By David Cruz
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that no one at today’s press conference was surprised to hear Randy Mastro say, “We found that Gov. Chris Christie had no knowledge beforehand of this George Washington Bridge realignment idea and that he played no role whatsoever in that decision or the implementation of it.”
Mastro says a team of a dozen lawyers, including six former federal prosecutors, conducted an exhaustive review including personal interviews, email and text records from the governor, key staffers and others.
“We further found no evidence that anyone in the governor’s office besides Bridget Kelly knew of this idea in advance or played any role in the decision or the implementation of it,” Mastro said.
Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, and David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official and alleged lane closure trigger man, are identified as the main culprits in the scheme. Mastro identified Wildstein as an appointee of Bill Baroni and someone with a fixation about Fort Lee access to the GWB.
“We have concluded, based on the evidence that we saw, that there was some personal or political animus that Wildstein must have had and that Kelly joined in by approving this,” said Mastro.
Mastro describes the governor angry and hurt, tears welling in his eyes as he confronted his senior staff in December. Kelly, meanwhile, is painted as a schemer who tried to cover her tracks by deleting emails and asking a subordinate to do the same.
“She was covering up from her colleagues, like the chief of staff and the governor, who didn’t know what she did,” said Mastro.
As for Dawn Zimmer, the Hoboken mayor who says administration officials tried to hold up Sandy relief money to her city unless she backed a development by a firm represented by Port Authority Chairman David Samson?
“Mayor Zimmer’s subjective perceptions do not match the objective reality reflected in the hard evidence that we uncovered during our investigation,” Mastro said.
The report includes an email from Zimmer to Christie strategist Mike DuHaime from August of 2013, after the alleged shakedown, suggesting anything but a strained relationship.
“I would be more than happy to come and say a quick hello and welcome to Gov. Christie when he comes to Hoboken tomorrow,” it reads. “It would be great to see him.”
Zimmer — who did not cooperate with Mastro’s inquiry — issued a statement today, saying, in part, “Randy Mastro could have written his report the day he was hired and saved the taxpayers the million dollars in fees he billed in generating this one-sided whitewash of serious misconduct by the Christie administration.”
In addition to Zimmer, Mastro also didn’t interview Kelly, Wildstein, Stepien, former Port Authority official Bill Baroni, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich or Port Authority chairman David Samson. He acknowledged that but said neither has the legislative committee looking into the matter, suggesting that any skepticism toward his report should also be directed at the legislature’s report.
So, after $1 million, New Jersey appears no closer to finding out what really happened leading up to the lane closures on the GWB.