First on CNN: Christie’s interview with investigators
April 14th, 2014
01:04 PM ET
5 months ago

First on CNN: Christie’s interview with investigators

(CNN) – The first news report linking his top aides to an alleged political payback scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge made Chris Christie “sick to his stomach,” the New Jersey governor told investigators, according to a new memo first obtained by CNN.

After the report in a local paper, Christie called his senior staff to the governor’s mansion. As the meeting began, he was nervous, unsure who else on his staff might be involved in the lane closures.

“He got emotional, and with tears in his eyes, asked if anyone else had anything else to do with the lane realignment, because he could not get sandbagged again,” according to the memo.

The memo summarizes three interviews Christie did earlier this year with the lawyers he hired to investigate the political scandal. And it was a foundational element of a report, written by the law firm Gibson Dunn, that cleared Christie of any involvement in the scandal that has rocked both his administration and his presidential ambitions.

Christie did the interviews without a lawyer present and had not “read or reviewed the memorandum and has not adopted or approved its contents,” the memo said.

Christie’s memo was one of 75 that were publicly released on Monday, including interviews with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and other top staffers. Christie is providing the memos to the U.S. attorney’s office and a state legislative committee, both of which are investigating the matter. They were posted also online.

“The voluntary production of these interview memos to the U.S. attorney’s office, the Joint Committee and the public are being made at Governor Christie’s direction and reflect his commitment to be as cooperative and transparent as possible,” spokeswoman Maria Comella told CNN.

Much of the facts contained in the Christie memo were outlined in the final report when it was made public last month. But it does provide color and insight into Christie’s thinking.

For instance, when Christie was first considering running for governor the idea that David Wildstein – who would later become the former Port Authority official accused of closing the bridge lanes – was an anonymous political blogger made Christie “laugh because he thought it was possible, given that Wildstein is such an ‘odd duck,’” the memo says.

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Added proof that Wildstein and Christie weren’t close, the governor pointed out that Wildstein wasn’t even a contact in his cell phone, the memo says.

The memo also describes why Christie decided to cut ties with senior aides Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien after they were caught up in the scandal.

Despite setback, N.J. panel will keep investigating Christie bridge scandal

When Kelly’s now infamous email to Wildstein, “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” went public “the governor concluded that Kelly had to be fired,” from her job as deputy chief of staff, the memo said.

And while Christie wasn’t sure about Stepien’s involvement in the lane closures, the governor felt it was better to “sever ties with both” Stepien and Kelly simultaneously. Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, did not run for state party chair and lost his consulting contract with the Republican Governors Association, which Christie chairs.

On January 8, when a local paper broke the news that the lane closures could have been political retribution, Kelly was "hysterically crying" when she called Christina Renna, director of the intergovernmental affairs office.

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The next day, Kelly called Renna "crying to say that she had been fired." Renna told lawyers that Kelly said, "I don’t know what I’m going to do. You can’t trust anyone, Christina.”

The other subject covered in the interviews was Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claim that Lt. Gov. Guadagno and other officials threatened to withhold Sandy relief funding unless the mayor supported a development project.

Many administration officials interviewed on the topic either characterized Zimmer’s allegations as untrue, or said they don’t recall hearing anything to back up the mayor’s claims.

An aide to Guadagno remembers the meeting between the lieutenant governor and Zimmer as “tense,” according to the memo summarizing what Luciana DiMaggio, Guadagno’s special assistant, told investigators.

“DiMaggio remembered that the lieutenant governor communicated that she was frustrated with Mayor Zimmer,” the memo said. “With her counsel present, DiMaggio said her memory is not 100% accurate, but she remembered that the lieutenant governor communicated to her that Mayor Zimmer was not cooperating, stating in words or in substance something like the mayor was not playing ball or the mayor was not playing well with others. DiMaggio did not understand the context or meaning of the lieutenant governor’s remarks.”

As if to prove that she wasn’t in a position to withhold Sandy aid, the lieutenant governor said she did “not recall ever saying anything substantive” at regular Sandy-related meetings with senior staff.

CNN’s Tim McCaughan, Ashley Killough, Dan Merica and Robert Yoon contributed.

Related: Resignation expected as third investigation is launched in Port Authority


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. just asking

    the massive multi-million dollar democrat witch hunt continue on.... meanwhile the obama adminstration refuses to investigate or act on fast & furious, benghazi, the irs, etc. we know where the democrat priorities are, using governemnt resources to attack political opponents, just like they did with the irs.

    April 14, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    Drip, drip, drip. Any Christie internal investigation data provided to the investigative committee or to the U.S. Attorney's office should be looked at with the utmost scrutiny. It's clearly evident that there is a trust issue as far as his administration goes. Regardless if Christie is exonerated from this, he's proven himself to be incompetent. You seriously can't tell me he knew absolutely NOTHING about anything. I'm not buying it.

    April 14, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. salty dog

    I didn't know the Democrats ran the grand jury, interesting.

    April 14, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  4. salty dog

    I truly feel sorry for anyone naive enough to believe this BS, his legal team, we paid for, found him innocent, stop the presses, lmao.

    April 14, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. just saying

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA – Take Back the House
    Drip, drip, drip. Any Christie internal investigation data provided to the investigative committee or to the U.S. Attorney's office should be looked at with the utmost scrutiny. It's clearly evident that there is a trust issue as far as his administration goes. Regardless if Christie is exonerated from this, he's proven himself to be incompetent. You seriously can't tell me he knew absolutely NOTHING about anything. I'm not buying it.
    -–

    but obama has said repeatedly he knew nothing about nothing and you beleived him every time? why is that?

    April 14, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. Tommy G

    Well, it has now been MONTHS and the witch hunting Democrats have come up with NOTHING!! But I'm sure that won't stop them from spending tens of millions of tax payer dollars to continue this political smear job, After all, it is what they do best. It is just an added benefit that they can now send the bill to the tax payers.

    April 14, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. just say it

    I would think that Christie would be willing to submit himself to a polygraph test to help prove his innocence and to give more credibility of his claim of not knowing anything about the lane closures, if he doesn't have anything to hide.

    April 14, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  8. ghostwriter

    Just saying.....it's kinda hard to see this as a witch hunt when there is actual proof in the case....and it appears democrats are fine with looking for the truth and not looking for ways to pin down Christie.

    Especially since we are in year 5 of the Fake and Fictitious scandal, where Issa refused to look at individuals who commanded a rather similar program prior to Nov 2008. But hey.....nothing beats a scandal.

    April 14, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. The Elephant in the Room

    I think the Governor SHOULD take a polygraph to clear the air. I`m sure as a US prosecutor, he bullied many alleged defendant to do the same so KARMA is just getting him back. No independently minded person puts ANY CREDIBILITY in that pile of trash from the law firm but a successful polygraph could give new life to Christies presidential ambitions. Then we could just focus on whether Americans want to promote an OPEN BULLY to the Chief Executive job.

    April 14, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. Kathleen Farrell

    Just asking... I'm just telling:
    13 attacks on our embassies and consulates under the President Obama's predecessor – a total of 98 killed. Tell me about your actions at those times to spotlight these tragedies.
    Fast & Furious, a continuation of gunwalking program begun under President Obama's predecessor. The truth is there was no prosecutorial support in Arizona for the ATF agents there, allowing tragedy to occur.
    IRS – conservative and liberal organizations were targeted, and deservedly in some cases - this according to the Republican IRS employee involved.

    April 14, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. salty dog

    Why is that lmao, because this scandal lay on the doorstep of fatboy from day one. The man he put in place to spy on the port authority was not reporting to him, right. Now where had tens of millions, and a one sided investigation gotten you, no where, your a sad little man, that's for sure.

    April 14, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. just saying

    ghostwriter
    Just saying.....it's kinda hard to see this as a witch hunt when there is actual proof in the case....and it appears democrats are fine with looking for the truth and not looking for ways to pin down Christie.
    -–

    oh honestly.... there is no proof of chirstie's involvement and your second statement is a huge lie. demorcats started this witch hunt a week after polls came out that showed christie polling above hillary clinton. that was no coincidence.

    April 14, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  13. salty dog

    Wildstein is talking, if they grant him immunity, your boys in deep doo doo. Its only a matter of time now.

    April 14, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  14. Tommy G

    just say it
    I would think that Christie would be willing to submit himself to a polygraph test to help prove his innocence and to give more credibility of his claim of not knowing anything about the lane closures, if he doesn't have anything to hide.
    --

    Can we get the same from Obama, Holder, Hillary Clinton and Sebelius??? They have told many, many lies and the American people are entitled to the truth.

    April 14, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    @Tommy G
    Well, it has now been MONTHS and the witch hunting Democrats have come up with NOTHING!! But I'm sure that won't stop them from spending tens of millions of tax payer dollars to continue this political smear job, After all, it is what they do best. It is just an added benefit that they can now send the bill to the tax payers.
    ---------------
    But let's keep those Benghazi and IRS investigations going with nothing to show for, right?

    April 14, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. Gurgyl

    People do NOT care Benghazi any more, nor Monica, nor birth certificates etc. These GOP tricks are silly, stupid. Pretty much GOP is gone to dogs. Simple.

    April 14, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. sly

    Didn't the Obese Jersey mobster resign yet?

    Sheeesh ... we ought to create a contest:

    Which will happen first – will Crook Christie Croak from a heart attack, or will he resign in disgrace.

    Even odds right now ...

    April 14, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. judith

    Big cry baby Christie was only shedding tears for getting found out. Blaming staffers is the cowardly way out.

    April 14, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  19. ja

    Witch hunting is how it's done in American politics, on both sides of the isle, somebody show be held accountable for the bridge mess, no good ole boy, find a loophole let'em slide

    April 14, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  20. HARRY JENKINS

    Christie cried because he didn't get the last donut and NOT because of this abuse of power. "Gov "FATTY" was photographed with ALL that were involved on the days the bridge lanes were closed and we're supposed to believe he didn't know? "So long "FATSO" .see you at the GOP resurrection".

    April 14, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. knklhead

    “He got emotional, and with tears in his eyes, asked if anyone else had anything else to do with the lane realignment, because he could not get sandbagged again,”

    This "memo" sounds pretty questionable ... he is supposed to be the toughest GOV there is yet he is crying because he was sandbagged? Ah, not buying it. If he was truly "sandbagged" but his TOP AIDE, do you think he'd cry?

    April 14, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    How could a Republican complain about a few million dollars and a few months of investigations yet be fine with BILLIONS and YEARS wasted on the IRS and Benghazi....IOKIYAR

    April 14, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  23. Chuck

    Getting caught in so many lies can cause one to tear up!! I don't care how many investigations "prove" he wasn't involved, his MO is that of a bully. I have never met a bully who didn't lie. EVER.

    April 14, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    How is it a "witch hunt" when there are memos written by Christie's staff that specifically state the bridge closure was political retaliation?

    April 14, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  25. Joe

    Dear Mr. Kotter,

    Chris didn't do anything bad.

    Signed,
    Epstein's Mother

    April 14, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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