There's no doubt Chris Christie still has his eye on the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but an inconclusive report as to whether he was a knowing participant in the notorious Bridge-gate scandal could cause new headaches for the blustery New Jersey governor.
Bridgegate, one of the more ugly political scandals in recent years, exploded when it was revealed that some of Christie's staffers were in cahoots with Port Authority officials
to orchestrate days of traffic jams in and around Fort Lee, New Jersey, on roads leading to the George Washington Bridge.
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The report, released this week,
is the result of months of investigative work by the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation and reflects its efforts "to understand why and at whose direction Fort Lee was brought to a standstill" by the lane closures last year.
The committee says it "worked diligently to review tens of thousands of documents related to the lane closures, take sworn witness testimony, and, through Special Counsel, conduct private interviews of certain witnesses."
And while the committee says its probe reveals the closures were "directly implemented" by Bridget Anne Kelly,
deputy chief of staff to Christie and the author of a damning email saying it was time for traffic problems in Fort Lee, it was unable to conclude if Christie himself was involved.
Here are 10 key facts from the report that appear to raise further questions:
1. Several key witnesses "declined to cooperate in the committee's work or were otherwise unavailable to provide testimony and other evidence."
2. The committee could not uncover the extent to which the Port Authority's former Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni — a Christie appointee — participated
in the lane closures, although it is clear he "intentionally ignored pleas for assistance from the Mayor of Fort Lee."
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3. The committee could not reach a conclusion about the knowledge or involvement of the former chairman of the Port Authority's Board of Commissioners, David Samson, a Christie appointee, regarding the lane closures
4. The committee could not determine the degree to which Bill Stepien, who was leading Christie's re-election efforts, was aware
of or participated in the closures — although "it is clear" he knew they were clogging traffic and hindering first responders in providing emergency services.
5. The committee could not conclude what Christie did or did not know about the lane closures and how his knowledge of these events developed, as it has yet to hear from former Port Authority official David Wildstein,
"who has claimed to have contemporaneously told the governor of the closures."
6. Prior to the public revelation of emails linking Stepien to the lane closures, he "had enjoyed Governor Christie's support to be chair of the New Jersey Republican Party and to serve as a consultant to the Republican Governors' Association
, which Governor Christie chairs."
7. What remains difficult to ascertain, according to the committee, "is why [Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Ann] Kelly and Wildstein chose to cause the traffic problems
in Fort Lee and with whom, if anyone, they conspired beforehand to do so."
8. The "frequent and apparently strategic use of personal email accounts has contributed to the lack of a complete record in this matter. In particular, emails sent from personal accounts are not accessible in the same way as messages stored on official state government accounts and are susceptible to untraceable deletion."
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9. Kelly hinted at the possibility of more havoc of a national nature after she was texted a photo of Rabbi Mendy Carlebach
of South Brunswick Township posing with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. When Wildstein later texted Kelly that Carlebach "has officially pissed me off," Kelly wrote back, "We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?"
10. Evidence indicates that the Fort Lee mayor's failure to endorse Christie's re-election efforts "was at least a consideration in deciding to close the lanes."
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