Christie's Lawyers Clear Him in Bridge Scandal

Image: Christie's Lawyers Clear Him in Bridge Scandal

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 08:32 AM

By Elliot Jager

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There is no evidence that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is culpable in the bridge-gate scandal, according to an extensive investigation carried out at his behest by a top Manhattan law firm, The New York Times reported, citing people with direct knowledge of the inquiry.

The internal inquiry cleared Christie of wrongdoing and determined that he was not involved in plotting the lane closings that snarled traffic from the George Washington Bridge to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who refused to endorse his re-election.

Lawyers for Gibson Dunn & Crutcher — which has professional ties to Christie's office — conducted 70 interviews, examined smartphones, telephone records, government and private email accounts, and an array of correspondence stored on government servers. Christie handed over his own phone to the investigators and permitted them to review his email accounts.

The investigatory team, led by former Rudy Giuliani associate Randy Mastro, included five former federal prosecutors. Christie and the firm's top partner, Debra Wong Yang, were both appointed U.S. attorney by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s, according to the Times.

Several key personalities would not participate in the inquiry: Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor's former deputy chief of staff, whose reported email — "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" — set the scandal in motion; campaign manager Bill Stepien; and Port Authority official David Wildstein, whose agency runs the bridge. In addition, neither Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer nor Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich would speak to the internal investigators.

Mastro said that his team is confident they have a "comprehensive and exhaustive" picture of what happened because they had access to emails left on government servers by the former staffers, records from the Port Authority, access to documents subpoenaed from Port Authority officials who declined to be interviewed, plus interviews with individuals in and out of government.

As for credibility, the internal investigation would not want to miss anything that would later be turned up in investigations led by the Democratic state legislature or U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, Mastro told the Times.

In addition, the probe was asked to report on any office practices or culture that might have contributed to the scandal.

The tab for the investigation at $650 an hour will run to more than $1 million and be picked up by the taxpayers. Some of the Gibson Dunn attorneys are also involved in responding to subpoenas issued by the legislature and the U.S. attorney for records from Christie's office.

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