Christie Bridgegate Probe Blames Wildstein, Kelly
The report detailing the Christie's administration's internal investigation into Bridgegate places the blame for the controversial lane closings at the George Washington Bridge and an ensuing coverup entirely on former Port Authority official David Wildstein and former Christie aide Bridget Kelly.
In a 75-minute press conference Thursday morning, Randy Mastro, lead attorney for the internal investigation, said Kelly, who has been fired as a deputy chief of staff for Gov. Chris Christie, "consciously tried to cover up" her involvement in the scheme, even going so far as to ask another staffer to delete an incriminating email she had sent.
The report also calls allegations by Hoboken Mayor Bridget Zimmer, that Sandy aid to her city was being used to pressure her for approval of a development project, "demonstrably false."
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who Zimmer has accused of personally threatening a delay of Sandy aid to Hoboken, said the report: "It is clear that Mayor Zimmer’s allegations do not stand up to scrutiny, and in truth, are demonstrably false based on contemporaneous documents, other witness accounts, and her own prior statement(s), all contained in the report. In fact, Mayor Zimmer’s version of events was and is fictional.”
Zimmer issued a statement calling the Mastro report a "one-sided whitewash of serious misconduct by the Christie Administration.”
Mastro said the investigation found no prior knowledge or involvement by Gov. Christie in the lane closure scheme. The report dismissed suggestions to the contrary made by Wildstein-- including a suggestion by Wildstein that "he mentioned the traffic issue in Fort Lee to the Governor at a public event during the lane realignment—a reference that the Governor does not recall and, even if actually made, would not have registered with the Governor in any event because he knew nothing about this decision in advance and would not have considered another traffic issue at one of the bridges or tunnels to be memorable."
Speaking on Ask the Governor on the Townsquare News Network Wednesday night, Christie said he had just received the report. Mastro of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, the attorney hired by Christie to handle the investigation, conducted the Thursday press conference at his New York City office.
The New York Times this week first reported that the Mastro-led investigation exonerated the governor of any wrongdoing in connection with Bridgegate. However, several key figures involved in the scandal did not speak with investigators, including Wildstein, Kelly and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien. Noting that, Townsquare’s Eric Scott asked Christie Wednesday night if he understood why many people are skeptical about an unfinished internal report that clears him of wrongdoing.
“You don’t just come to conclusions from interviews,” Christie said. “There’s lots and lots of documents that involve all those people which have been part of the public record or will be becoming part of the public record as we go forward and you can discern a lot from that…..I think all the important questions will be answered.”
Kelly was Christie’s deputy chief of staff. She was fired after an email apparently sent by her went public. In it, Kelly wrote: “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein is the former Port Authority official who received that email. Stepien is Christie’s two-time campaign manager. He was in line to chair the Republican State Committee and do consulting work for the Republican Governors Association. The governor relieved Stepien of both jobs after his involvement in Bridgegate became known.
Mastro Thursday made several allusions to a relationship between Kelly and Stepien that he said had ended by August of 2013, after which, Mastro said, the two were no longer speaking.
Christie Wednesday night said he received the report, which is more than 300 pages, Wednesday morning. He had yet to finish reading it but added: "I also said on Jan. 9 that we would do this investigation and that as soon as it became available to us, we would make it public without any restriction," Christie said. "And that's what we're doing tomorrow."