Christie’s account of bridge closings ‘rings true,’ Gibson Dunn report says
Posted Mar 27, 2014 12:07 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s claim that he played no part in controversial lane closing “rings true,” according to a report released today by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
Christie has said he didn’t know of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge ahead of time and had no involvement in the decision. His account “is corroborated by many witnesses, and he has conducted himself at every turn as someone who has nothing to hide,” the report (PDF) says. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and the New Jersey Star-Ledger have stories.
In one meeting Christie raised his voice, asked staffers if they had any involvement (no admissions were forthcoming) and complained about having to clean up the mess. Then, after personal emails surfaced showing involvement of Christie’s then-deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie held another meeting. “It was an emotional session,” the report says, “in which the governor, welling up with tears, expressed shock at the revelations, [and] directed Kelly’s immediate firing for lying to him.”
The Port Authority official who oversaw the lane closings, David Wildstein, later told Christie’s press secretary that he had told Christie about the lane closings as they were occurring, the report says. Christie said he didn’t recall the conversation and he wouldn’t have considered a traffic issue memorable in any event.
The report largely blames Wildstein and Kelly for the lane-closure decision and says the plan was at least partly hatched “for some ulterior motive” to target the mayor of Fort Lee. The common speculation is that the lane closings, which snarled traffic into Fort Lee, were carried out because the mayor had failed to endorse Christie for re-election, but this idea “is not established by the evidence that we have seen,” the report says. Wildstein had previously sought to study the traffic effects of dedicated Fort Lee toll lanes.
The report quotes from Kelly’s controversial email to Wildstein, sent the day after Kelly reconfirmed that Fort Lee’s mayor would not be endorsing Christie. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly's email said.
The report acknowledges that the law firm was unable to interview key figures. "As other investigations progress, they may uncover, through their subpoena powers, more about the questions that remain unanswered, including what really motivated this plan," the report says.