Kevin Marino, an attorney for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien wants a legal team hired by Christie’s office to make some corrections to its report that cleared the governor of any involvement in the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal. In an email to Business Insider Wednesday Marino revealed he sent a letter last month to Randy Mastro, the lawyer who led the team that compiled the report, asking him to “immediately correct two false and misleading statements” from the report. Marino said he decided to go public with his concerns after Mastro did not make the changes he requested.
“The time has come to set the record straight about Bill Stepien,” Marino said. “He is innocent of any wrongdoing with respect to the Bridgegate affair.”
Marino further said the Mastro report contained a “false narrative” about his client that was “concocted” to help Christie’s office. Mastro subsequently released a statement of his own claiming Marino had no “evidence” corrections were needed.
“Self-serving statements by lawyers are not evidence. Hence, our report stands as is,” said Mastro.
Mastro’s report, which was completed in March, concluded two officials, Christie’s ex-deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and David Wildstein, a former official at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, orchestrated a plan to close lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge last September. The lane closures led to days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J. and some Democrats have alleged they were ordered to retaliate against the mayor there for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bid. Mastro’s review, identified Stepien and another official at the Port Authority, which oversees the bridge, as the only two others who had advance knowledge of the closures.
While the Mastro report accused Kelly and Wildstein of having ordered the closures as part of an effort to “target” the Fort Lee mayor, it said Stepien was not aware of any “ulterior motive” behind decision to shut the lanes. The official explanation given for the closures was that they were part of a “traffic study.” Mastro’s report also noted Stepien and Kelly were once “personally involved.”
Documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey Legislature’s transportation committee showed Stepien was involved in conversations about the closures. In January, after these documents became public, Christie cut ties with Stepien by asking him to withdraw as a consultant for the Republican Governor’s Association and potential nominee for chairman of the New Jersey Republican Party. Marino said the Mastro report contained a “false narrative about Bill Stepien” that was “obviously concocted to justify his banishment by the governor.”
“Mr. Stepien is the finest Republican political consultant in America, and his banishment from the RGA and the New Jersey GOP was unsound and unfair,” said Marino.
Specifically, Marino’s letter to Mastro took issue with two details from the report. Firstly, Marino asked Mastro to correct a passage indicating Stepien “falsely” told Christie he had no prior knowledge of the lane closures. Secondly, Marino asked Mastro to correct a “demonstrably false legal assertion” in the report that “adverse inference” can be drawn from the fact Stepien asserted his Fifth Amendment rights when he was subpoenaed by the New Jersey Legislature’s committee dedicated to investigating the lane closures. Last month, a judge ruled Stepien did not have to comply with the subpoena and turn over documents to the committee. Citing the judge’s decision, Marino described Stepien’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights as “proper” and not evidence of “wrongdoing,” which he said the Mastro report implied.
Marino concluded the report led to “rank speculation” about Stepien’s role in the closures in the media. Because he did not receive a response to his concerns from Mastro last month, Marino said he was forced to go public with his concerns.
“We do so not only to inform those who seek the truth about Mr. Stepien, but also to inspire those who know that truth but have thus far refused to embrace it,” Marino said.
In his statement, Mastro said he rejected Marino’s request for corrections because he provided no evidence to support it.
“Shortly after receiving Bill Stepien’s lawyer’s request to ‘correct’ our report, we respectfully declined because, based on the evidence, there is no basis for any correction. We nevertheless offered Bill Stepien and his lawyer the opportunity to provide us with any evidence they wanted us to consider, but we have received nothing from them,” said Mastro.
Mastro also released a letter he sent to Marino last month declining to correct the report.
This is not the first time Marino has criticised the Mastro report. Immediately after it was released in March, Marino said it did not contain “a jot of evidence to support the Governor’s decision to sever ties with Bill Stepien.” Marino also described the reference to Stepien’s relationship with Kelly as “gratuitous.”
Marino isn’t the only one who’s raised questions about the Mastro report. Last week, Christina Renna, a former Christie aide, claimed the report contained “inaccuracies” when she testified before the Legislature’s committee investigating the closures.
View Marino’s full statement and both of the letters sent back and forth by the lawyers below.
This post was updated at 2:30 p.m. with Mastro’s statement and letter.
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