After a team of lawyers hired by the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie released an internal review clearing him of any wrongdoing related to last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, critics were quick to dismiss the report as a biased waste of taxpayer funds that revealed no new information about the so-called Bridgegate scandal.
However, there seems to be one bit of new information in the report that could play a role in the ongoing investigation: It definitively claims there is no proverbial smoking gun tying the governor to the closures.
Attorneys with the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP compiled the report, for which they said they reviewed more than 250,000 documents and conducted interviews with more than 70 witnesses to investigate the accusations Christie’s allies ordered the lane closures for political reasons.
The closures led to days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., closures that some Democrats allege were an attempt to exact revenge on the local mayor for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year.
Documents reviewed included text messages from Christie’s official and personal phones, as well as emails from his personal and government accounts. Thus it appears that the report is saying there’s no evidence directly tying Christie to the order to close the lanes.
Mastro confirmed to Business Insider on Friday that the lawyers found no written communication showing Christie discussing the lane closures before they were enacted or while they were in effect.
“There’s not a shred of documentary evidence,” Mastro said.
Make no mistake. Whatever anyone thinks of this report or its conclusions, this is a consequential claim.
Communications subpoenaed by committees in the New Jersey Legislature investigating the closures earlier this year showed other members of Christie’s inner circle were involved in incriminating discussions about the decision to shut the lanes. Christie has cut ties with several of these staffers and, since the report was published, denounced two of them.
Some of these former allies have indicated that they would be willing to cooperate with the investigation into the closures if they can make an immunity deal with prosecutors. If there is no documentary evidence showing that Christie played a part in the lane-closure scheme, any investigation into the governor’s Bridgegate will end up being a “he said, she said” situation.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s report concluded Christie “did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes.” At a subsequent press conference, at the firm’s office in Manhattan on Thursday, attorney Randy Mastro said there was “not a shred of evidence” Christie ordered the lanes to be closed.
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