By David Cruz
What your opinion is about the Mastro report depends very much on whether you believe Gov. Chris Christie had anything to do with the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. The inquiry will reportedly conclude what the governor has been saying all along and reiterated most recently last week.
“What happened in that circumstance is unacceptable, not approved by me, would never be approved by me and the folks who were involved in that absolutely would’ve lost their jobs,” he told a town hall audience in Flemington.
With a price tag that could top a million tax-payer dollars, the report was prepared by Randy Mastro, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a former deputy mayor for Rudy Giuliani and a former deputy U.S. attorney. Critics’ default setting? Skeptical.
“This investigation is supposed to be an investigation for the people, not for Gov. Christie and his answers,” said NJ State Democratic Party Chairman John Currie. “I think it’s appalling that the three key players in this investigation that he has not contacted. That makes no sense to me whatsoever.”
The three key players Currie refers to are former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien, his former Port Authority appointee David Wildstein and his former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly. Wildtstein has already taken the fifth, while Stepien and Kelly are in court, challenging the legislature’s right to compel them to turn over documents. Special Investigation Committee member Holly Schepisi says the outcome of that process could have a major impact on the committee’s mission going forward.
“In the event that the court finds that we don’t have that ability, the appropriate venue is the U.S. Attorney or the AG’s office,” she said. “I mean if this is the criminal type of act that most people are saying occurred, that’s the appropriate venue, not us.”
Christie’s office says investigators had unfettered access to thousands of emails from more than 70 individuals, including the governor, his key staff and others outside of government, plus computers and communications devices from the governor himself. The governor’s communications director issued a statement that read, in part: “From the very beginning Gov. Christie has made clear that the Gibson Dunn review team’s mandate is to get to the truth, no matter what it is.”
Committee co-chair Loretta Weinberg says she’s going to wait to read the report before passing judgement on it, but said today it’s all a bit too little, too late.
“They could’ve found this out on Sept. 13 or 14 or 15 or Jan. 1 or any other days without hiring someone, just by asking some of the people who actually we know gave the order and executed the lane closures,” she said.
The governor’s office says the report is not yet complete but will be issued by Mastro “on his own timetable.” Meanwhile, other investigations by the legislature, the Port Authority and the U.S. Attorney are ongoing.