Besides firing Kelly, the governor asked his former campaign manager Bill Stepien to withdraw from a bid to become the next state GOP chairman. He 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.
At the news conference, Christie said he planned to go to Fort Lee on Thursday to apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich in person. Sokolich accepted Christie s news-conference apology but urged the governor to delay his visit, saying he suspects the whole story has yet to come out.
The mayor said the emails and text messages revealed that the governor s office was tainted by venomous, petty politics.
The allegations turned a local traffic furor into a national issue and raised new questions about the governor s leadership and integrity as he lays the groundwork for a White House bid.
I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or execution, he said of the lane closings. And I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here.
Christie focused repeatedly not on the lane closings themselves but on how upset he was that his staff didn t tell him the truth when asked, saying he was heartbroken and betrayed by his tight-knit circle of advisers. He said he saw the emails and text messages for the first time on Wednesday, and was blindsided by what he read.
What did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me? he asked.
Kelly hasn t commented. Christie said he hadn t spoken to her since the emails were released, saying he didn t want to be accused of trying to influence a possible witness.
Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, Kelly wrote in August in a message to Wildstein. A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the heavily traveled George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City.
For weeks, Christie had asserted that the closings were not punitive but part of a traffic study. On Thursday, he acknowledged that was a lie, because his staff didn t tell him what it had done.
At the same time, he said: I am responsible for what happened. I am sad to report to the people of New Jersey that we fell short.
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.
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