Christie administration hires outside law firm amid bridge controversy
January 16th, 2014
09:39 AM ET
6 years 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. frosty

    I knew this was coming when he said he would cooperate with appropriate inquires (or words to that effect) in his previous statements. Expect to see attempts to block subpenas challenged and charges of fishing exhibitions. The investigations will focus on abuse of power; more than just what happened in bridgegate. I;m an interested in the line item veto of the research project of the professor that did not agree with Chisty. How many other line items were vetoed; meaning how often does the governor use that power on such small and specific items?

    January 16, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. sadlyperturbed

    @bobo How you can compare anything Christie or his office has done to any of the manufactured Obama "scandals" is beyond me. There are no emails linking Obama or his administration to any of the trumped up noise from the GOP. There is zero evidence of any wrong doing by anyone in the Obama administration, unlike the Christie administration. People were fired because they were guilty. Maybe you enjoy your hatred, but the fact remains there is ZERO evidence of anything when it comes to Obama, unlike Christie and his cohorts. Maybe you should see reality for what it is? Ah, what am I saying. That will never happen.

    January 16, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. Ol' Yeller

    "...but no, he say's nothing, does nothing, and then act's like he never knew it happened."

    Prior to this when a Reporter asked him about it, he had made the snarky and smar tass remark about placing the cones. Were I a republicant and he were a Democrat, I would just be posting that every day... He admitted doing it! He didn't just order it, he was the guy in a hat and coveralls out there placing the cones. He confessed already! Why isn't he in jail!!! Librul Media!!
    I'd also have an entire network of minah birds saying the same thing (can't you just see hannity and o'really doing entire shows on this) and rwnj station after rwnj station on the radio screaming this.
    However, I am Democrat and we will go about this the old fashioned and fair way of conducting actual and above
    the table inquiries into this matter. Investigations based on the evidence and not just partisan and insane allegations and twisting what he said.
    I'm pretty proud of this... we may not be perfect, but we are a durn site better than that other bunch...

    January 16, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. AndyM

    An internal review to uncover the facts, so that they can bury them where no one else will be able to find them...

    January 16, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  5. Mr_Blunder

    Retaining a law firm speaks directly to his involvement and not the talking-points that claimed that he was blind-sided and the embarrassment caused by his inner-circle. He had to know what was happening and why. Besides, it doesn't make sense that he would not follow-up after such actions knowing darn well it didn't follow proper protocol. The chance to get in front of the issue is long pass the point of his claimed innocence.

    January 16, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. wendel

    republican values at work. repos hollar about the president and try distracting us with the irs and such . They act like this is no big deal. This closer effected untold amounts of people . we are lucky no major disaster occurred. Either way lives where put at risk for what ever political reason. And it was done knowingly by the Christy staff.

    January 16, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. escobar

    USS Constitution – retraction for what? The commercials ARE a real scandal because he used Sandy funds to pay for an ad that has he and his family in it that came out before his re-election, which could be interpreted as a free political ad. Given the fact that it was more expensive than the ad that did not have his family in it proves he wanted to be seen in the ad.

    January 16, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    I doubt if there are any official records of the subversive activities anywhere in state email records. Remember, the aides and appointees were using their PERSONAL EMAIL accounts to conduct the dirty work. It would be a safe bet that they did not use any state issued phones for their dirty work, either. The best way to cover your tracks is to not leave any behind to begin with.

    January 16, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  9. Jered

    He's going to need to hire some more lawyers when the NJ NAACP sues him for systematically disbursing Sandy Relief funds to mostly whites. (Note: I'm white. I'm just going by the numbers HIS administration released when they were sued to release them).

    January 16, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Jim

    Let people die and the Dems shrug it off and ask "What different does it make?". But folks were late for work, and we've got to get to the bottom of this no matter what it takes? Liberals are very ugly human beings.

    January 16, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. current state of the union

    Amen ol yeller

    January 16, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  12. Enough is Enough

    @sadly perturbed – are you serious? Trumped up scandals? How blind can the left be? My God – the comments from the progressives here are unbelievable. Scandal after scandal and you people see nothing – we are being overtaken by Sgt. Schultz!! And our President is unaware of ANYTHING going on around him – no wonder we are in the mess we are as a nation. But hey, give the all a free cell phone, some food stamps and a few joints and they will vote for you forever........

    January 16, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    -Rick McDaniel

    That is appropriate. The Dems are going to attack, attack, and attack, so the best thing to do, is put the whole issue to rest, with a full fledged investigation.
    So sayeth the one who screamed the loudest that Christie was a RINO

    January 16, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. Anonymous

    I have no idea how this will turn out for Chris Christie, but I would suggest that if the MSM continues running "Christie Not Damaged" polling, they should think long and hard on how it will effect their own credibility which is arguably quite very low in itself. Christie may have been the Republicans hope but that hope is being dashed, drip by drip, by Christie himself. Nor does this bold well for the Republican Governors Association which ultimately will have an impact down the line not only for governors running for reelection, but campaign chests as well. Especially now that Christie has lawyered up and is seeking taxpayer funding to cover his expenses. It definitely is not good publicity for the leader of the RGA to be caught in such a legal fiasco as what Christie is highlighting as "sound Republican" values.

    January 16, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  15. A True Conservative

    Where are your headlines for the Benghazi testimonies against the State Dept – Hillary Clinton – and Pres. Obama? Although the bridge fiasco is news – Benghazi is bigger....unless of course it no longer matters and might spoil the future of a politician that you know and love.....

    January 16, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. Get used to IT tea potty! 3 more yrs to spew ur hate @Obama

    At least Christie took action and Fired people?? Huh???.... but he's lawyering up with tax payers money and his minion thugs are pleading the fifth and destroying documents and paperwork!!!

    You think you really want this FAT BLOWHARD near the WH...someone that's petty and vindictive and believe's in punishing his political opponents who does not agree with him?

    this guy is scum politician...dont believe the hype!!!....resign already

    January 16, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  17. Jered

    "I was out putting down cones myself.. He he he.."

    January 16, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. The REAL Truth...

    y'all are missing the bigger picture here... if it's proven OK for the Governor (of a not so big state) to NOT know that his own folks where involved in the alleged shennagin's on a bridge down the street from his office.. the GOP has absolutely no basis on which to point fingers at the POTUS for not knowing what happened in Benghazi, the IRS, etc.
    Ain't this fun...

    January 16, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. Sheila

    Looks like he's going to be our next POTUS....Us Republicans has already started giving $$$$ for his campaign. Hillary won't make it – she's too old – and don't want to get back into debt, like last time. She's toast

    January 16, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  20. Anonymous

    "y'all are missing the bigger picture here... if it's proven OK for the Governor (of a not so big state) to NOT know that his own folks where involved in the alleged shennagin's on a bridge down the street from his office.. the GOP has absolutely no basis on which to point fingers at the POTUS for not knowing what happened in Benghazi, the IRS, etc."

    They missed the point long ago. Not one of them are willing to accept the Bush administration was equally
    culpable (if we use THEIR talking points) for 9/11. Yet, here they are with their FOX and Friends
    "but, but, but, ............................... Benghazi" trash talk.

    January 16, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. Mr_Blunder

    When a politician has lawyer-up'd, the career of said politician goes down.

    January 16, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  22. current state of the union

    If anyone knows when they need a lawyer, it would be a lawyer. Nothing to see here folks, move along! ......Please

    January 16, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "Time to cause some traffic problems for Ft. Lee."

    That's a damning statement. For those trying to compare the President's nontroversial scandals to Bridgegate, Fox must have not informed you that all of the President's nontroversial scandals have been DEBUNKED!!! Bridgegate is like a cancer that's continuing to spread. When you look under one rock, another thing pops up.

    January 16, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. Marcus (from...?)

    EVEN IF you're serious, and man, don't you strike me as the worst comedian ever to appear in this ticker!, but EVEN IF you're serious... Illegal behavior is illegal behavior, abuse of power is abuse of power, and those who do it (especially in such a public and blatant way) must pay for their actions.
    Or say goodbye to the laws since they become pointless!

    January 16, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  25. Tony

    Enough is enough, accusation of scandal after accusation of scandal is not the same as scandal after scandal. If Republicans cannot find evidence to back up their accusations of scandals, don't expect Democrats to apologize for Republicans' overactive imagination.

    January 16, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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