Today’s release of an internal review commissioned by the Christie administration into the controversial George Washington Bridge lane closures provides new information on the response of Gov. Chris Christie and top administration officials to the scandal, but will not put an end to investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Investigation.
Christie chose Randy Mastro and his New York City law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher to conduct the investigation at a $650-an-hour blended rate for legal work that is expected to cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
Mastro is a former New York City deputy mayor and close political ally of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — who has been Christie’s most vocal supporter on TV talk shows since the Bridgegate scandal became a national story on January 8 with the release of Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly’s now-infamous “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email.
Christie administration officials have already told news organizations that the Mastro investigation clears the governor of any involvement in planning the lane closures, which were apparently done in retaliation for Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusal to endorse Christie for reelection.
But as the Democratic leader on the Select Committee on Investigation have noted, Mastro did not conduct interviews with Kelly or former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien, both of whom were fired by Christie January 9 for their involvement in Bridgegate, or with David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who actually carried out the lane closures and resigned in December. All have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Nor did Mastro get to interview Bill Baroni, the Port Authority deputy executive director who evidently sought to cover up the lane closures. Both Sokolich and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer — who has accused the Christie administration of withholding Sandy aid from her town because of her refusal to support a development project represented by Port Authority Chairman David Samson that Christie wanted built — also refused to cooperate with Mastro’s investigation because they viewed it as an effort to improperly discover what they were telling the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is conducting its own investigation.
As a result, what Mastro’s investigation will most likely add to the public’s knowledge of Bridgegate is how the Christie administration reacted to the George Washington Bridge closures, the stories in The Record and the Wall Street Journal that questioned the lane closures, the internal Port Authority review, and the Assembly Transportation Committee hearings that ultimately exposed the damning Kelly memo, and the media furor that followed.