to the Port Authority, who resigned in December 2014.
Christie maintains his innocence
Christie initially made light of suggestions that he had prior knowledge of the lane closures. "I worked the cones," he mocked in December 2013. But when the revelations of a link to his office came to light, he gave a 107-minute press conference pronouncing himself "embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team." He maintained that he personally had nothing to do with the mess, and, to date, nobody has found a smoking gun with the governor's fingerprints on it.
As Voreacos points out, Wildstein's lawyer, Alan Zegas, has insisted that "evidence exists" to prove Christie had knowledge of the traffic jams during the incident. If Christie's former allies keep trying to implicate him, it could maintain the cloud of scandal over his head right at the moment he might otherwise seek to recover.
Christie is not even a top-five GOP contender at this stage
Christie, once seen as a Republican frontrunner, is lately struggling badly in the polls. He's currently in eighth place with the support of 5.6 percent of GOP voters, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. He has been stuck in the single digits all year.
He can hope that the indictments clear his name, at long last, and pave the way for his resurgence.