Political reporters collectively freaked out on Twitter on Friday afternoon when the New York Times came out with a story pointing to new evidence that Chris Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge closures as they were happening. But on further examination, the story may not be the bombshell it initially seemed to be.
To be sure, if it turns out that Christie's knowledge of the closures contradicted his claims in a two-hour press conference earlier this month, it would almost definitely be fatal to his political career. But it isn't yet clear that this is the case.
The impetus for the Times report was a letter released by the lawyer for David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who had overseen the lane closures.
But a closer look at the letter, which was posted by the Wall Street Journal, leaves a lot of questions. According to the relevant paragraph from attorney Alan Zegas, "It has also come to light that a person within the Christie administration communicated the Christie administration's order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge were to be closed, and evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear before the Transportation Committee. Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the Governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some."
This is all very slippery language. For instance, "evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of" leaves a lot of wiggle room.
In the press conference, Christie didn't necessarily deny having knowledge that the lanes were closed. In the press conference, he said, "I knew nothing about this. And until it started to be reported in the papers about the closure, but even then I was told this was a traffic study."
What would be damning is if there were evidence that Christie either ordered the closures or had knowledge at the time that they were launched by officials in his administration. But until Zegas releases the evidence he claims exists, there's no way of knowing. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a lawyer exaggerated evidence on behalf of a client.