The U.S. Justice Department investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has thus far uncovered no evidence indicating that he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.
The September 2013 closures — where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were shut down, causing a traffic nightmare for commuters — has been the subject of several federal and state investigations.
Federal officials caution that the investigation that began nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that authorities haven’t uncovered anything that indicates that Christie knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes.
According to one former federal prosecutor, who had no involvement in any of the probes into the lane closures, investigations of this kind will often turn up a solid connection early in the inquiry.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday said that his office is cooperating with a subpoena from federal authorities investigating whether any laws were broken when lanes near a New Jersey bridge were apparently closed for political retribution. Brian Thompson reports.
“My experience with federal law enforcement is that once you reach critical mass if you don’t have it within nine months or so, you’re not likely to ever get it,” former federal prosecutor Robert W. Ray said.
When the final report is issued, Christie may still face complications from the scandal, said Lee Miringoff, Director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
“That’s good news for him,” Miringoff said. “The bad news remains that politically as chief executive it looks like he was not in control of his administration at the time when this occurred. So that remains the downside for him. That doesn’t go away but this panel provides greater credibility barring any further revelations coming out.”
Assemblyman John Wisniewski said the state legislative committee’s investigation into the bridge lane closures is continuing.
“This is not a Chris Christie investigation,” he said in a statement. “It’s an investigation as to why this happened and who authorized it. As a consequence, this does not change our position.”
It’s not clear when federal authorities will conclude their investigation or if criminal charges will be handed down to Christie’s aides. There are still other angles to the investigation, including how Port Authority funds were used. It is unclear where that part of the investigation might be going.
Christie, whose office initially declined to comment, said of NBC 4 New York’s report in a radio interview with New Jersey 101.5’s Eric Scott Thursday evening, “I don’t want to overreact to it because I’m not surprised by it, and I’m hoping that, you know, we can start to focus on things that are important to all the people in the state of New Jersey.”
Representatives for the Justice Department, the FBI and New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s office all declined comment.