"He just flat out lied," the text message began
Christie on Wednesday denied any truth to the content of the texts
A former staffer in Gov. Chris Christie’s office accused the governor of lying during a press conference about the “bridgegate” scandal in New Jersey, according to a text message newly surfaced in court filings.
In the message, sent during a press conference Christie gave on the topic of the bridge closures in December 2013, Christina Genovese Renna, identified in court documents as Christina Genovese, told a campaign staffer that Christie “flat out lied” about his staff’s involvement in the scandal.
The text messages is one of a group that surfaced Wednesday in a court filing by attorneys for Bill Baroni, an appointee to the Port Authority who along with former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly is fighting off charges related to lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that were allegedly ordered as political retribution.
Renna, who worked in the office of Intergovernmental Affairs under Kelly, was texting Peter Sheridan, who worked on the campaign for the governor’s re-election, according to Baroni’s filing.
“Are you listening? He just flat out lied about senior staff and Stepien not being involved,” Renna texted in response to Christie telling reporters he had “absolutely no reason to believe” that senior staff, including top aide Bill Stepien, acted on his behalf with the closures.
“Gov is doing fine. Holding his own up there,” Sheridan texted back on Dec. 13, 2013.
“Yes. But he lied,” Renna texted. “And if emails are found with the subpoena or ccfg emails are uncovered in discovery if it comes to that it could be bad.”
Christie on Wednesday denied any truth to the content of the texts.
“I absolutely dispute it. It’s ridiculous. It’s nothing new,” Christie told reporters in New York City on Wednesday, according to 1010 WINS. “There’s nothing new to talk about.”
Baroni’s attorneys pointed to the text messages, which would be in federal prosecutors’ possession, to argue that he’s being unfairly singled out despite evidence like Renna’s text messages that others were involved in the lane closures. The attorneys also noted that Renna never mentioned the text messages in lengthy testimony before the state Legislature as it investigated the matter.
The messages invite a fresh wave of scrutiny for Christie, who has long maintained he had no involvement in or knowledge of the closures, which caused major traffic headaches and were allegedly political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for refusing to endorse Christie during his re-election campaign. A third staffer, David Wildstein, has pleaded guilty and pointed to Kelly and Baroni as co-conspirators.
In addition to still governing New Jersey, Christie has a higher profile this election cycle as a confidante of GOP candidate Donald Trump and the chief of his transition team after his own presidential campaign foundered.
Still, after federal investigation and an investigation by the Legislature, no evidence to date has pointed to Christie’s involvement or knowledge.
Christie’s office said that remains unchanged.
“The Governor’s statements have been clear. Nothing contained in this text message changes that in any way,” said spokesman Brian Murray. “He stands by those statements completely and unequivocally.”
Christie’s office also pointed to a Jan. 9, 2014, news conference by the governor in which he said he later discovered that his staff’s assurances that there was no involvement were “a lie.”
Those assurances, according to his later remarks, were the basis for his statement in December.
Stepien’s lawyer, Kevin Marino, also denied the text messages showed any guilt of his client.
“Christine Renna testified before a legislative committee for more than four hours and did not implicate Mr. Stepien,” Marino said. “The government investigated the Bridgegate affair for more than 16 months and did not charge Mr. Stepien. The plaintiffs in the (George Washington Bridge) class action lawsuit sued every potential party they could identify and voluntarily dismissed their claims against Mr. Stepien. The suggestion that Mr. Stepien was nonetheless involved in a conspiracy to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge based on a text message exchange that has been in the Government’s possession for years is categorically false and irresponsible.”
Renna may be called as a witness at Baroni and Kelly’s trial. Renna’s attorney, Henry Klingeman, said: “Ms. Renna will answer questions publicly when she testifies at the upcoming trial, not before.”
CNN’s Chris Frates contributed to this report.