POLITICS
01/09/2014 12:08 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Here's Everything You Need To Know To Understand The Chris Christie Bridge Controversy

A New Jersey political payback scheme exploded into a full-blown scandal Wednesday when emails revealed ties between Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) office and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official who maneuvered a catastrophic traffic jam in September. Here's a rundown of the events that got us to this point:

Fort Lee Mayor Refuses To Endorse Christie For Governor. Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., declined to support Christie’s reelection. Christie defeated his Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, in a landslide on Nov. 5.

Access To The Busiest U.S. Bridge Is Restricted, Causing Massive Fort Lee Traffic Jams. On Sept. 9, drivers attempting to cross the George Washington Bridge found that two of the three access lanes in Fort Lee were closed. David Wildstein, a high-ranking Port Authority official and an ally of Christie, ordered the closures. The result was massive traffic problems as vehicles backed up into Fort Lee's local roads, delaying emergency vehicles and snarling the first day of school. The lanes were reopened on Sept. 13 by Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Christie Official Blames Closures On A Traffic Study. Wildstein's boss at the Port Authority, Bill Baroni -- another Christie appointee -- testified to the New Jersey Assembly transportation committee in late November that the lanes were closed as part of a traffic study. Foye said he was unaware of such a study.

Two Christie Officials Resign. Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority in early December. Christie announced Baroni's resignation a week later, maintaining it had been planned long before the controversy.

Christie Insists There Was No Political Malfeasance. On Dec. 13, Christie held a press conference with his first extended remarks on the lane closures. He said that while Baroni and Wildstein erred in not getting the traffic study cleared, there was no political motivation to the closures.

Senator Calls For A Federal Review. On Dec. 16, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, asked the U.S. Transportation Department to review the issue.

Christie Maintains Controversy Is ‘Not That Big A Deal.’ "I know you guys are obsessed with this. I'm not," Christie said during Dec. 19 news conference, according to ABC News. "I'm really not. It's not that big of deal … just because the press runs around and writes about it both here and nationally, I know why that is and so do you, let's not pretend that it's because of the gravity of the issue. It's because I am a national figure and anything like this will be written a lot about now."

Emails Reveal A Top Christie Aide Was Involved In The Scandal. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, wrote in an Aug. 13 email. "Got it," replied Wildstein.

Christie Denies Knowledge Of The Scheme. "What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable," Christie said in a statement. "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge."

Fort Lee Mayor Speaks Out. "David Wildstein deserves an ass-kicking," Sokolich told MSNBC's Chris Hayes. "There, I said it."

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