Surprise! The Christie Administration's Report on Bridgegate Clears Chris Christie
The Christie administration's report on the New Jersey governor's alleged connections to the Bridgegate scandal is out. And guess what? It concludes that the man who commissioned the report, Chris Christie, wasn't involved.
The Christie administration's report on the New Jersey governor's alleged connections to the Bridgegate scandal is out. And guess what? It concludes that the man who commissioned the report, Chris Christie, wasn't involved. Attorney Randy Mastro was hired by the Christie administration to look into whether the governor had a connection to the traffic-clogging scheme in Fort Lee. Mastro announced his findings in the 345-page report on Thursday. "Our findings are a vindication of Governor Christie," Mastro said to reporters.
"We found that Governor Christie had no knowledge beforehand" in the plan to cause some traffic problems in Fort Lee, Mastro said in a press conference. He added that the only staffer in the governor's office who knew about it was Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly. She was fired in January.
The New York Times previewed the report just before the announcement. It notes that the report more or less places the blame on Kelly, as far as the governor's office is concerned:
The probe...claims that Ms. Kelly had become “personally involved” with Bill Stepien, Mr. Christie’s two-time campaign manager and the aide who had previously held Ms. Kelly’s position. It suggests that Mr. Christie became highly emotional at a meeting in the State House in January when he learned that Ms. Kelly and Mr. Stepien were involved in the scheme, even “welling up with tears.”
Mastro adds that the plan "originated" with former Port Authority official David Wildstein, who then brought the idea to Kelly. According to the Times, Wildstein says he told Christie of the plan on September 11 — the closures began on September 9 and ended on September 12. Christie says he has no recollection of that conversation.
The report also throws doubt on what many assume is the reason behind the closure idea in the first place: the refusal of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich to endorse Christie. The Washington Post found the relevant part of the report, which was mentioned by Mastro on Thursday:
By late March 2013, both the Governor’s Office and his campaign knew that Mayor Sokolich would not be endorsing, yet that had no apparent effect upon his working relationship with the Christie Administration over the next several months. Indeed, by April 2013, Sokolich was no longer on the list of Mayors whose endorsement the campaign would be seeking; yet in mid-May 2013, he remained on a list of Mayors being considered for honorary appointments by the Governor."
The report also looked into allegations from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who claimed that the Christie administration threatened to withhold Sandy aid funds unless Zimmer's office supported a particular development project. Mastro called those allegations "demonstrably false," based on the report.
The report also recommends reforms for the governor's office, including the creation of an ombudsman and a chief ethics officer for the administration.
Here's the full report: