Report Cites Gaps Between Records and Christie’s Comments on Bridge Lane Closings

“He knew more than he was publicly saying he knew,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democrat who is co-chairman of the legislative committee. At best, he said, “he was under-representing the extent of his knowledge.”

The report, which is to be released publicly by the committee on Monday, was obtained by The New York Times on Thursday.

The closings exploded in January into a scandal that threatened Mr. Christie’s presidential ambitions, when emails subpoenas by the legislative committee revealed that a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie had authorized an ally of the governor at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to shut two of three access lanes to the bridge, the world’s busiest.

The resulting gridlock had paralyzed the borough of Fort Lee, on the New Jersey end of the bridge, for four days the previous September. The town’s mayor had declined repeated entreaties to endorse the governor for re-election, as the report details, and his calls for help during the lane closings went unanswered by the governor’s office and the Port Authority, which runs the bridge.

In a two-hour news conference in January, Mr. Christie insisted that the deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, had lied to him about the lane closings. He fired her, and cut ties with his campaign chief, Bill Stepien, who had been in line to run the state Republican Party and work as a consultant to the Republican Governor’s Association, which Mr. Christie was preparing to lead.

Mr. Christie hired a private law firm to conduct an internal investigation, which in March cleared the governor of any wrongdoing, and isolated almost all the blame on Ms. Kelly and the Port Authority official, David Wildstein.

The report is a much-delayed rebuttal to the account by the governor’s lawyers.

It affirms the role of Ms. Kelly and Mr. Wildstein, but says that many questions remain about the role of Mr. Stepien and Mr. Christie’s two top appointees at the Port Authority — Bill Baroni, the deputy executive director, and David Samson, the chairman of the board.

All of those people declined to speak with either lawyers conducting the inquiry for the governor or with the legislative committee, which has eight Democrats and four Republicans. Ms. Kelly and Mr. Stepien have declined to comply with subpoenas from the committee; Mr. Samson and Mr. Wildstein provided some initial documents, but subsequently stopped cooperating.

The report, written by the private counsel to the committee, notes that its investigation has been significantly hindered by that lack of cooperation and a continuing federal investigation. Legislative investigators have not been able to interview key witnesses until the United States Attorney’s office finishes its review. So the report, the committee said, is only interim.

Still, it lays out several contradictions between what the governor said publicly and what telephone records, emails and interviews indicate was happening.

The report notes that Mr. Christie was told at least twice — by his chief of staff and his campaign chief — that Ms. Kelly had emails indicating her knowledge of the lane closings as they happened. Yet the governor subsequently told reporters that his staff members had assured him that none of them knew.

“It is difficult to review this sequence of events without seeing indications that some of the participants may have known or suspected that the traffic study cover story was a fabrication even as they continued to embrace that story publicly,” the report said.

The report also reinforces earlier indications that Mr. Christie and his administration were increasingly worried about political fallout. Publicly, the governor’s office insisted for months after the lane closings that they were part of a traffic study.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment