A former transportation official at the center of a traffic scandal that has put New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie under fire refused to answer questions Thursday for state lawmakers investigating the matter.
David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who resigned in December, cited his constitutional right to stay silent, even in response to basic questions like where he was previously employed. “On the advice of counsel, I assert my right to remain silent,” Wildstein said repeatedly.
Lawmakers expressed frustration, even as they kept questioning him.
“I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m wasting my time in asking these questions,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chairman of the committee investigating the scandal. Wisniewski said Wildstein could face misdemeanor contempt charges if the right to silence is found not to apply to all of the questions, and the panel later voted to hold him in contempt, though it remains to be seen if authorities will pursue the matter.
The hearing was closely watched after documents emerged Wednesday showing Wildstein and a top aide to Christie planning to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge that are dedicated to the town of Fort Lee, N.J., in seeming retaliation because the mayor wouldn’t endorse Christie’s reelection bid. Christie, who had denied his staff had any involvement in the lane closures that snarled traffic in Fort Lee for days last year, apologized at a news conference Thursday and fired the top aide involved.
Wildstein, a longtime Christie friend, resigned from the Port Authority in December as accusations that the lane closures were for political revenge started to build because he said he said the issue had become a distraction.