Chris Christie vows to co-operate with scandal inquiries
Embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has pledged to co-operate with inquiries into a series of scandals threatening his political future.
It has been revealed his senior staff orchestrated a severe traffic jam at the foot of a major bridge in an act of apparent political payback.
"We let down the people we are entrusted to serve," he said in a major speech, referring obliquely to the row.
He had been seen as a top contender in the 2016 Republican presidential field.
In Mr Christie's annual "state of the state" address, the Republican governor touted his education policy, called for stiff new measures to prevent violent criminals being allowed out of jail on bail, and promoted new measures to fight drug addiction, among other things.
He opened the speech addressing the growing bridge traffic scandal, which has engulfed his administration in recent weeks.
"I am the governor and I am ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch - both good and bad," he said.
"Without a doubt we will co-operate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again. But I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state."
He said that his administration and the New Jersey state legislature would not allow the row to delay "the work that needs to be done to improve the people's lives in New Jersey".
Following the speech, New Jersey State Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, labelled the alleged "abuse of power" by Mr Christie's administration the "number one issue" that his legislative body must ensure did not happen again.
Investigations by the New York and New Jersey news media and by Mr Christie's Democratic political opponents indicate the governor's top aides ordered the closure of two local lanes from the town of Fort Lee on to the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey to Manhattan, last summer.
The mayhem on the span, one of the most heavily trafficked in the world, was allegedly orchestrated in revenge against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who declined to endorse Mr Christie's re-election as governor.
Mr Christie has fired a top aide after emails released by the state legislature apparently showed her engineering the lane closures.
New revelations by US media may further damage Mr Christie's political ambition, analysts say.
Documents released on Monday suggest Mr Christie's staff also attempted to punish Jersey City's Democratic mayor.
Those documents suggest the Christie administration cut off Mayor Steven Fulop's access to senior state officials after he declined to back the governor's re-election bid.
Meanwhile, federal officials are also looking into whether Mr Christie misused federal funds allocated for relief from a powerful 2012 storm to produce tourism adverts starring himself and his family.
First elected in 2009, Mr Christie, a former prosecutor, was handily re-elected in November.