After 9 Months, Federal Probe of GWB Closure Finds No Link to Christie, Federal Sources Say By Jonathan Dienst, Joe Valiquette and Pete Williams – Friday, Sep 19, 2014 • Updated at 2:48 AM EDT

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.

Christie Reiterates: No Role in Lane Closures

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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.

Brian Thompson and NBC News’ Tom Winter and Richard Esposito contributed to this report.

Chris Christie lawyers clear him, blame aides in bridge dispute – By Joseph Tanfani March 27, 2014, 6:08 p.m.

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Lawyers hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have cleared him of wrongdoing in the massive traffic jam at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, concluding that it was just one more “crazy idea” by one of Christie’s loyalists, motivated by a deep and mysterious grudge against a Democratic mayor.

The report, immediately dismissed by Democrats as an attempt to extricate Christie from a political jam, had some fresh revelations: It said David Wildstein, who ordered the four-day closure of bridge access roads in Fort Lee, claimed to other aides last year that he told Christie about the traffic problems while they were happening; the governor has insisted he never found out until after they were over.

But the report concluded that Wildstein’s story wasn’t credible, and laid nearly all the blame on just two people: Wildstein, a longtime Christie associate who had a political job at the bridge authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff at the time.

“There is not a shred of hard evidence that the governor did anything other than what he has publicly said,” said Randy Mastro, the former federal prosecutor who headed the team.

The report, said to have cost taxpayers $1 million, did little to settle the controversy. John Wisniewski, the Democratic state assemblyman co-chairing a state investigative committee looking into the bridge case, said “it reads more like a novel than a work of fact” and left too many questions unresolved. (The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey, which Christie once headed, also is conducting an investigation.)

In a statement, the Democratic National Committee called it “an expensive sham.”

“There was no real evidence, no real findings, no real answers, and definitely no exoneration,” said a statement by DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee.

In an interview aired Thursday night on ABC, Christie told anchor Diane Sawyer that he did not believe the bridge closure was engineered to try to please him, and he said he does not believe his often-blunt style created a culture in which staffers thought it was acceptable to punish political enemies.

“I can’t get into what their motivations were, except to say that anybody who really knows me would not believe that doing something inexplicably stupid would please me,” he said.

He also said that Wildstein was “one of hundreds” of people that he spoke to during the Sept. 11 memorial ceremonies in Manhattan, at which Wildstein said he had alerted Christie to the traffic jam.

“I don’t have any recollection of him saying anything. But I’ll tell you this. I’ll tell you what he didn’t say. He didn’t say, ‘Hey, by the way governor, I’m closing down some lanes of the George Washington Bridge to stick it to the mayor. Is that OK?’ That I’d remember.”

With the additional investigations ongoing, the release of Thursday’s report did little to clarify Christie’s political future, wounded by the months-long conversation about traffic jams and insinuations of bullying. When the controversy began in earnest late last year, Christie — fresh off a landslide reelection victory in November — was looking toward a potential presidential bid in 2016, Now, the governor’s once sky-high popularity in New Jersey has plummeted and during national forays for his role as head of the Republican Governors Assn., he has been dogged by critics. The Sawyer interview was a rare occasion in which he willingly discussed the matter.

Mastro said his team pored over thousands of documents and interviewed 70 witnesses, but heard nothing from the central players in the drama like Wildstein, Kelly and former campaign manager Bill Stepien, who have cited the 5th Amendment in fighting subpoenas for their documents sought for the other investigations underway. Also refusing to speak to Mastro’s team was David Samson, a close Christie ally and the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the area’s bridges.

The report said Mastro’s team found abundant evidence that Kelly and Wildstein were motivated by hostility toward Mark Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. The report also revealed that the day before she sent Wildstein the notorious email, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly checked with one of her staffers to confirm that Sokolich was not endorsing Christie.

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Conservative gathering welcomes Chris Christie – By Maeve Reston and Michael A. Memoli March 6, 2014, 4:57 p.m.

Chris Christie at CPAC

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Gov. Chris Christie arrived at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday at one of the most difficult moments of his political career: The investigations into his administration’s mammoth traffic jam continue, his poll numbers have plunged, and the socially conservative GOPvoters who dominate this gathering have always been his biggest hurdle in a potential quest for the presidency.

But with surprisingly expansive comments on his opposition to abortion, the New Jersey governor drew a warm reception before a group that did not even invite him last year, a slight ascribed to organizers’ criticism of his conservative credentials.

Feisty and upbeat, he also touted his challenges to New Jersey public employee unions, while lavishing praise on a number of his potential rivals — a demonstration of his desire to be a good soldier for the party as the new head of the Republican Governor’s Assn.

Scorning leaders in Washington who “can’t stop talking,” Christie praised Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for standing up for collective bargaining reform, Ohio Gov. John Kasich for lowering taxes and boosting employment, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for making his state, the home of the United Auto Workers, a right-to-work state.

“Governors are about getting things done,” said Christie, who urged his fellow Republicans to be more specific about what they are for rather than what they are against. “Governors are about making things work and keeping government out of people’s lives as much as they can.”

But even with a standing ovation as he opened and polite applause throughout his speech, Christie’s steep climb back to presidential viability was evident in interviews with attendees. Wilma Hicks, a retired secretary from Shreveport, La., said she could not get past his administration’s involvement in the multiday closure of several lanes approaching the George Washington Bridge in an apparent case of political payback.

“I just thought that was terrible, and I don’t think he was telling the truth about not knowing, and that lessened my opinion of him,” said Hicks, who had just cast her vote for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in CPAC’s presidential straw poll, the results of which will be tallied Saturday.

“He really does give a good presentation — today, it was really good,” she said of Christie’s speech. “But I wouldn’t have faith in him.”

William Travascio, a 21-year-old student, said he was pleased to see Christie invited, and “glad there was a big outpouring of support for him.” But he found the New Jersey governor’s speech underwhelming.

“I was looking for something more powerful — something more Chris Christie-ish,” Travascio said. “When you see him on TV speaking to people in New Jersey, he’s very bold. Very grandiose. I was expecting him to attack the president more. And maybe to attack the party a little bit.”

The conference sponsored by the American Conservative Union at a resort hotel on the Potomac River outside Washington is the largest annual gathering of conservatives each year. Thousands of attendees flocked here at a time when the Republican Party is fractured policy-wise and yet poised to potentially control both houses of Congress if current trends persist through the November election.

For the potential White House aspirants speaking during the three-day session, the event is a key proving ground and an opportunity to test campaign messaging. Thursday marked Christie’s first major speech on a national stage since the bridge scandal erupted in January.

The would-be contenders speaking Thursday — including Christie, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the tea party darling who has bedeviled the Republican establishment — all offered different prescriptions for the party to broaden its appeal, some in great detail and others in broad outlines.

Cruz opened the event with a familiar call for conservatives to hold true to their principles.

“You want to lose elections? Stand for nothing,” Cruz said, then referred to Republican presidential nominees who lost to Democrats. “All of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney. Those are good men. They are decent men. But when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

In a subtle contrast to Cruz, Ryan said there was a fine line “between being pragmatic and being unprincipled.”

“Let the other party be the party of personalities. We will be the party of ideas,” he said.

Ryan acknowledged divisions within the Republican ranks, but said he saw it only as “creative tension” and a healthy debate. “It’s messy. It’s noisy. It’s a little uncomfortable,” he said. “But the center of gravity is shifting.”

Christie emphasized the importance of the GOP finding a more compelling message. “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win,” he said. “Let us come out here resolved to not only stand for our principles, but let’s come out of this conference resolved to win elections again. That’s what I intend to do for the next year, and I hope you’ll join me.”

He also made an effort to solidify his own credentials within the social conservative wing of the party. He spoke more than any other 2016 contender about his opposition to abortion: “They said it could never be done; now twice — twice, for the first time since Roe vs. Wade — New Jersey has elected a pro-life governor.”

Leslie Hiner of Indianapolis said Christie was right about needing to win in order to govern. But she said it was Cruz who stood out in the field, by speaking “clearly, convincingly, with authority” — especially about the importance of holding true to conservative principles.

“You can’t govern effectively unless you were elected honestly,” she said.,0,1976328.story#ixzz2vGj8zF4w

Chris Christie’s 2016 Access Lane Has Been Closed – John Nichols on January 31, 2014 – 6:34 PM ET

Chris Christie was never going to be the president of the United States. That issue was settled long before gridlock set in on the lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. The New Jersey governor’s record on the critical measures for any state executive bidding for the presidency in 2016—job creation and economic growth—were dismal, and his positions on economic and social issues were far too conservative to attract swing voters in a country that had already rejected John McCain and Mitt Romney.

What remained uncertain was whether a Republican Party that has not nominated a winning candidate with a name other than “Bush” since the 1980s would gamble on Christie. And that issue is now settled, as well.

Even before The New York Times reported on Friday that former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein, an old friend of the governor who gained his position with Christie’s blessing, has written a letter explaining that it was on “the Christie administration’s order” that access lanes to the bridge were closed—thus gridlocking Fort Lee, a city where the Democratic mayor had refused to endorse the Republican governor’s re-election bid—Republicans across the country were looking elsewhere.

After his re-election last fall, Christie led the Republican pack in national polls and polls from battleground states.

That’s over.

Washington Post/ABC News survey released this week determined that Christie “appears to have suffered politically from the bridge-traffic scandal engulfing his administration.”

That’s polite newspeak for: Christie’s numbers among those most likely to support him have tanked.

In the Post poll, only 43 percent of Republicans viewed the governor favorably—not that much better than his favorable rating among Americans in general: 35 percent.

The survey found that Christie had sunk to a weak third-place position in the nomination race, with support from just 13 percent of Republican-leaning voters. The candidates who have benefitted most from the governor’s collapse—nationally known Republicans with big names and well-established histories—were soaring. Congressman Paul Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, who is looking a little more like a 2016 contender these days, was at 20 percent. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was at 18 percent.

Worse yet for Christie, his 13 percent support level was barely better than that found for Texas Senator Ted Cruz (12 percent), Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (11 percent.) and Florida Senator Marco Rubio (10 percent).

There was a line of analysis that suggested Christie—who after a marathon press conference three weeks ago, in which he tried and failed to explain himself, has pretty much avoided the media—might ride the storm out and get back into contention.

But reality has to be dawning on even the most ardent Christie enthusiasts, now that Wildstein’s lawyer has released the letter claiming that “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference.”

It is too early to say where the inquiries and investigations of the bridge scandal—and all the other scandals that have arisen in its wake—will ultimately end up. Christie’s hirelings are still spinning out denials — ripping Wildstein and raging atThe New York Times. But it should be clear by now that the sorting out of this governor’s troubles is going to take a very long time. Christie will be fighting in that time not to restore his presidential prospects but to retain his current position. Better than any of the “Christie Knew” and “You’re Lying, Gov” headlines of Saturday morning, The Newark Star Ledger summed Christie’s mess up best: “If (what Wildstein says) proves to be true, then the governor must resign or be impeached.”

This is not the sort of conversation that is had about a credible contender for any office, let alone the 2016 Republican nomination.

And this is why the time really has come to accept that Chris Christie’s brief period as a presidential prospect is absolutely finished.

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Subpoenas target Chris Christie aides, office – By ELIZABETH TITUS | 1/17/14 4:01 PM EST Updated: 1/17/14 8:10 PM EST

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is shown. | AP Photo

Thirteen subpoenas have been served so far in the Bridgegate investigation. | AP Photo

New Jersey lawmakers have subpoenaed several of Gov. Chris Christie’s senior aides — and issued broad subpoenas for the governor’s office and campaign overall — as they press forth with their investigation of the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal.

The targets of 20 subpoenas were announced Friday, a group that reflects the Democratic-led state Assembly panel’s aggressive approach as it tries to unearth information about the controversy, which has threatened the Republican governor’s 2016 presidential prospects. This is the first round of subpoenas from the committee, which along with a Senate counterpart, is dedicated specifically to investigating what’s been called “Bridgegate.”

Former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak, communications director Maria Comella, incoming chief of staff Regina Egea, outgoing chief of staff Kevin O’Dowd, and former campaign manager Bill Stepien were among those served subpoenas from the Assembly panel that convened Thursday.

(PHOTOS: Who’s who in the Chris Christie bridge scandal?)

Kelly wrote an infamous August email saying “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” which set off a firestorm when it was released last week.

Her email preceded a major traffic jam last September in Fort Lee, a city in northern New Jersey at the base of the busy George Washington Bridge. That email, which she sent to a Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and other documents released last week prompted new questions about who was involved in the closures and whether they were politically motivated.

Other subpoenas went to the recipient of Kelly’s email, David Wildstein; former Port Authority official Bill Baroni; current Port Authority officials David Samson, Philippe Danielides, Cristina Lado and Paul Nunziato; Christie chief counsel Charles McKenna; Christie spokesman Colin Reed; gubernatorial aides Christina Genovese and Evan J. Ridley; and former campaign aides Matt Mowers and Nicole David Drewniak, who is married to Michael Drewniak.

The subpoenas — including the one issued to the governor’s office generally — seek emails, text messages and other documents about the closures of lanes as well as the subsequent fallout. The subpoenas don’t represent accusations of wrongdoing, nor do they call the recipients to testify at this point.

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Christie was with Wildstein on 9/11/13 during Bridgegate by blue aardvark TUE JAN 14, 2014 AT 09:25 AM PST

Gov. Chris Christie was with the official who arranged the closure of local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11, 2013 — the third day of the closures, and well after they had triggered outrage from local officials beset by heavy traffic.It isn’t known what, if anything, Mr. Christie discussed with David Wildstein that day, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official was among the delegation of Mr. Christie’s representatives who welcomed him to the site of the World Trade Center for the commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks there.

Wall Street Journal commits journalismThis is the guy Christie barely knew, remember? The guy who arranged the lane closures and worried he wasn’t getting enough credit.

I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election,” which was held Nov. 5, Mr. Christie said last week. “You know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had with David since he worked at the Port Authority. I did not interact with David.”

There’s a picture, Chris. David is that guy on your left about two feet away, reaching out his hand so that he almost touches the end of your tie. I guess that since he didn’t actually touch you there’s no “contact”, right?And now the bridge scandal really takes off, because Christie has been caught in a lie. And neither Christie, nor Wildstein, nor Baroni, nor Samson, all of whom were there, are willing to respond to the Wall Street Journal regarding this meet-up. Baroni and Samson were up to their eyebrows in the traffic mess.

This is Chris Chistie, center-left, having no contact with David Wildstein, red tie with hand almost touching Christie. The date is 9/11/13, while the Fort Lee fiasco was in its 3rd day.

Do those two guys look like strangers to you?

This picture shows how Christie really barely even knows Wildstein.