Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Internal review clears Christie in bridge scandal

Gov. Christie commissioned the review by a private law firm.
Gov. Christie commissioned the review by a private law firm.
A review commissioned by Gov. Christie into a traffic jam apparently orchestrated by top staffers in his administration has found the possible Republican presidential contender had nothing to do with the scheme, the New York Times reported Monday.

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 results of the review are expected to be met with skepticism because the investigation was commissioned by the governor and carried out by the private law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher L.L.P., which has close ties to the Christie administration, the newspaper said.

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."

Victoria Cavaliere Reuters
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