Two of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) former aides who have been tied to the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal were “personally involved” for a time in the months before the closures, according to a report released Thursday by attorneys representing Christie’s office.
According to the report, former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien became “personally involved” at some point after Stepien left the deputy chief of staff position to run Christie’s re-election campaign in April 2013. Kelly replaced Stepien in the deputy chief of staff role, and relied on Stepien “heavily” during the transition period, according to the report. The report describes Stepien as Kelly’s “benefactor.”
“And at some point after Stepien’s departure to run the campaign, Kelly and Stepien became personally involved, although, by early August 2013, their personal relationship had cooled, apparently at Stepien’s choice, and they largely stopped speaking,” the report states.
On Aug. 13, 2013, Kelly sent the now infamous “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” to former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive David Wildstein, the official who then went on to orchestrate the lane closures. The report released Thursday found that Kelly and Wildstein “knowingly participated” in a plan to to close the lanes, “at least in part, for some ulterior motive to target [Fort Lee, N.J. Mayor Mark Sokolich.]” The investigation also found that former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien and former Port Authority Executive Bill Baroni “knew of this idea in advance, but we found no evidence that they knew of the ulterior motive here, besides the claimed purpose of conducting a traffic study.” The investigation did not find “any evidence” of anyone else’s involvement in the plan to target Sokolich, and concluded that Christie “did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes.”
Christie fired Kelly and cut ties with Stepien in January following the release of a first round of subpoenaed documents related to the lane closures. The governor asked Stepien to leave his role as a consultant to the Republican Governors’ Association, and to take his name out of the running for chairman of New Jersey’s Republican Party.