A lawyer appointed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to look into the politically motivated lane closures near the George Washington Bridge in September just issued his report, finding that the governor was not involved in the plot.
"Our findings today are a vindication of Gov. Christie," said the lawyer, Randy Mastro, at a press conference revealing the report.
We're still combing through Mastro's 360-page report, but here are some of the key findings (with the important caveat that these are from a lawyer hired by Christie himself):
1. Christie didn't know in advance
“The Governor Did Not Know In Advance And Was Not Involved In This Bridge Lane Realignment Decision. … Before September 9, 2013, The Governor Had No Knowledge Of The Bridge Lane Realignment."
2. Christie doesn't recall being told about the closures at the time, despite an appointee's contention to the contrary
Christie Port Authority appointee David Wildstein has suggested he mentioned the lane closures while at a 9/11 memorial with Christie -- on the third day of the so-called "traffic study."
"Wildstein even suggested he mentioned the traffic issue in Fort Lee to the Governor at a public event during the lane realignment— a reference that the Governor does not recall and, even if actually made, would not have registered with the Governor in any event because he knew nothing about this decision in advance and would not have considered another traffic issue at one of the bridges or tunnels to be memorable.
"Nor did we find any credible evidence that the Governor had knowledge of the lane realignment while it was occurring from September 9 to 13, 2013.”
Mastro added at the press conference: "The governor points out that a mention of a traffic issue in Fort Lee would not have been memorable or meaningful to the governor."
3. The lane closures were originally Wildstein's idea
"That Fort Lee was favored with these dedicated toll lanes was an issue periodically raised within the Port Authority. Indeed, Wildstein himself first raised the issue in late 2010. For some reason yet to be determined, Wildstein seemed to be driving this issue again in 2013. It was Wildstein’s 'idea,' like so many other 'crazy' ones he’d had before that never got off the ground."
4. The report says the only individuals who were involved in the lane closures were: now-former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, former campaign manager Bill Stepien and Port Authority appointees Wildstein and Bill Baroni
Of those four, Kelly is the only official member of the governor's office staff.
“…we have not found any evidence that anyone in the Governor’s Office, besides Kelly, approved of or had any other advance knowledge of the lane realignment before it was implemented.
5. The report says that "others became aware after the lanes were closed"
But even then, it says: “All of these employees understood the lane realignment to be a Port Authority traffic study for which the Port Authority held operational and communications responsibility. None of these employees understood the situation as requiring involvement or intervention from the Office of the Governor. None of these employees had any awareness of Kelly’s prior involvement in the lane realignment or any ulterior motive behind the operation.”
6. The report doesn't lay blame for Christie staffers who denied there was anything political about the lane closures
“After September 13, 2013 (WaPo note: this is the date the "traffic study" ended), Governor’s Office Employees Continued To Understand The Lane Realignment To Be A Port Authority Traffic Study”
7. The motive for the lane closures still isn't clear, but it probably wasn't Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's (D) failure to endorse Christie, as Democrats have alleged
"...by late March 2013, both the Governor’s Office and his campaign knew that Mayor Sokolich would not be endorsing, yet that had no apparent effect upon his working relationship with the Christie Administration over the next several months. Indeed, by April 2013, Sokolich was no longer on the list of Mayors whose endorsement the campaign would be seeking; yet in mid-May 2013, he remained on a list of Mayors being considered for honorary appointments by the Governor."
8. ...However, Kelly did check, the day before ordering the lane closures, whether Sokolich had endorsed Christie
"On August 12, 2013, Kelly reconfirmed that Mayor Sokolich would not be endorsing the Governor for reelection. Then, on August 13, 2013, she sent Wildstein her now-infamous email: 'Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.' To which Wildstein knowingly responded: 'Got it.'"
9. Kelly and Stepien were "personally involved" at some point before the lane closures
"...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."
Updated at 12:26 p.m.