Christie Labeled Innocent in Self-Requested Bridgegate Investigation
Conflicting stories are nothing new when it comes to the George Washington Bridge scandal, and opinions on a new investigative report released on the events are no different. Specifically, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s implication was ruled out by the report, but some have been dubious about the investigation, which has no legal impact and was requested by Christie himself — a fact others reference as proof of his innocence. “Witnesses lie, documents don’t. We have hard evidence. If we had found evidence to the contrary, we would have reported that,” said report investigator and attorney Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to Reuters.
According to the report, only Bridget Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff — whom he fired immediately after her involvement became clear — and David Wildstein, of the Port Authority, were guilty in the course of events. Both “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 [Fort Lee] Mayor [Mark] Sokolich,” the report said.
The report also says that both Bill Baroni, the deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and Bill Stepien, campaign manager for the governor, were aware of the plan beforehand, but that investigators “found no evidence that they knew of the ulterior motive here, besides the claimed purpose of conducting a traffic study.”
The report concludes by saying that there was no evidence discovered that would point to anyone, apart from Kelly, knowing about the scandal beforehand, and that both Kelly and Wildstein had acted without the knowledge or consent of the governor. “Importantly, the evidence exposing this operation was not to be found in government files; rather, it was hidden in the personal email accounts and personal texts of those participating in order to conceal their act,” according to the report.
The report was “costly,” Mastro told Reuters, and will be funded by New Jersey taxpayers, but he did not go into the specifics of the price. The report recommended that changes to the governor’s office and to other relevant institutions be made so as to increase transparency within the organizations. The report is quite clear on its position when it comes to Christie: “Our investigation has concluded that [Hoboken] Mayor [Dawn] Zimmer’s allegations are unsubstantiated and, in material respects, demonstrably false,” it reads. “Mayor Zimmer herself has called the sequence of events that she alleged ‘unbelievable.’ Based on our investigation, we would have to agree.”
“Lawyers hired and paid for by the Christie administration itself to investigate the governor’s office … will not be the final word on the matter. The people of New Jersey need a full accounting of what happened. This review has deficiencies that raise questions about the lack of objectivity and thoroughness,” said New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg to The New York Daily News.