WASHINGTON -- A growing number of Republican and some Democratic leaders said Sunday that, for now, they are accepting at face value New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s word that he knew nothing about the George Washington Bridge traffic-jam scheme that has rocked his political career.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he found it “pretty darn credible” that Christie was unaware that his aides shut down lanes to the bridge in September in what was apparently an act of political retribution. Noting the road closures occurred in the midst of Christie’s reelection bid, Giuliani said “during campaign mode you miss a lot of things. You’re not paying as much attention.”
At the same time, Giuliani, a Republican, told ABC’s “This Week” that “if, for some reason, it’s not true, the man has put his political career completely at risk.”
Christie, a hard-charging and blunt politician, has been widely seen as a top Republican candidate for the presidency in 2016. During a lengthy news conference last week, he said repeatedly and unequivocally he neither knew about nor had any involvement in the plan. He also fired his deputy chief of staff and he distanced himself from a long-time campaign advisor.
Some possible rivals of Christie in 2016 were very cautious in saying anything about the scandal. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” he didn’t have much to add. And Martin O’Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program: “I don’t know that I can really shed more light on it.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former GOP candidate for president, joined others in complimenting Christie for the way he handled the media, but said Sunday it was an open question whether the scandal would do any permanent damage to the governor’s career.
“I think that he can now move on, as long as another shoe doesn’t drop,” the senior senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” But he added: “Too often, we have seen these things that it’s not the end of the story. ... Now we’ll have to wait and see whether there’s anything more to the story.”
Similarly, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat, was willing to give Christie the benefit of the doubt.
“I take him at his word that he knew nothing about this,” Hoyer told CSPAN’s “Newsmakers.” “And if that’s the case, the firing of those employees was the right thing to do.”
“I don’t know that we need anything further at this point in time,” he said.
With the New Jersey legislature and the U.S. attorney’s office both looking into the matter, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), the ranking member on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, agreed it was best to wait for those results.
But he wasn’t willing to give Christie a complete pass on what happened. “I think we need to see what comes out,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“I've got to tell you, though, when I look at Christie's style -- and I don’t know him -- it’s hard for me to believe that he was blindsided by anything. Because he doesn't come off that way.”