Team Christie Clears Christie Over Bridgegate

The governor’s internal investigation tries to discredit his critics and didn’t bother speaking to the scandal’s most important players.

Kena Betancur/Getty

Chris Christie’s investigation of Chris Christie has found that Chris Christie did nothing wrong, says Chris Christie’s attorney.

On the 46th floor of the MetLife building in New York City, Randy Mastro, an attorney hired by New Jersey’s governor to investigate his administration’s involvement in Bridgegate—at the cost of $1 million to New Jersey taxpayers—briefed the press on the results of that investigation.

“This is a vindication of Governor Christie,” Mastro said.

The 360-page report was the result of interviewing “more than 70 witnesses and the review of more than 250,000 documents, including the personal texts and emails of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and their senior staffers, over the past two months.

The report tries to discredit Christie detractors like Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer, who had accused the administration of attempting to coerce her into advancing a real estate project in exchange for Hurricane Sandy recovery aid. The report says that Zimmer’s own public statements, documents, and witness accounts prove that “the subjective perceptions she may have do not match objective reality, as reflected in the hard evidence uncovered during our investigation.” Mastro himself told the press, “we find that Mayor Zimmer’s allegations…are not only unsubstantiated, they are demonstrably false.”

The report also goes to great lengths to vilify Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Ann Kelly. Kelly became Deputy Chief of Staff after Bill Stepien left the post to run Christie’s reelection campaign. “At some point after Stepien’s departure to run the campaign,” the report says, “Kelly and Stepien became personally involved, although, by early August 2013, their personal relationship had cooled, apparently at Stepien’s choice, and they largely stopped speaking.”

Kelly is a 41-year-old mother of four, who is divorced. At a recent court appearance, her attorney told the press that she was looking for work.

Mastro told reporters that he believed outing Kelly and Stepien’s “personal relationship” was not cruel or pointless. “The relevance is that it may explain a lack of communication between them,” he said.

Mastro’s report paints David Wildstein, former Port Authority executive, as the loose-wheeled mastermind of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. “Among his political friends, Wildstein first approached Stepien about his idea to realign the Fort Lee toll lanes.” Stepien, the report claims, told Wildstein to go to “Trenton.” Wildstein took that advice, the report says. “Wildstein then began communicating with Kelly about that subject using their personal email accounts.” The report says that during a meeting between Stepien and Christie, Stepien “told the Governor that Wildstein would come to him with ‘50 crazy ideas a week,’ and that Stepien would remind Wildstein that Stepien was not in the Governor’s Office anymore, so Wildstein would have to run his ideas through the normal channels at the Governor’s Office.”

The report claims “as the controversy grew, Wildstein and Kelly attempted to cover it up.”

For all their interviewing and document reviewing, Mastro and his team left out some really important figures. They did not speak to the three most important people involved in the Bridgegate scandal (aside from Christie himself): Kelly, Wildstein and Port Authority Chairman David Samson. Kelly and Wildstein, Mastro said, plead the Fifth. Samson, he said, “refused.”

Mastro did not seem worried about questions regarding how he came to any conclusion at all—let alone one that exonerates Christie—without talking to key figures in the Bridgegate scandal.