New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was cleared of any involvement in the George Washington Bridge lane closures that affected the town of Fort Lee, NJ in Sept. 2013 in retribution of Mayor Mark Sokolich not endorsing the Governor’s bid for re-election.
The commission ordered by Christy concluded that former senior staffers of Christie’s administration ordered the closures of lanes that affected Fort Lee commuters from Sept 9- Sept. 12, and that Christie had no prior knowledge.
The report, which was 344 pages long and lasted two months, cited 70 interviews and 250,000 documents did however fail to include interviews with the Governor’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridgette Anne Kelly and former campaign manager, Bill Stepien.
“We found no evidence that no one in the governor’s office, besides Bridgette Kelley knew of the idea in advance, played any role in the decision or the implementation of it,” Mastro said in a press conference on Thursday.
Based on the report, Mastro found evidence that David Wildstein, a Port Authority employee, originated the idea and went to Kelly for approval from someone in the governor’s office and had the intention of targeting Mayor Sokolic in Fort Lee.
David Wildstein alleged that he did have a conversation with Christie about the lane closures on Sept. 11th, but according to Mastro, Christie had no recollection of said conversation.
Mastro said, “We know that Mr. Wildstein alleged that he spoke with the governor at a public event about the traffic issue during the week of the lane closure, ” and that Chridtie did recall seeing Mr. Wildstein, but does not remember what the conversation was about or any mention of traffic issies in Fort Lee.
Critics of the report, which Christie himself commissioned and came with a $1 Million price tag which was paid for with taxpayer money say that the report was biased because it failed to include interviews with some of the major players involved in the scandal, and that since Christie had initiated the investigation himself, that the findings are illegitimate because one of the lawyer’s, Deborah Wong Yang is a friend of Gov. Christie’s.
Randy Mastro, the attorney from the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who conducted the internal investigation said that, “Witnesses lie, documents don’t. We have hard evidence,” he went on to say, “If we had found any evidence to the contrary, we would have reported it.”
There are currently two other investigations going on on the state and federal level of the scandal. The New Jersey legislators who are leading the state investigation, and opponents of Gov. Christie have quickly dismissed the report.
“[Mastro] could have written the report himself on the day he was hired and saved the taxpayers the million dollar fee he billed in generating his one-sided, white wash of the serious misconduct of the Christie administration,” said Dawn Zimmern, mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey.
The report conducted by Mastro concluded that there should be a series of reforms in the governor’s office, as well as the Port Authority, including, but not limited to the restriction of personal email usage to conduct state business, and the appointment of an ethics officer.
By Nathaniel Pownell