New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's "account of these events rings true" and he has "conducted himself at every turn as someone who has nothing to hide," according to an investigation — done at the request of the governor's office — of the George Washington Bridge scandal.
The law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher also concludes that the only person in the Republican governor's office who was involved in closing lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., to the bridge last September was his deputy chief of staff at the time, Bridget Kelly.
Responses, Reactions And Analyses
— "Some Democratic state lawmakers have already denounced the report and internal investigation, noting that its findings were leaked before the firm's investigation was done, and that at least three key figures who might have had intimate knowledge of the bridge closings were not interviewed. They said any report ordered up by the governor himself would have no credibility." (NJ.com)
— "The report lacks crucial elements. At least five key figures refused to be interviewed by Mastro's team: [former Christie campaign manager Bill] Stepien; [former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget] Kelly; [Port Authority official David] Wildstein; Bill Baroni, who is a Christie appointee to the Port Authority who has since resigned; and David Samson, a key Christie advisor who remains chairman of the Port." (WNYC)
— "Democrats have dismissed the internal review as incomplete and insufficient. It was commissioned by Christie and conducted by lawyers who are being paid by New Jersey taxpayers but assigned to represent Christie and his office. Several key aides, including Kelly and Wildstein, refused to take part. Its findings will do little to silence critics who have said the incident shows Christie set a tone for his subordinates that allowed them to believe hard-ball tactics were acceptable. Parallel investigations are also being conducted by the New Jersey legislature and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey, and Democrats have said they will wait for results of those inquiries before considering the matter closed." (The Washington Post)
— "Mr. Christie was still in the process of reading the report Thursday, and was expected to address its findings in the near future at a press conference, spokesman Kevin Roberts said. The governor is expected to speak about the report and the bridge matter during an interview Thursday evening with ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer, Mr. Robert said." (The Wall Street Journal)
"We have not found any evidence of anyone in the governor's office knowing about the lane realignment beforehand or otherwise being involved, besides Bridget Kelly," the reports states.
What motivated Kelly and David Wildstein, director of interstate capital projects at The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to order the lane closures still isn't clear, the report adds. But "it was not at the behest of Gov. Christie, who knew nothing about it."
The investigators did not speak with Kelly or Wildstein, who along with former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien declined to talk to them.
The firm's report is posted here.
As you'll likely recall, lane closures from Fort Lee to the bridge last September caused massive traffic problems in that city for four days. Over subsequent weeks and months, news reports uncovered evidence that the lanes may have been closed in part to cause problems for Fort Lee's mayor, who is a Democrat.
Kelly and Wildstein were identified in those news reports as allegedly being central characters in the scandal.
NJ.com adds that the report released Thursday also "concluded that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's allegations that the Christie administration withheld Hurricane Sandy aid in an effort to help a private developer were unsubstantiated, 'demonstrably false,' and 'unbelievable.' " Zimmer is a Democrat.
The report recommends, though, that Christie name a chief ethics officer for his office to guard against future scandals.
Thursday's report is by no means the final word on the scandal. New Jersey legislators are also looking into what happened. Democrats, in part because Christie is a potential 2016 presidential contender, are sure to keep digging.
Randy Mastro, the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher lawyer who led the review, told reporters Thursday that "had we found evidence to the contrary of what we found, we would have been reporting that. ... We believe we got it right." Mastro said the review was done at the request of the governor's office and for the people of New Jersey, not for any individual.
Update at 6:23 p.m. ET. 'Not ... The Final Word':
The co-chairs of the committee investigating the bridge scandal for the New Jersey legislature said this does not end the matter.
In a statement given to The Wall Street Journal, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said: "Lawyers hired by and paid by the Christie administration itself to investigate the governor's office who then say the governor and most of his office did nothing wrong will not be the final word on this matter."