According to a report published by NBC 4 New York on Thursday, federal prosecutors investigating the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal have found no link between the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) and the controversial closure of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge last September.
The lane closures led to days of gridlock and delayed emergency responses in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which is at the base of the bridge. Some Democrats have alleged the closures were ordered to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.
Documents subpoenaed by a state legislative committee investigating the closures found aides in the governor’s office were involved in discussions about the shutdown. However, according to the report, “federal officials” said the probe has, thus far, ” uncovered no information” Christie “either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge.”
“Federal officials caution that the investigation begun nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that after nine months authorities have uncovered no information Christie either knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes,” the report continued.
NBC New York said the office of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman declined to comment on the story. Christie’s office similarly declined to comment to Business Insider.
Lawyers hired by the governor’s office conducted an internal investigation into the closures that was concluded in March. That probe concluded two officials “knowingly participated” in a scheme to “target” Sokolich by ordering the lane closures. However, the internal review also found “Christie did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes.” That report was subsequently dismissed by many of Christie’s critics.
Christie, who is widely seen as a potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate, saw his poll numbers drop due to the scandal. His numbers have since stabilised, but Marist pollster Lee Miringoff, who described the NBC New York report as “good news” for the governor, speculated he could still be hurt by Bridgegate.
“The bad news remains that politically as chief executive it looks like he was not in control of his administration at the time when this occurred. So that remains the downside for him,” Miringoff told NBC. “That doesn’t go away but this panel provides greater credibility barring any further revelations coming out.”
Update (7:10 p.m.): In a radio interview Thursday evening, Christie said the report validated his claim all along that he had no role in the scandal. “Obviously we’ll wait to hear whatever the authorities have to say but this is a report that comes as no shock to me,” he said. “I don’t want to overreact to it, because I’m not surprised by it.”
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