Assemblyman John Wisniewski isn’t sure why Chris Christie’s internal investigation into the allegations surrounding his administration’s role in last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge included details about the governor crying at a meeting and about two of his aides having a “personal relationship.”
Wisniewski, one of the Democratic co-chairs of the New Jersey Legislature’s committee investigating the Bridgegate scandal, held a press conference call with reporters to discuss the report from attorneys hired by the governor’s office hours after it was released Thursday. He began by reiterating his previous statement that the report, which found the governor had no role in the lane closures, had “deficiencies that raise questions about a lack of objectivity and thoroughness.”
The lane closures led to severe gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J. Some Democrats, including Wisniewski, have alleged Christie, a Republican, ordered the lanes shut to exact revenge against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse his re-election bid.
Wisniewski went on to say the conclusion only one staffer in Christie’s office “knowingly participated” in ordering the closures was “hard to believe.” He criticised the attorneys from Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher LLP, who were hired by Christie’s office to conduct the review, for releasing the report without interviewing several key players in the scandal. Wisniewski also accused the lawyers of including “irrelevant facts” in the report, specifically, an allegation Christie’s ex-deputy chief of staff Bridget Ann Kelly had a “personal relationship” with the Governor’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien.
“It seems to me to be a gratuitous reference. I’m not sure how it adds to the facts to be able to determine what happened there,” Wisniewski said of the reference to Kelly’s “relationship.” “It seems to be wholly gratuitous, to add a perhaps a salacious element, but I’m not sure why it’s there or what it proves.”
Kelly was one of two people the report described as having “knowingly participated” in the closures along with David Wildstein, who was one of Christie’s appointees at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which oversees the bridge. She was fired by Christie in January after documents subpoenaed by investigators in the Legislature showed she and Wildstein discussed the closures before they were ordered.
The report also included a description of a meeting at the governor’s residence after those documents were made public where a teary-eyed Christie made the decision to fire Kelly. At that meeting, the report said Christie also decided to sever ties with Stepien. The documents included emails that showed Stepien mocking Sokolich as an “idiot” while discussing the closures.
Wisniewski said he was also unsure why the report included the detail about Christie crying. He described it as another of the “gratuitous references” in the report.
“I’m not sure how to address the Governor’s emotional state. I would prob suggest that the Governor should address his emotional state,” said Wisniewski. “I guess the report perhaps wanted to show that he was remorseful. I don’t know, you’d have to ask the Governor why that was in the report.”
Overall, Wisniewski said the tone of the report was questionable.
“It reads more like a novel than a work of fact,” he said.
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