There’s plenty of reason to be skeptical, but Monday’s New York Times contains an article—“Inquiry Is Said to Clear Christie, But That’s His Lawyers Verdict"—that ought to seen as the governor’s team’s own (leaked) response to the various investigations of Christie’s role in Bridgegate and the Superstorm Sandy aid scandal. Not surprisingly, on both counts Christie’s lawyers say Christie is not guilty.
By leaking the results of their massive internal look-see to the Times—but not to the New Jersey media, including the Newark Star-Ledger and the Bergen Record—it’s obvious that Christie’s team is seeking to capture the high ground in the face of ongoing inquiries by both the US Attorney’s office in New Jersey and a joint committee of the New Jersey legislature. In any case, it’s a blockbuster leak—and, it appears, the full report is soon to be released to the public. (Christie Watch will keep you posted during the day on the report’s release and reactions to it.)
As regular readers of Christie Watch know, for weeks the noose has been tightening around the governor, as both inquiries have expanded to include the whole tangle of charges around the GWB-Sandy mess, from the original charges that Christie’s administration shut down traffic lanes last September to later charges by the mayor of Hoboken that Christie’s lieutenant governor threatened to withhold Sandy recovery aid unless the mayor agreed to back a $1 billion development project Christie favored, and then expanded once again to encompass a web of conflict-of-interest scandals surrounding the Port Authority, its chairman, David Samson, and his law firm, Wolff & Samson.
The Times piece, sourced directly to attorneys at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the firm hired by Christie to conduct the internal inquiry, seems to have avoided the issue of Wolff & Samson’s conflicts of interest and Samson’s own self-dealing. But, the lawyers told the Times, they’ve cleared Christie of wrongdoing and foreknowledge in both the GWB lane-closing events and the Hoboken story.
The lawyers say that they spent $1 million (of New Jersey taxpayers money, since it was funded by the Christie administration), interviewed more than seventy people, and “gained access to government and private email accounts of key current and former administration officials and obtained records of their incoming and outgoing phone calls and text messages.” It involved at least a dozen lawyers from Gibson Dunn.
Says the Times, based on interviews with Randy Mastro, the chief lawyer from the firm:
Now, after 70 interviews and at least $1 million in legal fees to be paid by state taxpayers, that review is set to be released, and according to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings.