The man at the center of the scandal that threatens to destroy Chris Christie’s White House ambitions is a hardnosed Jewish ex-blogger who drank the Republican Kool-Aid as a teenager and broke into New Jersey journalism writing under the pseudonym “Wally Edge.”
Most of all, David Wildstein, who grew up in the same central Jersey town as Christie, famously never shied away from a good political cage fight.
That made it all the more remarkable to see Wildstein, 53, forced to eat crow as he invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer lawmakers’ questions at a hearing into his decision to close lanes of the George Washington Bridge as political payback aimed at a Democratic mayor.
“Under the advice of counsel, I assert my right to remain silent,” Wildstein told the Assembly’s transportation committee at the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex peppered Wildstein questions about e-mail exchanges with Bridget Anne Kelly, a top Christie aide who was fired earlier Thursday.
But Wildstein would not answer.
“Same answer, Mr. Chairman,” he said, time after time.
It was a humbling day for Wildstein, who has earned a hard-won reputation as a brash political fighter and pugnacious Christie loyalist.
A few minutes earlier, Christie took an oblique swipe at Wildstein by pointing out that they weren’t friends growing up, even though they attended the same high school just a year apart.
“We went 23 years without seeing each other. And in the years we did see each other, we passed in the hallways,” he said. “I want to clear that up.”