Internal review clears Christie in bridge scandal
After two months, 70 interviews, and more than $1 million in legal fees paid by New Jersey taxpayers, the internal review is complete and has found no evidence that Christie was involved with planning or directing the lane closures, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee, according to a report published in the Times.
Christie found himself engulfed in controversy earlier this year after e-mails revealed that two of his senior aides had called for lane closures leading to the busy George Washington Bridge in September, apparently as political retribution against a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse the governor's reelection.
New Jersey lawmakers and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey announced parallel investigations into the closures, and Christie, who has maintained that he was "blindsided" by his staff's involvement, hired a private law firm to conduct his own review of what had occurred.
The lawyer leading the review, Randy Mastro, a deputy mayor under former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said lawyers had unprecedented access to the governor and his office's internal communications and records. Mastro said Christie handed over his iPhone and telephone records and allowed investigators to search his private and government e-mail accounts.
However, the review did not have access to three of the scheme's central figures, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor's former deputy chief of staff, who apparently triggered the lane closures by sending an e-mail that read "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Kelly and Christie's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, have been subpoenaed by a state investigative committee seeking documents and e-mails related to the lane closures and the aftermath. Both have refused to comply, arguing that the subpoenaed documents would violate due process and their constitutional guarantee against self-incrimination.
Stepien's attorney on Monday filed additional documents outlining opposition to the subpoena and to what he called an "errant filing" when the investigative committee last week released previously unseen e-mails appearing to show Stepien's role in the traffic shutdown.
It is not known whether the investigation will give insight into questions of whether Christie condones a culture of intimidation. The outspoken Republican has been accused of being a bully.
A Bergen County Democrat helping to lead the state probe into the lane closures, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, called the review "too little, too late."