Christie Apologizes, Fires Deputy, Humiliated By Team's Conduct - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Christie Apologizes, Fires Deputy, Says He's 'Humiliated' By Team's Conduct

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TRENTON, N.J. -

Gov. Chris Christie has apologized to citizens, saying he's embarrassed by the actions of members of his administration in connection with the closing of bridge lanes as apparent political retribution.

Christie also announced that he has terminated the employment of Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who was connected to the scandal by emails released Wednesday.

"I have come out here to apologize to the people of New Jersey," Christie said during Thursday morning's news conference. "I apologize to the people of Fort Lee, and I apologize to the members of the state legislature. I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team. There's no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for the appropriate role of government and for the people that we're trusted to serve."

Meanwhile, the United States Attorney's General Office for the District of New Jersey now says it is looking into the matter.

"The Port Authority Office of Inspector General has referred the matter to us, and our office is reviewing it to determine whether a federal law was implicated," a spokeswoman for the office told FOX 29 News.

That confirmation came during Christie's marathon news conference, which lasted from a few minutes after 11 a.m. until just before 1 p.m.

WATCH REPLAY: Christie's Opening Statement At News Conference

"I believe that all of the people who were affected by this conduct deserve this apology," Christie said Thursday. "I mean, that's why I'm giving it to them. I also need to apologize to them for my failure as the governor of this state to understand the true nature of this problem sooner than I did."

As for Kelly's firing, Christie said,"I terminated her employment because she lied to me."

He went on to say that he's "heartbroken," "stunned" and not interested in his aide's explanation.

The lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last summer caused gridlock in the town of Fort Lee.

Although officials from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey initially blamed a "traffic study," local officials denied that was the case. Rumors began swirling that they could be political payback on Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich because he refused to endorse Christie's re-election bid, and state legislators began an investigation.

Christie, a former federal prosecutor himself, said he brought his senior staff together almost four weeks ago and issued a one-hour ultimatum to anyone with information about the case to come forward with it.

The Republican governor says he was told that there was no information other than what they already knew from port officials' testimony before the state legislature, and he followed up by questioning his two direct reports, his chief of staff and his chief counsel.

Christie then, at that time, publicly denied that he or his administration had anything to do with the lane closures.

Emails released Wednesday, however, included an exchange between Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, and David Wildstein, the governor's longtime friend and a port authority official.

In the messages, Kelly writes, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Wildstein replies, "Got it."

One of the released text messages came from Fort Lee's Mayor Mark Sokolich, pleading for help because kids couldn't get to school.

Other reports indicate that emergency responders were delayed in getting to some calls as a result of the traffic tie-ups.

Wildstein and another Christie appointee, Bill Baroni, the port authority's deputy executive director, both resigned last month.

Wildstein was called to testify on the lane closures Thursday at a hearing in Trenton. His attorney filed a court motion seeking to have the subpoena quashed, but at lunchtime Thursday a judge denied that request.

Then, when he Wildstein did appear, he asserted his right to remain silent, citing the advice of his lawyer and refusing to say where he previously worked. Wildstein's lawyer said his client would assert the right to silence on all questions, and the committee chairman said he could be accused of contempt.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement that said Christie failed to failed to take swift action and "ignored questions and responsibility for more than 120 days, until his administration was finally caught red-handed."

The DNC's statement began, "For nearly two hours today, Chris Christie stood up and repeatedly made himself out to be the victim. He lauded himself for swift action in firing staffers for lying to him. And he argued that this was not reflective of the culture he's created in his office. But Chris Christie is not the victim. The people of New Jersey who trusted him are."

Christie did reiterate several times Thursday that he takes responsibility for the actions of his team, that he was told it was a "traffic study," and he learned of the emails Wednesday morning.

The governor said he hasn't even gotten to the angry stage yet, though he added, "I'm sure I'll get there," FOX 29's Jeff Cole reported from the news conference.

Christie brushed aside questions about whether the scandal will factor into consideration of a run for president, saying, "My job is to be governor of New Jersey."

Christie said he kept his wife, Mary Pat, up Wednesday night as he pondered what went wrong: "That's what I was thinking: How did it happen, and why do people do this? I just don't get it."

Christie seemed to begin to get choked up as he said, "You know, I work really hard, I work hard at this job, and it's incredibly disappointing to have people let you down this way."

He added, "I'm incredibly loyal to my people, and I expect in return their honesty and their candor, and their loyalty. And I didn't get it. And, it's a hard thing, a hard thing after you work as hard as I do, with them, at it.

"But, here's the thing: This is my job, and there are going to be mistakes. There are going to be disappointments. I don't think there's a perfect government anywhere in the country, and I certainly never claimed to have one. I claimed to have the best government I can possibly make, and sometimes there are going to be mistakes. And when there are, I have to own up to them and act. And that's what I have done today."

And Christie pledged to take any other action necessary, if more information comes out.

Stay with FOX 29 News and MyFOXPhilly.com for more on this breaking news story.

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