NEW YORK — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not know of his top aides' plan for a politically motivated traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, according to lawyers hired by the Christie administration to investigate the "Bridgegate" scandal.
The lawyers released a report Thursday produced by an investigative team headed by New York lawyer Randy Mastro. The team examined Christie's e-mails and cellphone records but did not not include interviews with the three people at the center of the scandal: Christie aide Bridget Kelly, who wrote an e-mail saying "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee''; Bill Stepien, campaign manager for Christie's successful re-election last year; and David Wildstein, a Christie high school classmate whom the governor appointed to a job at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority controls the George Washington Bridge. All three refused to be interviewed by investigators.
Thursday's report states that Christie "did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign lanes ... Gov. Christie's account of these events rings true." The investigators concluded that Christie "has conducted himself at every turn as someone who has nothing to hide."
The investigative team had access to personal texts and e-mails of Christie and his senior staff. "We uncovered nothing contradicting the governor's account," the report says.
The report says that Kelly and Wildstein knew of the plan to close the bridge lanes. Stepien and Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority who has since resigned, also knew of the lane closing in advance but didn't know of any reason for the lane closing other than a fictional traffic study.
The report says evidence does not support that the traffic jam was due to the Fort Lee mayor not endorsing Christie's re-election; thus, "What motivated this act is not yet clear."
The report called "demonstrably false" Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's claim that the Christie administration tried to force her into approving a stalled real estate project in order to receive recovery funds for damage from Superstorm Sandy.
Mastro was a top aide to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been a staunch defender of Christie since the scandal broke.
The September lane closures on access lanes to the bridge caused gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., whose Democratic mayor had declined to endorse Christie for re-election. Federal prosecutors and a New Jersey legislative committee are also investigating the lane closures. Christie apologized to New Jersey residents in a Jan. 9 press conference and said he knew nothing of the traffic jam plan.