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 Matt Berman
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Brian Resnick Matt Berman
March 28, 2014, 11:11 a.m.

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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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