Randy Mastro ()
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has publicly released summaries of its interviews of 75 witnesses as part of its investigation of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration’s potential involvement in the Bridgegate affair.
The people interviewed by the New York firm, which Christie commissioned to conduct the internal investigation, included the governor himself and members of his inner circle.
Gibson Dunn produced the same memoranda for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation. The committee had demanded that the documents be turned over this week.
The interviews touched on last fall’s abrupt closures of George Washington Bridge local access lanes and on Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claim that allocation of Hurricane Sandy relief funds was tied to Hoboken development projects proposed by the Rockefeller Group, a developer represented by West Orange’s Wolff & Samson.
Not interviewed were three key players in Bridgegate: former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, Christie’s two-time campaign chairman, Bill Stepien, and David Wildstein, the former director for interstate capital projects at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge.
Kelly and Stepien have invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and are seeking immunity in exchange for testifying. Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson ruled on April 9 that they need not comply with the committee’s subpoenas for documents.
Wildstein has turned over documents to the committee but has declined to answer questions. A contempt charge has been referred to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. News reports say he has met with federal prosecutors to discuss possible immunity.
Also not interviewed was Wolff & Samson partner David Samson, who stepped down on March 28 as chairman of the Port Authority.
Those interviewed included Lt. Gov. Kimberly Guadagno; Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd; Regina Egea, the director of the Authorities Unit; Deborah Gramiccioni, the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and Marc Ferzan, the executive director of the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding
Most of those interviewed did not have their own attorneys present. They were given warnings that Gibson Dunn represented the administration and that the statements they made might be revealed to third parties.
The interview memos released Monday are not transcripts but reconstructions based on the attorneys’ notes and memories.
Gibson Dunn partner Randy Mastro and two other firm lawyers interviewed Christie three times—on Feb. 12, Feb. 28 and March 14. They concluded, “Gov. Christie had no role in the lane realignment and had no knowledge of anyone’s participation in the lane realignment.”
But they also depicted Christie as “agitated and disappointed” by the news coverage of Bridgegate. At a Dec. 13 senior staff meeting, Christie entered the room, slammed the door and stood the entire time and at one point said “this is a mess, and now I have to clean it up.” He said that he was about to hold a press conference and that if anyone knew anything about the closures they had 45 minutes to speak to O’Dowd or Charles McKenna, then the chief counsel. No one did. Christie then told reporters at the conference that no one in his administration was involved in Bridgegate.
The memo says O’Dowd told Christie that Kelly was crying when she “swore up and down that she had no knowledge of it.”
The memo also relates a senior staff meeting at Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion, held on Jan. 8 shortly after Christie read a story in The Record of Hackensack that discussed Kelly’s possible involvement.
The memo says Christie “got emotional, with tears in his eyes” and said the administration “could not get sandbagged again.” It was then that he decided to fire Kelly and replace Stepien.
Another memo relates Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak’s account of the Dec. 13 senior staff meeting, saying Christie was angry because the governor’s office had “taken a beating” nationally because of the controversy.
O’Dowd, who had been tapped last year to be the state attorney general, was interviewed on Jan. 19 and on March 8. At the second interview, he was accompanied by former First Assistant Attorney General Paul Zoubek, now with the Cherry Hill office of Montgomery McCracken.
The memo relates that O’Dowd said Kelly on Dec. 13 unequivocally denied to him any involvement in lane closures and that he was inclined to give her “the benefit of the doubt.” He said he did not know of Kelly’s alleged involvement until Jan. 8. “O’Dowd was angry that Kelly had lied to him,” the memo says.
The committee’s co-chair, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, says he is reviewing the memos and so far, “They seem to be particularly sparse, especially in terms of recollection.”
He says the memos do not answer the “fundamental questions,” such as whether Kelly thought her actions would be appropriate. “Did somebody talk to her? Did somebody above her talk to her? We don’t know the answers to these questions. The Gibson report gives us no enlightenment,” he says.
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.