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Internal report: Christie had no prior knowledge of GWB lane closures

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Gov. Chris Christie
Gov. Chris Christie

An internal report commissioned by Gov. Chris Christie and released to the public Thursday indicates that the governor “had no knowledge beforehand” of the politically motivated September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and “played no role whatsoever” in the decision or implementation of them, according to Randy Mastro, the Gibson Dunn & Crutcher lawyer at the head of the probe.

How much impact these findings will have isn't yet clear.

Christie's opposition immediately discounted the report — with a Democratic spokesman saying, "There was no real evidence, no real findings, no real answers and definitely no exoneration."

Mastro, however, defended the report, which may have cost roughly $1 million in tax payer money if the reported contracted rate of $650 per hour is correct.

When asked about the review's process during a press conference at Gibson Dunn's New York office, Mastro said it "serves no one's interest" to search for anything other than the truth.

However, missing from the report are interviews with key players in the bridge scandal, such as Port Authority Chairman David Samson, former Christie aide Bridget Kelly, ex-campaign manager Bill Stepien and former Port Authority officials David Wildstein and Bill Baroni.

The report's findings indicate that the majority of the blame for the lane closures rests with Kelly and Wildstein. Mastro says it's clear that Kelly "lied to her colleagues" and was the only one within the governor's office who had prior knowledge of the closures. Wildstein, Mastro said, was "the person that originated this idea and orchestrated it."

The motivation for the lane closures was in someway targeted at Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, although the actual reason for why remains unknown, Mastro said.

The internal review also looked at claims made by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that members of the Christie administration threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy aid from her city if she did not approve a politically connected development project there.

Mastro said that claim was found to be "not only unsubstantiated, but demonstrably false."

Zimmer, however, was not interviewed.

Following Mastro's press conference, the Democratic National Committee released a response to the report, calling it "nothing more than an expensive sham."

"What we didn't get for that hefty price tag to New Jersey taxpayers were any interviews with the key figures who executed the plan or any insight into why this happened," DNC communications director Mo Elleithee said.

Christie himself will appear Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. in a taped interview with anchor Diane Sawyer on ABC World News.

GWB Internal Review Findings

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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