28 lawyers who investigated Bridgegate donate to Christie campaign, report says
Twenty-eight lawyers from the firm that conducted the Christie administration's investigation of Bridgegate — the only one to exonerate the governor in the George Washington Bridge scandal — have donated to his presidential bid.
That figure is described in an editorial from the Star-Ledger, which said in the piece Tuesday: "Yep, the same wealthy lawyers who 'exonerated' Christie are bailing him out as donations run low. Which raises the question: Do we look stupid? Or is the Christie campaign just that desperate?"
Former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro led an investigation — commissioned by Christie's office — that in early 2014 issued a 360-page report finding the politically motivated closures of lanes in the bridge were orchestrated by other officials, and that Christie had no role in the scandal.
Among those taking part in interviews with the governor was Debra Won Yang — whom NJ Spotlight reported in December hosted a $2,700-a-person Los Angeles fundraiser for the governor's presidential campaign. That report also said Yang — whom the governor has descried as a "dear friend" and with whom the governor's family has vacationed — had billed more hours in the investigation than almost any other attorney at the firm that conducted it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
Yang and three other lawyers leading the probe all donated to the Christie campaign, the Star-Ledger editorial says.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher was Christie's biggest source of campaign donations in the last quarter of last year, giving the campaign $65,500, according to another report by New Jersey Advance Media earlier this month.
Christie has said often on the campaign trail that three separate investigations have cleared him of wrongdoing in the Bridgegate scandal.
"There's been three different investigations that have proven that I knew nothing (about the lane closures)," Christie said in a late-January GOP debate.
The investigation commissioned by the governor's office os the only one to explicitly clear the governor. A December 2014 report by the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation found "no conclusive evidence" regarding any involvement by Christie, but that a lack of information "leaves open" the question of what the governor knew, and when.
At present, there is no conclusive evidence as to whether Governor Chris Christie was or was not aware of the lane closures either in advance of their implementation or contemporaneously as they were occurring. Nor is there conclusive evidence as to whether Governor Christie did or did not have involvement in implementing or directing the lane closures. Nevertheless, according to (then-Christie Press Secretary) Michael Drewniak’s testimony, (Former Port Authority executive David) Wildstein has claimed that he informed the Governor of the lane closures at a 9/11 Memorial observance that the two attended. While the Committee currently has no means to independently evaluate Wildstein’s reported statement, the statement, as well as the current lack of information from Wildstein, Kelly, Stepien, and others, leaves open the question of when the Governor first learned of the closures and what he was told.
An investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey lead to charges against former Christie Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, Port Authority executive Bill Baroni and David Wildstein. The investigation didn't result in any accusations or indictment against Christie himself.
But when questioned by reporters in May, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman wouldn't comment on whether Christie or others continued to be investigated.
"Based on the evidence currently available to us, we're not going to charge anyone else in this scheme," Fishman said at the time.
"In announcing indictments against two people close to Mr. Christie and discussing a guilty plea by a third ally, Mr. Fishman seemed to go out of his way not to mention the governor or suggest wrongdoing by him — though he also refused to say whether Mr. Christie was off the hook," the New York Times wrote at the time.
“I’m not going to comment beyond what’s in the indictment,” Fishman said. When asked if Christie was "in the clear" he answered: "I’m not sure what that means, so I can’t really answer that question. I’m not going to comment on whether anybody is going to be further investigated.”