— Christie traveled to Fort Lee later in the day to apologize in person to Mayor Mark Sokolich. While Sokolich accepted Christie’s public apology, he urged the governor to delay his visit, saying he suspects the whole story has yet to come out. He said the governor’s office was tainted by “venomous, petty” politics.
The allegations turned a local traffic furor into a national issue and raised questions about Christie’s leadership and integrity as he lays the groundwork for a White House bid. Democrats at the national level have seized on the scandal as more evidence that Christie is a bully.
The governor brushed off questions about the effect on his presidential prospects, saying he was too busy governing the state to think about that.
“I am absolutely nowhere near beginning that consideration process,” he said. “I haven’t even been sworn in for my second term yet.”
Afterward, some political analysts on both sides of the aisle said Christie would probably pull through OK — provided there are no more surprises.
Democratic operative David Axelrod complimented Christie for handling the news conference “as well as he could,” writing on Twitter: “Unless smoking gun turns up tying him to scheme, or others arise, he lives 2 fight another day.”
Besides firing Kelly, Christie cut ties to former campaign manager Bill Stepien, asking him to withdraw a bid to become the next state GOP chairman. The governor said he was disturbed by the “callous indifference” displayed by Stepien in the emails released Wednesday.
Stepien had widely been seen as a potential campaign manager for Christie if he runs for president.
Christie said he is still looking into the traffic-jam episode and will take action against other senior staff members if it is warranted.
Over and over, Christie took responsibility for the affair by virtue of his role as governor, while simultaneously blaming his staff for doing something “stupid” and for not telling him the truth when he asked.