An internal review of the so-called Bridgegate scandal conducted by attorneys hired by the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie included an anecdote about the governor weeping at a meeting after damning documents implicating his staff were made public in January.
According to the report — released Thursday by lawyers with the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher — Christie cried when he met with his staff at the governor’s residence, Drumthwacket, on Jan. 8, hours after the documents appeared in the press.
The report described Christie as “emotional” and having “tears in his eyes” at that meeting where he and his staff discussed the revelations that one of his closest aides was involved in discussions about last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
The lane closures caused intense gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12. Some Democrats have alleged that the closures were ordered in order to take revenge on Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year.
A special committee established by the New Jersey Legislature has been investigating the allegations.
On Jan. 8, 22 pages of communications between Christie allies who had been subpoenaed by one of the legislature’s committees investigating the closures were published by several media outlets. Those documents showed that Bridget Ann Kelly, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, emailed an official at the agency that oversees the bridge, saying that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The documents also showed Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, communicating with an official about coverage of the closures and describing Sokolich as an “idiot.”
Hours after the documents were released, a distraught Christie met with a group of senior staff and advisers, a group that did not include Kelly or Stepien, the report said. According to the report, Christie decided to fire Kelly and sever his relationship with Stepien at that meeting.
“Starting around mid-day on January 8, 2014, the Governor gathered at Drumthwacket with senior staff and other advisors (but not Kelly or Stepien). The Governor was emotional and, with tears in his eyes, he asked if any other of his senior staff had anything to do with the lane realignment; each reassured the Governor that they did not,” the report said. “Together, the group reviewed the information that had been released in the press and tried to understand what it meant and how to respond. Ultimately, the Governor decided that Kelly would be fired and that Stepien would not serve as the State’s Republican Party Chair or as a consultant for the Republican Governors Association.”
The report identified Kelly as one of two officials who “knowingly participated” in a scheme to “target” Sokolich by ordering the lane closures. It said Stepien knew about the closures in “advance” but was not aware “of the ulterior motive here.” The report concluded there was no evidence “any other member of the Governor’s staff” besides Kelly was involved in the closures. It also concluded Christie “did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes.”
Read the full report here.
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