A draft report says the legislative committee investigating the September 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge has not been able to determine what Gov. Christie knew about the closures.
The 136-page report, which cites the committee's inability to interview key witnesses, also does not identify a clear motive for the lane closures, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee over the course of four days.
The report describes the closures as "directly implemented" by Bridget Anne Kelly, the now-fired Christie aide who wrote an email in August 2013 calling for "traffic problems in Fort Lee." And it says Kelly worked closely with David Wildstein, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official who replied "Got it" to Kelly's email. He resigned last December, a month before the scandal over the emails exploded.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is still investigating the lane closures, said Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the office. Christie, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has maintained he played no role in the closures.
While the report doesn't answer why Kelly and Wildstein acted to close the lanes, it says Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's failure to endorse Christie's 2013 reelection was "at least a consideration," noting that Kelly called another aide the night before sending the "traffic problems" email to verify Sokolich would not be endorsing the governor. A number of Democratic officials endorsed Christie in the election.
A law firm hired by Christie to review the lane closures released a report in March pinning blame for the scandal on Kelly and Wildstein.
"The committee has finally acknowledged what we reported nine months ago – namely, that there is not a shred of evidence Gov. Christie knew anything about the (bridge) lane realignment beforehand or that any current member of his staff was involved in that decision," lawyer Randy Mastro said in a statement.
Alan Zegas, a lawyer for WIldstein, declined to comment Thursday night. Michael Critchley, a lawyer for Kelly, didn't respond to an email seeking comment.
The legislative report notes that a Christie staffer testified before the committee that Wildstein said he told the governor about the lane closures while they were underway. The report says that since the committee had been unable to interview Wildstein, the testimony "leaves open the question" of when Christie first learned of the closures.
The report says the committee avoided interviewing certain witnesses to not interfere with other investigative efforts. Findings may change if the committee is able to interview more witnesses, the report says.
Though the report says the committee found "no conclusive evidence" as to whether Christie was aware of the closures or involved before or while they were happening, it says that if Kelly and Wildstein acted alone, "they did so with perceived impunity and in an environment … in which they felt empowered to act as they did, with little regard for public safety risks or the steadily mounting public frustration."
The report also describes a politicization of the Christie administration office that conducted outreach to mayors while some employees also worked to secure endorsements for the governor from those mayors.
And it notes that administration aides repeatedly received notice of the lane closures while and after they were happening, characterizing the governor's office as having responded "very slowly and passively to mounting indications" of political reasons for the incident.
Christie aides said they were told the Port Authority closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge without public notice as part of a traffic study.
"It is difficult to review this sequence of events without seeing indications that some of the participants may have known or suspected that the traffic study cover story was a fabrication even as they continued to embrace that story publicly," the report says.
The report also suggests Christie deleted multiple text messages to a top aide, who told the legislative committee that she texted the governor in December as Port Authority employees testified before lawmakers about the lane closures.
The aide, Regina Egea, said she did not recall receiving a reply from Christie. According to the legislative report, phone records indicate Christie initiated the conversation and sent three messages, while Egea sent nine.
In response to a subpoena from the committee, lawyers for the governor's office said they were unable to locate the texts on the phones of Christie or Egea, indicating they "deleted the messages at some unknown point," the report says.