ALBANY — Republican Rob Astorino said Tuesday New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should each resign if potentially damaging testimony in the “Bridgegate” scandal is proven true.
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, seized on testimony by a former top Christie aide who said the two governors discussed issuing a false report to tamp down the controversial closing of some entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in 2013 — the year Christie was up for re-election. First camouflaged as a “traffic study,” the lane closures were executed to cause havoc for a New Jersey mayor who hadn’t endorsed Christie, a Republican. The next year, Christie, in his role as leader of the Republican Governors’ Association, denied Astorino’s bid for financial help from the association when Astorino ran for governor against Cuomo in 2014.
The Cuomo administration issued a statement after the court action, denying the statements made by Christie ally David Wildstein and saying “no such conversation” took place between the two governors.
Still, Astorino, believing he was undercut by a secret deal, said he will hold a news conference Wednesday in Manhattan to call on both governors to step down because they “abused their gubernatorial powers.” Christie, while leading the RGA, said he didn’t want the committee to invest in “lost causes,” referring to Astorino’s 2014 bid against Cuomo, a Democrat.
“Today’s damning testimony that confirms Governors Christie and Cuomo were colluding to cover up the Bridgegate scandal is exactly what we suggested was happening at the time,” Astorino said in a statement. “Both Christie and Cuomo grossly abused their gubernatorial powers, and Mr. Christie abused the power of the Republican Governors Association to help a Democrat get re-elected. If corroborated, they should both resign their offices.”
A Cuomo spokesman said the governor’s Republican rival — who is considering running again in 2018 — was relying on “hearsay” from a “felon,” a reference to Wildstein’s guilty plea in the Bridgegate matter.
“Astorino to seeking to re-litigate his losing campaign by bear hugging a felon’s hearsay testimony on things that never happened,” Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi said.
Separately, here is the statement from Cuomo aide John Kelly on Wildstein’s testimony:
“The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: It was our executive director who blew the whistle and ordered the bridge reopened. To be clear, no such conversation between the governors happened, in fact no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted ‘Bridgegate’ architect thought or dreamt about New York’s involvement has no basis in fact. Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it’s just false and delusional.”