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Christie Bridge Report Assailed by Ex-Aide as Venomous

Ex-Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly
Bridget Anne Kelly, the ex-deputy chief of staff to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, waits in court for a hearing in Trenton, New Jersey, on March 11, 2014. Photogrpaher: Mel Evans/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Bridget Anne Kelly, a former aide to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, assailed a report commissioned by him about the George Washington Bridge scandal as a “venomous” and “sexist” attack on her credibility.

Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and David Wildstein, another ex-ally of the governor, were blamed in the report for creating four days of traffic jams near the bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey. The report prepared by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP depicted Kelly as a liar who cried, “seemed emotional” in a key meeting with Christie, and may have had her state of mind affected by a broken romance.

“The report’s venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning Ms. Kelly have no place in what is alleged to be a professional and independent report,” Michael Critchley, an attorney for Kelly, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Gibson Dunn concluded in the 360-page report released March 27 that Christie had no prior knowledge of lane closures from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12. The scandal has harmed Christie’s popularity and imperils the Republican’s possible run for the White House in 2016.

Christie, praising the report at a news conference yesterday in the state capital Trenton, announced the resignation of David Samson as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge. The second-term governor was portrayed by Gibson Dunn as a betrayed chief executive trying to find the truth about lane closures set up by Kelly and Wildstein, once a top official at the Port Authority.

Criminal Investigation

The closures are the subject of a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors and an inquiry by a state legislative committee. Wildstein asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify to an Assembly committee.

Kelly and William Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager, asserted their Fifth Amendment right against handing over subpoenaed documents to an investigative committee. Lawmakers are suing to compel them to turn over documents. A judge is expected to rule soon on the matter.

Randy Mastro, a Gibson Dunn attorney, said he couldn’t talk to Kelly, Wildstein, Stepien, or William Baroni, once Christie’s top appointee at the Port Authority.

In his statement yesterday, Critchley said that by not reviewing “all pertinent evidence, any conclusions that are to be drawn are by definition incomplete.”

Competing Versions

Critchley said “two distinct versions” of the lane closings exist: Mastro’s view that Christie had no knowledge of the lane closures; and a statement by Wildstein attorney Alan Zegas that evidence exists that Christie knew about the closures at the time.

“Ms. Kelly’s evidence could be critical to verifying either of the two competing versions of events,” Critchley said. “A preemptive strike to isolate Ms. Kelly and impugn her credibility is not surprising. Despite Mr. Mastro’s editorialized comments to the contrary, Ms. Kelly is not a liar.”

Critchley said Kelly is “a single mother of four children who was deeply devoted and committed to her job” in Christie’s office. “She worked tirelessly to pursue the goals of the office during her tenure,” he said.

The only credible investigation, Critchley said, is a criminal probe by New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

Possible Cooperation

Critchley said Kelly is willing to cooperate in the probe and suggested she would do so if granted immunity from prosecution.

“If Ms. Kelly were provided with the appropriate procedural safeguards, she will be fully cooperative and provide truthful and complete answers to any questions asked of her by the appropriate law enforcement authorities,” he said.

Rebekah Carmichael, Fishman’s spokeswoman, said, “We can’t discuss the specifics of ongoing investigations.”

The scandal drew national attention on Jan. 8, with the release of an Aug. 12 e-mail by Kelly that said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein replied: “Got it.”

Wildstein resigned in December, and Christie announced Jan. 9 that he had fired Kelly.

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