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Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll July 9, 2015

Chris Christie: Bridgegate investigations back up my story

Aside from the national media, no one cares about Bridgegate, says New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

On MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on July 6, host Joe Scarborough said he generally hasn’t noticed New Hampshire voters asking the Republican presidential candidate about the September 2013 bridge-closing scandal.

"Nobody cares," Christie responded. "They don't care because they know that there’s now been three independent investigations all of which have said exactly the same thing I said the day after it happened. And so, at some point people just say well, you know, after three investigations -- two of them run by folks who were Democrats, Democratic legislature and Democratically appointed U.S. attorney -- you know, after a while people just say, ‘OK, I guess he's telling the truth.’ "

Multiple New Jersey officials close to Christie have been accused of devising a scheme to close parts of the George Washington bridge, under the guise of conducting a traffic study, causing a week of massive traffic jams in September 2013. The maneuver is widely believed to have been political retribution against officials in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which was most impacted by the lane closures.

Since the week of the closures, Christie has consistently denied that he knew anything about the lane closures until after the fact. In the first few weeks after the lane closures — before many details came to light — Christie said the extensive press coverage was overblown.

"I had nothing to do with this: No knowledge. No authorization. No planning," he said in a radio interview in February 2014, adding that he learned about the closures from media reports afterward.

Have three investigations agreed with him?

Christie’s campaign did not respond to our requests for comment. But we have a good idea who conducted the three investigations: A Manhattan law firm, the New Jersey legislature and the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

One of these investigations has shut the door — saying Christie had no involvement — but the other two left the question open-ended.

Gibson Dunn and Crutcher

Christie’s administration commissioned law firm Gibson Dunn and Crutcher to conduct an internal probe in January 2014, soon after it came out that members of Christie’s senior staff knew about or were involved in the lane closures. The results of that investigation support the contention that Christie himself had nothing to do with the scandal.

"Our investigation found that Gov. Christie did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes," the report said. "He does not recall becoming aware of the lane realignment during the period the lanes were closed, but would not have considered a traffic issue memorable in any event."

A Port Authority official — who later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the scandal — said he told Christie about the closures while they were happening, when the two were together at a Sept. 11 memorial event. Christie said he didn’t remember the conversation.

"Gov. Christie’s account of these events rings true," the report continued, noting that document reviews and witness interviews fully corroborated Christie’s story.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, Gibson Dunn attorney Randy Mastro said, "Our findings today are a vindication of Gov. Christie."  

New Jersey Legislature

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A December 2014 report out of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation came to a much less definitive conclusion on Christie’s involvement.

The investigation found "no conclusive evidence" as to whether Christie knew about the lane closures in advance or while they were happening.

The report said a lack of information from some key witnesses "leaves open the question of when the governor first learned of the closures and what he was told."

The inquiry found no smoking gun implicating Christie, but the committee concluded that it is "not in a position currently to conclude what Gov. Christie himself knew about the lane closures or when and how his knowledge of these events developed."

U.S. Attorney investigation

A U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey investigation, made public in May 2015, did not find evidence that Christie was criminally involved in planning or concealing the bridge scandal.

The investigation resulted in charges of conspiracy and other crimes against three state officials: Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former chief of staff; Bill Baroni, a Christie-appointed executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and David Wildstein, another Port Authority executive and one of Christie’s political allies. Wildstein pleaded guilty.

But the U.S. Attorney’s Office didn’t indict Christie.

"Today’s charges make clear that what I’ve said from day one is true, I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act," Christie said following the indictments against his former staffers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some critics have suggested that because still more evidence could come forward, Christie is not yet fully in the clear. It’s possible that now under the pressure of criminal charges, Kelly and Baroni could reveal information that implicates Christie, wrote Tim Moran, editorial page editor of New Jersey’s Star-Ledger newspaper.

At the time, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said, "We’re always going to be receptive to new evidence, what I will say is this though: Based on the evidence currently available to us, we’re not going to charge anyone else in this scheme."

Fishman also declined to comment on whether others (including Christie) will continue to be investigated for involvement.

Our ruling

Christie said, "There’s now been three independent investigations (into the bridge scandal) all of which have said" that Christie did not have prior knowledge of or involvement in the lane closures.

Christie has said since day one that he had no knowledge of the scandal before or during the closures themselves. Three investigations — a law firm commissioned by Christie, the state legislature and the U.S. attorney’s office — found no evidence to suggest otherwise.

However, only the law firm investigation expressly stated that Christie had no knowledge of the lane closures. In contrast, the legislature’s investigation suggested that it’s still a possibility if more evidence emerges, and the U.S. attorney didn’t say the case is definitively closed.

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important context, so we rate it Half True.

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Chris Christie: Bridgegate investigations back up my story

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