Report from Christie's lawyer clears governor in payback plot, but other investigations loom

The Associated Press

Attorney Randy Mastro answers questions at a news conference, in New York, Thursday, March 27, 2014. A law firm hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that the governor was not involved in a plot to create gridlock near a major bridge as part of a political retribution scheme. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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"Whatever motivated Wildstein and Kelly to act as they did, it was not at the behest of Governor Christie, who knew nothing about it," the report said.

Mastro said Wildstein seemed to have "bizarre political and personal animus" against a variety of people. He also quotes another Christie confidante as saying Wildstein had "50 crazy ideas a week."

The report said Kelly tried to cover her tracks when Christie began asking what happened. She asked a colleague to delete an email about the plot, but the other staffer retained the email anyway, the report said.

The report also suggested Kelly may have been motivated to participate in part because she'd recently been dumped in a romantic relationship by a former Christie campaign manager.

Christie also cut ties with that strategist, Bill Stepien, over the scandal. The report found that he knew about the lane closures but not about an ulterior motive. His lawyer, Kevin Marino, said Thursday that raises the question of why Stepien was ousted from Christie's realm. "I just wish someone would acknowledge it was a mistake," said Marino, who also said the mention of Stepien's relationship with Kelly, when both were single and not working together, was gratuitous.

Lawyers for Kelly and Wildstein did not return messages.

Wildstein's lawyer has said "evidence exists" that Christie knew about the closures as they happened. Mastro surmised in his report that Wildstein was referring to a conversation he had with Christie at a Sept. 11 memorial service. A Christie spokesman told Mastro's team that Wildstein later said he had told the governor about it during that event. But Mastro says Christie did not recall it being brought up and if it was, it would not have registered as significant to Christie — something Christie has said before.

The report also found that a claim by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, that Christie's administration told her that Superstorm Sandy would be tied to a private redevelopment plan, is "demonstrably false." In response, Zimmer called the report "sadly predictable" and a "one-sided whitewash."

Mastro called for Christie's staffers to cease using personal email accounts for official business, eliminating the office where Kelly had worked and appointing an ethics officer in the governor's office. He also recommended studying major changes to the Port Authority, an agency jointly run by New York and New Jersey.

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Mulvihill reported from Trenton, N.J. AP writer David Porter in Newark, N.J., also contributed.

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