Two former associates of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to their alleged role in the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution.
But their pleas may be falling on deaf ears — a new Monmouth University poll is showing Christie facing his lowest net approval rating yet, and half of the state’s residents believe he was personally involved in the scheme.
Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, Christie’s former top appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, both entered not-guilty pleas in federal court Monday to nine criminal counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, fraudulently obtaining and misapplying federal property and deprivation of civil rights.
Bail was set at $150,000 for both, with a tentative July 7 trial date.
They’ve been charged as key co-conspirators in an alleged scheme to shut down traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge as an act of retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. for refusing to endorse Christie for reelection.
Last Friday a third alleged conspirator, David Wildstein, another former Christie appointee at the Port Authority, pleaded guilty to the charges and fingered both Kelly and Baroni as his accomplices.
Kelly on Friday called Wildstein a “liar” and promised to fight the charges.
The governor has repeatedly denied any knowledge of or involvement in the scheme, and last week the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey said no further indictments were expected in the case. But the scandal has taken a serious toll on his image, and Monmouth University found in their latest poll that only 35% of the state’s residents approve of Christie’s job performance, while 54% disapprove.
That’s a troubling result for the Republican as he considers jumping into the increasingly crowded GOP presidential primary field.
About one in ten respondents in the latest poll believe Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein were the only culprits involved in the scheme, and a full 50% believe Christie was personally involved in the lane closures. Sixty-nine percent of New Jersey residents believe Christie hasn’t been completely honest about what he knows about the situation.
The survey was conducted among 500 New Jersey adults from May 1-3, and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.