Christie denies closing bridge lanes as payback

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Friday said he had “nothing to do” with the lane closures on a bridge that Democrats say were ordered in retaliation against a local mayor.

Christie said Bill Baroni, the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has resigned over the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The governor said he had been planning to replace Baroni, even before the controversy began because he had served four years in the position.

Asked why he is being blamed for the lane closings, Christie said, "I don't feel blamed because I had nothing to do with it."

Access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed on Sept. 8, creating massive traffic jams around Fort Lee, N.J., and reportedly causing delays for emergency vehicles. Democrats claim Christie ordered the closures as payback against a local mayor who refused to endorse him for reelection.

The governor said he is used to attacks from his opponents, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

"There will be people politically that point figures at me all the time, from the DNC on down," Christie said, while adding that the buck stops with him for the decision.

"I'm responsible for everything that happens in this government," Christie said. "This is my job. I've got to take responsibility for things that happen on my watch."

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Christie called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to complain that the executive director of the Port Authority, a Cuomo appointee, was pressing too hard for answers about the lane closures.

Christie denied making the phone call on Friday.

"The story is categorically wrong," he said.

Christie said he called Cuomo after the story was published, and Cuomo agreed with him that they had not had such a conversation.

Cuomo's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats are seizing on the opportunity to attack the governor ahead of a possible White House run in 2016.

"Chris Christie is playing politics. New Jerseyans deserve answers," says a Web video that the DNC released Friday morning before the governor’s press conference.

"Chris Christie took a long time to not answer one question. Why? Why were the lanes shut down?" DNC national press secretary Michael Czin told The Hill after the press conference. He said despite Christie's denials, "there is no other logical explanation" than that the lanes were closed for political retribution.