Gov. Christie was 'nervous' when bridge scandal was linked to hi - My9 New Jersey

Gov. Christie was 'nervous' when bridge scandal was linked to his aides

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By ANGELA DELLI SANTI | AP

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie was "nervous" about the possibility that anyone else on his staff was involved in a politically motivated traffic scandal, according to interview notes released Monday by lawyers the governor's office hired to conduct an internal investigation.

Christie was one of 75 people interviewed for his office's probe into traffic tie-ups approaching the George Washington Bridge.

The interview notes compiled by Gibson, Dunn & Cruthers lawyers form the basis of a 344-page, taxpayer-funded report exonerating Christie of knowledge of the lane closings that caused four days of traffic mayhem in Fort Lee, the town at the base of the heavily traveled span linking New Jersey and New York.

Five people close to Christie have been fired or resigned amid the scandal, which has been a major distraction for Christie as he contemplates a 2016 presidential run.

A legislative panel investigating the lane closings had demanded the notes. The U.S. attorney's office is also investigating.

Tapes or transcripts of the interviews have not been made public.

While the documents provide no surprises, they give some insight into the governor's state of mind as the scandal enveloped his administration and how his office decided to handle it.

The interview notes show Christie pulled together key members of his government and political teams after the scandal broke in January. Christie's top political strategists, chief counsel and brother were among those called to the governor's mansion to find out if anyone else was involved and discuss how to handle the matter. Christie ally David Samson, then chairman of the agency that runs the bridge, also participated, according to the notes.

Christie, who was interviewed three times in February and March, also denied allegations that members of his administration threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy recovery funds to Hoboken unless the mayor approved a certain re-development project. The city on the Hudson River sustained severe flooding during the October 2012 storm.

Christie said he did not direct his lieutenant governor to "deliver a message" to Mayor Dawn Zimmer about the Hoboken redevelopment project. The redeveloper, the Rockefeller Group, was being represented by Samson's law firm, Wolff & Samson.

Two of the people the mayor says issued the funding threats — Marc Ferzan, who runs the state's Superstorm Sandy recovery office, and Guadagno — both denied Zimmer's claims in separate interviews. Zimmer declined to be interviewed for the internal investigation.

Ferzan told interviewers Zimmer was "all over the place," asking for fast and special aid and frequently changing her mind on the programs she wanted. "It was not even clear that what she wanted on any given day was in the state's, let alone Hoboken's, best interests," the notes say, summarizing Ferzan's words.

Guadagno, who keeps a picture of herself with Zimmer in her office, said Zimmer talked only about Hoboken, "did not know how to compromise, complained about everything." The interview memo also says Guadagno thought Zimmer may have been "in over her head" regarding economic development. The lawyers also say Guadagno told Zimmer that Sandy aid and real estate development were not connected.

The notes also show Christie deciding to sever ties with two-time campaign manager Bill Stepien over the objection of political strategist Mike DuHaime, and that Stepien felt wronged because there was no evidence linking him to planning the lane closures. The lawyers' report concluded that Stepien knew of the operation while it was going on, but there was no evidence that he believed it to be more than a traffic study.

DuHaime said David Wildstein, the Port Authority official involved in the closures, told him that Stepien and Bridget Kelly both knew about them beforehand.

Kelly was fired after Christie learned she sent Wildstein the message, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Wildstein, Stepien and Kelly all refused to be interviewed by the attorneys.

Associated Press reporter Geoff Mulvihill contributed from Haddonfield, N.J.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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