First on CNN: Christie’s interview with investigators
April 14th, 2014
01:04 PM ET
9 years 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.

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“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.

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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. Grumpster

    Yep...the Benghazi parrots are still sqwawking loudly...all while forgetting about Bush's 13 of them. Christie's crock-odile tears....meh.

    April 14, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  2. Steve Allard

    He had tears in his eyes? Not surprising at all. He is watching his Presidential dream fade like smoke in the wind.

    April 14, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @just saying: '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."

    You know, your comment would have merit if dems were pulling an Issa – i.e., continuing to waste taxpayers dollars in an effort to keep the base salivating (and opening their wallets) about a non-existent "controversy."

    But there is proof that the lane closures were a deliberate act of political retaliation – and that deserves investigation and possible prosecution.

    BTW, if you or a loved one were unable to get medical assistance because the ambulance was stuck in the traffic jam, would you still be saying this incident was no big deal?

    April 14, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    Months and months of investigations by Issa reveal nothing, and yet they have a seizure because Bully Boy is being exposed for the incompetent he is? Everything the Right has claimed Obama is, Christie has demonstrated he is beyond a shadow of a doubt. The real problem is that this forces the Right to pick from the same group of no-names and retreads that are waiting in the wings.

    April 14, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  5. tynkyrbelle

    He cried because the Krispy Kremes were going to be late in getting there.

    April 14, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  6. Tommy G

    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?

    Because Demorcats are not focused on finding the truth, they are trying to claim Christie was involved when he was not. There is ZERO proof of his involvement. But liars in here and in the press keep slandering Christie using this witch hunt as justification. It is the same type of smear job Democrats do to all opponents, especially those polling higher than Hillary Clinton.

    April 14, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. tynkyrbelle

    Why did Chris Christie cross the road?

    Because there was an uneaten dumpster full of garbage food on the other side.

    April 14, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. thunder1road

    Christie "sick to his stomach" ??? Call in the hazmat squad.

    April 14, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. robert constant

    Without the successful lobbying effort of Chris Christie, Ponzi Scheemer, Bernie Madoff would not have been able to swindle hundreds of people out of their life savings.
    This same person has underfunded the New Jersey Public Employees Pension Fund for years, and unilaterally stripped New Jersey Public Employees of their contactually agreed upon cost of living benefits. That is in the courts.
    His actions regarding Bridgegate are completely in character with his treatment of NJ Public Employees, and his reputed withholding of Super Storm Sandy Funds to New Jersey mayors not supporting his cronies bids on contracts. for which he is now also being investigated.

    April 14, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. salty dog

    Tommy, the grand jury has this now, but I'm sure the Democrats put them up to it Roflmao!

    April 14, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. Baalzabarber

    crying because he was caught, not because he felt guilt or shame

    April 14, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. wktkw

    Exalty-he cried at the thought of lgetting caught oosing his chance in the Oval office.

    April 14, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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