Christie administration hires outside law firm amid bridge controversy
January 16th, 2014
09:39 AM ET
9 months ago

Christie administration hires outside law firm amid bridge controversy

(CNN) - Politically-embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration has retained a law firm to help conduct an internal review and cooperate with a U.S. Attorney inquiry into allegations top staffers orchestrated a traffic logjam in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as political payback.

The announcement comes on the same day a special state Assembly committee investigating the scandal plans on issuing subpoenas for documents as well as current and former aides, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

Documents released last week suggest members of Christie's inner circle ordered the closing of two access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September, causing massive traffic problems for four days in Fort Lee, which serves as the access point to the bridge on the New Jersey side.

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, the governor's chief spokesman, Mike Drewniak, and Bill Stepien, a sharp-elbowed Christie political confidante who managed both his successful gubernatorial runs, are on the subpoena list, according to the sources.

Other names are also being discussed by the panel that is led by Democrats and will be assisted by attorney Reid Schar, a key figure in the federal prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"Governor Christie made clear last week that he will conduct an internal review to uncover the facts surrounding the lane closures in Fort Lee," a statement from the governor's office read. "His administration is fully cooperating with the U.S. Attorney inquiry and other appropriate inquiries and requests for information."

The Christie administration has retained Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP as outside counsel in a move the administration hopes "will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation."

Randy Mastro, a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, will head up the legal team. Mastro has experience in organized crime cases and led the federal racketeering lawsuit that forced the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to hold democratic elections and to undergo court supervision. Mastro is also a former deputy mayor of New York City.

The pending legal showdown centers around whether the traffic gridlock was engineered as political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse Christie for re-election last November.

Christie has said he was stunned by the suggestion, which was first made by Democrats and subsequently magnified by explosive e-mails released last week by state legislators.

Christie fired Kelly. Her name appeared in e-mails with an appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Wildstein, who left his job as the scandal unfolded last fall. One e-mail quoted her as saying: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

On Tuesday, Christie addressed the scandal briefly in his State of the State address, saying that "mistakes were clearly made." He said previously, however, that he knew nothing about any notion of a deliberate attempt to tie up traffic, much less exact revenge on Sokolich.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    There's no way you're gonna squeeze your way out of this mess Christie. You can resurrect Johnny Cochran and you'll still be up the creek without a paddle.

    January 16, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    "Governor Christie made clear last week that he will conduct an internal review to uncover the facts surrounding the lane closures in Fort Lee," a statement from the governor's office read.
    ---------------------------
    Let's hope that obstruction of justice, witness tampering, or destruction of evidence, doesn't come into play here. If I werre the Governor, I'd leave the investigations to the outside parties. I wonder what the policy is regarding using personal email accounts for state business.

    January 16, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  3. huh

    He better not have hired these lawyers with taxpayer money....

    January 16, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  4. Jered

    Well that is because he is in deep-do do.

    January 16, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  5. noAd

    You can be sure he's using taxpayer money, and the rates are not negotiable. Probably on the order of $400/hour, with a hefty monthly retainer. Maybe the press could dig into that?

    January 16, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  6. JohnRJohnson

    This is Chris Christie using state funds to defend himself.

    January 16, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  7. wow

    This is not the first time this has happened; Ms. Kelly probably thought she would be REWARDED for this behavior, not punished.

    January 16, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  8. anticomm

    you don't need a law firm if all media are working for you.

    January 16, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  9. Smiotty

    Great more wasted funds.

    January 16, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. ErnieS

    I would have hired Screwem, Goode & Hart.

    January 16, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    noAd

    You can be sure he's using taxpayer money, and the rates are not negotiable. Probably on the order of $400/hour, with a hefty monthly retainer. Maybe the press could dig into that?
    -----------------------------
    LOL You should multiply your estimate by a hundred I paid $500/hour for something two decades ago. Christie isn't hiring just a lawyer. He's hiring a law firm and a significant portion of its' staff.

    January 16, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  12. relizareviews

    Hiring lawyers is almost never an indication of cooperation. But then, this is a guy whose definition of "taking responsibility" is blaming everyone else.

    January 16, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  13. Mark Jacobs

    This has nothing to do with an internal review!!! He has lawyered up but is having NJ tax payers foot the bill. This is huge news. I think we can expect Christie and gang to put up roadbloicks when it comes to discovery and other cooperation requests. Next item on the agenda for Christie will be putting forth claims of executive priviledge. That is a given. This is not going in a good place for the Big Guy

    January 16, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  14. Anonymous

    "The Christie administration has retained Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP as outside counsel in a move the administration hopes "will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation."

    You mean like getting to the truth? Had he done so immediately it would have been a hell of a lot less expensive and career damaging for him. What's the matter Chris Christie? Is the "I knew nothing" defense getting so hard to defend that you just now release you ought to have gotten those people you fired to talk sooner and under better circumstances for them? I'm looking for a "they told me what they did and I handled it by opening those lanes back up". Oops. Christie didn't open those lanes back up, did he? New York demanded those lanes be reopened.

    January 16, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  15. Kevin

    He knows he is in trouble. If he has nothing else to hide he would not be doing this.

    January 16, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  16. PI

    Even if he did not orchestrate this fiasco, his underlings thought it was ok. Wonder which state governor will be next in the national spotlight for a review due their actions or those of their underlings...

    January 16, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. bobo

    Due to bad decisions from some people in his administration, Christie now has to hire a law firm to help find out what happened. At least Christie took action and Fired people.... unlike Obama.

    January 16, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  18. kallikat

    Of course Christie will be using taxpayer funds, but there is going to be quite an uproar if his staff people won't take the blame.

    January 16, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  19. kzooresident

    Welcome to the world we live in...

    Nothing can be done without a lawyer involved and this is the top of the list for why this country is in the state of decline it is.

    January 16, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  20. geraldine

    conflict of interest?

    January 16, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  21. geraldine

    its like investigating yourself!

    January 16, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  22. Peace

    Yesterday when I learnt that Reid Schar from Illinois will also be involved in overseeing this case, I was almost breathless. No one should ever pray this man to come across to their case. He is so talented, and will never let every stone not to be turned. Anywhere he puts his hands, his eyes, the result never come out in a positive way to the one who has been alleged.

    January 16, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. Anonymous

    "The national story America needs to be concerned with is the incompetence of the WH and State Dept. administrations to handle our embassy security in Benghazi.... The Media needs to demand accountability."

    Why just "Benghazi"? After all, we held the WH and State Dept. administrations accountable for 9/11 didn't we? Three thousand died on our soil that day. Oh, we didn't hold them accountable? My bad.

    January 16, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  24. John Steel

    Adding insult to injury the Fat Liar is now going to bill the taxpayers a couple million dollars to defend his lies.

    January 16, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  25. Lizzie

    Bridge scandal bigger news than Bengahzi, Fast and Furious and spying on Americans. What a great country we live in.

    January 16, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
1 2 3 4