Politics

01.31.14

Revenge of the Nerd: Wildstein Rats Out the Boss

Remember what Chris Christie said about David Wildstein in his endless Jan. 9 press conference? No? This:

It is true that I met David in 1977 in high school. He's a year older than me. David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school...We didn't travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time.

I remember hearing those sentences and thinking gee, that's not very nice--and not very smart. What if Wildstein is sitting on some goods? Is he going to be happy being dismissed as too geeky for Christie to waste his time on back in high school?

Apparently he's not. From the NYT, just this afternoon:

David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “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” three weeks ago.

“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.

Oops.

Now, before we get overexcited here, some points. First, this letter Wildstein has released says only that evidence exists that Christie had "knowledge of the lane closures." It's worth noting that Christie denied this on Jan. 9 at his press conference, when he said:

So what I can tell you is if people find that hard to believe, I don't know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this -- of the planning, the execution or anything about it -- and that I first found out about it after it was over.

So he said he didn't know about it while the closure was ongoing. If Wildstein is telling the truth, that's a lie.

But notice that Wildstein's letter doesn't say that Christie knew the motivation--it doesn't say he has proof that the closures were made for reasons of political retribution. So if Wildstein is not actually alleging that, which it seems he's not, then this may not be that huge a deal. The big enchilada here is whether Christie knew it was retribution, and if that isn't proven--and apparently it's not even alleged--then yeah, Christie lied, about not knowing at the time, but it's not the Big Lie everyone is looking for.

Then there's the matter of that more ambiguous last sentence, contesting "the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him." Who knows yet what that refers to? There's still a lot of detail missing here.

So this is not a huge story just yet. It's potentially a huge story. Depending on what Wildstein has, and on whom, he might set off a domino-effect of people flipping, and then who knows. But so far we don't know what his evidence is.

And even if this goes no further, it still damages Christie, fairly or not. Most people already think he's lying, and this popping up on their cable news channels over the weekend of his state's first Super Bowl is just going to pour salt on that wound. And undoubtedly there's more to come. The nerd is striking back.