Christie says internal review of GW Bridge controversy will be released Thursday

Gov. Christie laughs at a town hall meeting in Belmar.
Gov. Christie laughs at a town hall meeting in Belmar.
Posted: March 28, 2014

TRENTON On the eve of the release of a report on the internal review he ordered into the George Washington Bridge lane closures, Gov. Christie on Wednesday night defended the review's credibility, even though the lawyers he hired were not able to interview key figures in the controversy.

The findings from the review, conducted by the New York law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, will be publicly released Thursday morning, Christie's office announced Wednesday.

Appearing on a call-in radio program, Christie said he had not yet finished reading the report, which he said numbered 300 pages. He received it Wednesday morning, he said.

But while he did not comment on the report's content, the Republican governor said the lack of participation by several key players in the controversy - including Bridget Kelly, the former aide who sent the "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail - would not invalidate the findings.

"You don't just come to conclusions from interviews," Christie said on NJ 101.5's Ask the Governor program. "There's lots and lots of documents that involve all those people, which have been part of the public record and will become part of the public record as we go forward."

Though his former aides and others may never speak publicly, Christie said, "I think all of the important questions will be answered."

The review is separate from probes by state lawmakers and federal prosecutors, who have also been investigating the lane closures.

Earlier this week, the New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reported that the review - led by a firm with ties to Christie's administration - would clear the governor of any involvement in plotting or directing the lane closures, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee during four days in September.

The governor has said he played no role in any scheme to jam traffic and did not know of the lane closures until they were over. His press office issued a statement Monday drawing attention to the Times story, emphasizing the breadth of the internal review, reported to involve interviews of 70 people.

Christie turned over his iPhone for the review and let lawyers search his e-mail accounts, the Times reported. The Times reported that lawyers were also able to review e-mails left on government servers by Kelly and Christie's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien.

The aides, whom Christie dismissed in January, have refused to turn over e-mails to state lawmakers, spurring a court battle.

On Wednesday, Christie said Kelly and Stepien had refused to be interviewed by his lawyers, as well as former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein, who oversaw the lane closures.

Christie said Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich - a Democrat who some have speculated was the target of the closures for refusing to endorse Christie's reelection - also refused to be interviewed, as did Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

In January, Zimmer accused Christie officials of conditioning the release of Hurricane Sandy aid on approval of a redevelopment deal in Hoboken.

The review being released Thursday is expected to also address those claims, which Christie officials have denied.

Christie said Wednesday he would comment on the review once he finished reading it.

Asked by radio host Eric Scott about the impact of the ongoing controversies on his reputation, Christie said, "It hasn't changed the way I operate. I'm still the same guy."

The governor, who had been viewed as a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 following his blowout November reelection, said he hasn't ruled out a run for president.

"There's certainly nothing that's happened in the last number of months that would make me think any differently about my ability to be able to pursue that job or to perform in it," Christie said. "But I haven't made any conclusions on that."


mhanna@phillynews.com

609-989-8990 @maddiehanna

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