New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that the bridge scandal facing him is disappointing but not a distraction from his job as governor — or from his effort to raise money for Republican candidates for governor.
“While the last six weeks have not been the most enjoyable of my life, the fact is we have to do our work,” Christie, a possible presidential contender, told about 1,600 people at the Economic Club of Chicago.
It was Christie’s first major public appearance since the January press conference in which he acknowledged that his administration had ordered lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge closed in September.
The speech in Chicago was supposed to be Christie’s debut as a national leader after his landslide re-election in November. He is the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which has been a gateway for past presidential candidates.
Christie was spending most of the day in private meetings with GOP donors and expected to raise $1 million during the one-day Chicago visit.
On Monday, a New Jersey legislative panel intensified efforts to force two key Christie aides to turn over documents related to the traffic gridlock as it authorized 18 more subpoenas.
Recipients in the third round of subpoenas include executives at the Port Authority, a failed Supreme Court nominee who Christie later named to the bridge agency, and the state police aviation unit, which could provide information about Christie’s helicopter travel during the time the lanes were blocked.
Christie’s office acknowledged Monday that the governor, who travels frequently by helicopter, flew to the state capital after attending a 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York City. He arrived at the event via ferry, said his spokesman. The governor’s office said Christie never shared a helicopter with David Wildstein, his former No. 2 man at the Port Authority, who oversaw the lane closings and has since resigned.
A photograph taken at the event — held on the third day the lanes were blocked — shows Christie walking with Wildstein.
The panel passed six motions rejecting requests by lawyers for former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien and fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly to withdraw document subpoenas. Four Republicans abstained, saying they were not given ample time to review the complex Fifth Amendment arguments.
Wildstein turned over documents but invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The committee referred a contempt charge to a county prosecutor for action.