Christie cleared in his own probe, but others loom

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 27, 2014 at 6:43 pm •  Published: March 27, 2014
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It did not determine why they wanted to hurt the Democrat yet said there was no evidence that it was because he refused to endorse Christie for re-election.

The report said Sokolich brought up the possibility of endorsing Christie but ultimately decided against it and that even after that decision, the mayor remained on a list of Democrats whom Christie considered appointing to various boards.

Both Wildstein and Kelly have refused to talk to investigators, citing their right against self-incrimination. In the absence of their voices, the report delved into their personalities.

"Whatever motivated Wildstein and Kelly to act as they did, it was not at the behest of Governor Christie, who knew nothing about it," the report said.

Mastro said Wildstein seemed to have "bizarre political and personal animus" against a variety of people. He also quotes another Christie confidante as saying Wildstein had "50 crazy ideas a week."

The report said Kelly tried to cover her tracks when Christie began asking what happened. She asked a colleague to delete an email about the plot, but the other staffer retained the email anyway, the report said.

The report also suggested Kelly may have been motivated to participate in part because she'd recently been dumped in a romantic relationship by a former Christie campaign manager.

Christie also cut ties with that strategist, Bill Stepien, over the scandal. The report found that he knew about the lane closures but not about an ulterior motive. His lawyer, Kevin Marino, said Thursday that raises the question of why Stepien was ousted from Christie's realm. "I just wish someone would acknowledge it was a mistake," said Marino, who also said the mention of Stepien's relationship with Kelly, when both were single and not working together, was gratuitous.

Lawyers for Kelly and Wildstein did not return messages.

Wildstein's lawyer has said "evidence exists" that Christie knew about the closures as they happened. Mastro surmised in his report that Wildstein was referring to a conversation he had with Christie at a Sept. 11 memorial service. A Christie spokesman told Mastro's team that Wildstein later said he had told the governor about it during that event. But Mastro says Christie did not recall it being brought up and if it was, it would not have registered as significant to Christie — something Christie has said before.

Back in December, Christie said he was not aware of the bridge issue until "well after the whole thing was over." By last month, he said he may have heard something about it as it happened but it didn't strike him as important until an Oct. 1 news article about it. Mastro's review accepts that version of when Christie learned about it. There has been no evidence produced that suggests he was aware of the plan before the lanes were shut down.

The report also found that a claim by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, that Christie's administration told her that Superstorm Sandy funding would be tied to a private redevelopment plan, is "demonstrably false." In response, Zimmer called the report "sadly predictable" and a "one-sided whitewash."

Mastro called for Christie's staffers to cease using personal email accounts for official business, eliminating the office where Kelly had worked and appointing an ethics officer in the governor's office. He also recommended studying major changes to the Port Authority, an agency jointly run by New York and New Jersey.

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Mulvihill reported from Trenton, N.J. AP writer David Porter in Newark, N.J., also contributed.