As co-chair of the legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures, New Jersey State Sen. Loretta Weinberg has spent months looking into the scandal.
On Thursday, Weinberg spoke with TPM about the state of investigation, and what she thinks of the recent report, produced by defense attorney Randy Mastro and a team of lawyers representing Christie’s office, that cleared the governor of any involvement in plan to close the lanes. Weinberg called the report the latest in a series of attempts by Christie to put the scandal behind him. She has no plans to let that happen.
Below is a condensed and edited version of our interview:
TPM: You’ve had a week now to digest the full Mastro report. What do you make of it? After a full review of it, do you think it get us closer to the truth of what happened in the lane closures?
Weinberg: Well, first of all, we haven’t finished a full review. The myriad of documents he attached are still being analyzed. However, what I think of the report is that it sounds like a defense attorney summing up before a jury. Just from my own personal review, the whole idea of introducing as ‘evidence’ an alleged personal relationship between [former Christie aides] Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, and then even introducing who broke up with whom — based on what? Gossip? Hearsay? I believe, and I’m not an attorney, that Randy Mastro, with all of his public relations about what a great lawyer he is, should have been ashamed to have put his name on that report. It is not unbiased, it is not objective, and it was obviously the governor’s office’s attempt to rewrite a little of history here.
The Mastro report revealed that David Wildstein mentioned traffic issues to Christie on Sept. 11. Christie says he doesn’t remember the conversation. Did this come as a surprise to the committee?
No, don’t forget there are allegations about that that were out there before. Wildstein stated in a letter — that’s not an allegation — that there was evidence. And then there are pictures of some of the main cast of characters here, David Wildstein, Bill Baroni, David Samson, and the governor, speaking all by themselves without a big crowd around them.
Samson’s absence from the Mastro report is something that people have talked about. He has resigned from the Port Authority. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reportedly looking at his business ties. Your committee has subpoenaed him. Is he cooperating with the subpoena, and how important is he to your investigation?
Well, we haven’t subpoenaed him, we’ve subpoenaed documents from him. And those documents are still kind of rolling in — I’m not sure that they’re complete — and again, also being analyzed.
I think he’s very important to the committee. First of all, let’s give the benefit of the doubt [and say] he didn’t know about it before it happened, nor did he authorize it. I’m not stating that as fact, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here. He certainly knew about it when [Port Authority Executive Director] Pat Foye reversed the lane closures and said that laws might have been broken. And what was his reaction to that? His reaction to that was: let’s go after Pat Foye, he’s trying to ride in on a white horse, and ‘he’s playing in traffic.’ In my opinion, a good director or head of an agency at that point says, ‘tell Pat Foye and Bill Baroni and David Wildstein to come to my office, what in the world happened here and why?’ Those questions seem to never have been asked.
So he plays an important role in the committee finding out what did he do, when did he find out about it, what did he do to correct any wrongs that were done at this agency by the closure of these lanes, and to find out if in fact laws were broken.
Do you at this point believe that Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien will eventually have to turn over documents to your committee?
I’m not going to conjecture on that. We’re waiting for the judge’s ruling. I’m not a lawyer. Whatever it is, it will turn out to be.
Can you say what percentage of the documents the committee has subpoenaed have already been received?
No, because a lot of stuff is coming in on a rolling basis.
Is there a new window of time for those turning in documents on a rolling basis?
We have discussed that with out attorney, and although I’m not aware of it as this moment, I am hoping that he’s given some final dates to some of these folks.
Can you tell me if you think there is anything in the documents that have already come in that will change the publicly understood story of the lane closures?
No, because we really don’t know the whole story. We don’t know two very important parts: did somebody tell Bridget Kelly to do this, and, if so, why. Those are two important questions that, thus far, there have been no answers to.
In January, Christie pledged to be “fully cooperative” with the investigation. Has he met that standard?
The office of the governor has turned over documents, again, on this rolling basis. I’m not sure we’re satisfied that they’re complete. The governor’s cooperation remains to be seen. We’ve got the legislative investigation and we have the U.S. attorney’s investigation. But I think the most inappropriate part I’ve seen thus far is this so-called investigative report of the governor’s office.
Gov. Christie said in an interview last week that he thinks we may never know what motivated the lane closures. Do you agree with that?
You know what, I can’t answer that question. But we have a couple of options here, we will find out or we won’t find out. Certainly within the realm of possibility, either one of them.
Over the weekend, you suggested the committee would by “happy” to have the governor come and testify under oath. Do you plan to ask him to do so?
That is not something that we’ve done. I made it very clear I was saying that as an individual on the committee. I’ve not discussed this with our attorney or the committee.
The Mastro report came out, and then Christie spent the weekend in Nevada. He did interviews. It seemed like he was trying to say, “OK, we’re going to move on now.”
Look, he tried to say that in December. He tried to say it in January, when he fired both Stepien and Bridget Kelly. And now he tried to say it with the Mastro report. But thus far, I don’t think it’s worked because there are too many unanswered questions.