TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers cannot credibly review a political payback plot involving his aides because they are missing information from key players, the head of a New Jersey legislative panel said Monday.
The lack of cooperation from ex-aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, Christie’s two-time campaign manager, raises questions about the thoroughness of the report due out soon, Assemblyman John Wisinewski said.
The New York Times reported Monday that the review will show that the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate was not involved in the planning or execution of the blocking of traffic in Fort Lee, apparently to punish the town’s mayor for not endorsing Christie. Five people close to Christie have lost their jobs in the scandal that threatens his future political plans.
Randy Mastro, the lawyer hired by Christie to lead the review, told the newspaper the governor handed over his iPhone and permitted his email accounts to be searched.
He also said he had access to thousands of emails on government servers by current and former employees such as Kelly and Stepien, who are fighting the legislative panel’s subpoena seeking documents involving the lane closings.
It was unclear when the actual findings will be released. Mastro didn’t return multiple messages left by The Associated Press. Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts released a statement Monday saying the review was ongoing and has not been delivered to Christie’s office.
It’s doubtful the results will impact separate investigations by the U.S. attorney’s office and the joint legislative panel.
Ian Sams, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said the report would amount to taxpayer-funded damage control. He said taxpayers are unlikely to gain much insight despite having spent more than $1 million on the inquiry.
“For a self-appointed ally to say that the governor is cleared of wrongdoing doesn’t pass the smell test,” he said.
Democrats say Mastro’s past employment also could bias the review. Like Christie, Mastro is a former federal prosecutor. He also was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s chief of staff. Several of Christie’s aides once worked for Giuliani, and the ex-mayor has vigorously defended Christie on the national talk show circuit.
Mastro defended the integrity of the inquiry to the Times, and said there is no incentive to sugarcoat the findings.
“At the end of the day, we will be judged by whether we got this right,” he said, noting that any shortcomings would likely be exposed by the other investigations.