Governor Chris Christie speaks to residents during a town
hall meeting of Belmar, New Jersey. REUTERS/Mike Segar
An investigation commissioned by New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie has cleared the potential Republican
presidential contender of wrongdoing in the "Bridgegate"
scandal and blamed senior staffers for orchestrating the
massive traffic jam.
The internal review was conducted by a law firm hired by
Christie, whose top staffers have been accused of planning
the traffic tie-up at the George Washington Bridge in
September 2013 as political payback after Mayor Mark Sokolich
of Fort Lee, New Jersey, declined to endorse Christie's
"What we found was that Governor Christie had no involvement
in the decision to close these lanes and no prior knowledge
of it," said attorney Randy Mastro of the law firm Gibson,
Dunn & Crutcher, which was hired to conduct the
"Not a shred of evidence of it," Mastro told a press
conference in New York.
The report has no legal weight and is eyed with suspicion by
many critics because it was ordered by Christie, who in
January fired the staffers and denied any involvement.
The report doubted the veracity of a conversation between
David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the bridge, and
Christie's press secretary after the scandal broke in
December, in which Wildstein said he had informed the
governor of the closings as they were occuring.
Even if Wildstein had mentioned a traffic issue in Fort Lee
to the governor, Christie does not recall it, the report
The staffers allegedly involved were not interviewed. New
Jersey lawmakers and the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey
are undertaking parallel investigations into the traffic
The 344-page report said the two-month internal investigation
involved 250,000 documents and 70 interviews, but excluded
some of the main players in the scandal, such as Bridget Anne
Kelly, the governor's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill
Stepien, Christie's former campaign manager.
"Witnesses lie, documents don't. We have hard evidence,"
Mastro said. "If we had found evidence to the contrary, we
would have reported that."
Instead, blame for the traffic nightmare lies chiefly with
Kelly and Wildstein, the report said.
"(Kelly and Wildstein) knowingly participated in this plan to
realign toll lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge
at Fort Lee, at least in part, for some ulterior motive to
target Mayor Sokolich," the report said.
Also blamed were Stepien and Bill Baroni, then deputy
executive director of the Port Authority.
"(Stepien and Baroni)knew of this idea in advance, but we
found no evidence that they knew of the ulterior motive here,
besides the claimed purpose of conducting a traffic study,"
the report said.
Mastro said the investigation was a "costly" process that
will be paid for by New Jersey taxpayers, but declined to
confirm a New York Times report that put the bill at $1
"This is a vindication in that what he (Christie) said all
along proved to be true. It's a sad day in that we did find
that someone in the governor's office, Bridget Kelly, and
someone in the Port Authority, David Wildstein, abused the
public trust," he said.
The report also recommends changes in the operation of the
governor's office and other institutions to make it more
It also denounces as lies the allegations by Hoboken Mayor
Dawn Zimmer, who shortly after the so-called Bridgegate
scandal broke, went public with accusations that Lieutenant
Governor Kim Guadagno warned her that Christie would withhold
Superstorm Sandy recovery funding if Zimmer did not support a
development project in her city. Guadagno has called the
accusations false and illogical.
"Our investigation has concluded that Mayor Zimmer's
allegations are unsubstantiated and, in material respects,
demonstrably false," the report said.
"Mayor Zimmer herself has called the sequence of events that
she has alleged 'unbelievable.' Based on our investigation,
we would have to agree," the report said.