The New Jersey major targeted in an apparent act of political retribution by a Chris Christie aide said it was the "the lowest level of political venom that you can even make up.”
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said on Wednesday that allegations a Christie staffer helped close two lanes of the George Washington Bridge to punish Sokolish for not endorsing the Republican's reelection was completely unacceptable.
Emails made public on Wednesday show a deputy chief of staff to Christie had discussions with a Port Authority official about closing the bridge.
Christie has said he didn't know of his staff's involvement, and that he was misled.
Prior to the release of Wednesday’s emails, Christie dismissed the allegations that he was involved in the decision to close the bridge lanes. Two Christie-appointed state transportation officials have resigned since the controversy began.
Sokolich said he had been reluctant to discuss the allegations, though national Democrats have sought for weeks to make hay of them ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run by Christie.
“I didn’t decide to join the fray of this until today when these emails surfaced,” he said. “I’m not a retribution kind of guy. But the folks that are responsible for this can no longer be in positions that they can actually cause this type of damage to other unsuspecting communities.”
The George Washington bridge lanes were closed for four days in September, two months before New Jersey voters went to the polls to overwhelmingly re-elect Christie.
Sokolich said Christie should apologize to Fort Lee residents.
“You cannot close down the busiest bridge in the world for political retribution,” he said. “You have intentionally put people in harm’s way. You knew that before you did it. You knew that when Fort Lee called 40 times….you always knew that, because we were telling you that happened.
“You’ve got to reach out to the folks that were impacted, don’t reach out to me,” Sokolich said of what Christie should do now. “I think he has to publicly address the folks that are specifically impacted by this, I think apologizes need to be doled out. And I think reforms have to be put in place to make sure that this never happens again.”
Christie said Wednesday afternoon that he was “outraged” by the reports that members of his administration participated in discussions with New Jersey state transportation officials about closing the bridge lanes.
“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable,” Christie said in a written statement. “I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.
“One thing is clear: This type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better,” Christie continued. “This behavior is not representative of me or my administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”
Sokolich called Wednesday for federal investigations into the bridge lane closures, saying that they may rise to the level of criminal charges.
“It’s more than civil,” the mayor said of the possible inquiries.
“There are millions of cars that traverse that bridge,” Sokolich said later in the interview. “There has to be an investigation. It is that important.”