Chris Christie Gets Combative Over Bridgegate

At a Friday press conference, the New Jersey governor aggressively boosts a new report that clears his name in the scandal.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a Town Hall Meeting with families affected by Superstorm Sandy at Belmar Borough Municipal Building on March 25, 2014 in Belmar, New Jersey.
National Journal
Brian Resnick and Matt Berman
March 28, 2014, 11:11 a.m.

Chris Christie has found his shield. In con­trast to the apo­lo­get­ic fig­ure who ad­dressed re­port­ers in Decem­ber after news of the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge scan­dal broke, the gov­ernor who spoke to re­port­ers Fri­day was as­sured and ab­so­lute. As the gov­ernor sees it, the 300-plus page re­port com­mis­sioned by his ad­min­is­tra­tion is the fi­nal word in the mat­ter. And that fi­nal word is that he is in­no­cent.

“I be­lieve what the re­port told me,” Christie told re­port­ers. “Read the re­port,” he later said. “They can’t make up facts.”

The con­clu­sions from the re­port re­leased Thursday cleared Christie of the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge lane clos­ings and found no evid­ence that he with­held storm-re­lief money from Hoboken for polit­ic­al lever­age. “Our find­ings today are a vin­dic­a­tion of Gov. Christie,” Randy Mas­tro, the law­yer hired by Christie to con­duct the in­vest­ig­a­tion, said Thursday.

Des­pite Christie’s as­ser­tions Fri­day, doubts re­main about the new re­port’s ob­jectiv­ity. As The New York Times re­ports, the in­vest­ig­at­ors did not ques­tion Brid­get Kelly, the of­fi­cial at the cen­ter of the scan­dal, but yet “they ex­plain her con­duct in un­usu­ally per­son­al terms.” The re­port vil­i­fies Kelly and, per­haps, “doubles down on a strategy of por­tray­ing Ms. Kelly as du­pli­cit­ous, weep­ing fre­quently and de­pend­ent on men for ap­prov­al and sta­bil­ity.”

Christie re­spon­ded to such skep­ti­cism dur­ing the press con­fer­ence Fri­day. “No mat­ter who I chose to do this, ques­tions would be raised by some quar­ters as to those people’s ob­jectiv­ity,” he said. Christie ex­plained how the pro­sec­utors writ­ing the re­port had full ac­cess to the ad­min­is­tra­tion and to emails and per­son­al files.

Of the se­lec­tion of law­yers to lead the case, he said, “There’s not a ma­jor law firm in this re­gion that I don’t have some re­la­tion­ship with over that time and some per­son­al con­nec­tion to.”

At the be­gin­ning of the press con­fer­ence, Christie an­nounced that Port Au­thor­ity Chair­man Dav­id Sam­son has resigned from his po­s­i­tion, ef­fect­ive im­me­di­ately. Sam­son, Christie said, told him earli­er Fri­day that “he com­pletely sup­ports the re­com­mend­a­tions laid out for the Port Au­thor­ity and he be­lieves the best way to start a new year at the Port Au­thor­ity is with new lead­er­ship.” Christie sug­ges­ted that Sam­son was tired, and that he’s been con­sid­er­ing re­tire­ment for over a year.

Sam­son, a Christie ap­pointee, has come un­der in­creased scru­tiny since the Bridgeg­ate scan­dal broke. The New York Times ed­it­or­i­al board called on Sam­son to resign earli­er this month, say­ing that “a ma­jor house­clean­ing at the Port Au­thor­ity” was needed, and sug­ges­ted that Sam­son, a long­time Christie ally, is not “pro­fes­sion­al” enough for the job. Fed­er­al pro­sec­utors sub­poenaed re­cords from Sam­son earli­er in March.

Christie said Fri­day that the in­de­pend­ent re­port “seems to in­dic­ate that there was a traffic study of some kind” on the bridge, but the “motive” for the study “seems to have been dis­puted.”

So, after the lengthy, ex­pens­ive in­vest­ig­a­tion, does the gov­ernor have any more of an idea of why this scan­dal happened? “I don’t know if we’ll ever know what the motive is,” he said Fri­day.

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