Political motivations were at the heart of a plan by allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to spark a mass traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, according to an internal report conducted on behalf of Christie.
The report found that David Wildstein, a top Christie associate, said he personally informed the governor of the lane closures that prompted the traffic problems in September while they were under way, and that Christie said he had no recollection of the conversation.
The internal review, which cleared Christie of wrongdoing by finding that he did not know about the lane closures before they occurred, was greeted skeptically by critics who said it was stacked in his favor. Private lawyers leading the investigation were hired by the governor's office at a cost of $1 million to taxpayers. And key figures in the incident, including Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, declined to take part.
The closures also are under investigation by a federal prosecutor and state lawmakers.
The release of the 360-page internal review Thursday came as Christie, a Republican who is mulling a 2016 presidential bid, continued to try to stabilize his image, which has been battered since the scandal erupted.
Hours after the report was released, Christie sat for an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer in which he again pinned all of the blame on rogue underlings. He defended the credibility of the investigators his office hired, saying, "They're not going to whitewash anything for me."
The lawyers spent two months conducting 70 interviews and reviewing 250,000 pages of documents. They questioned Christie and pored over his emails and text messages. They found the bridge plan was hatched by Wildstein, who worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and that Kelly was the only member of the governor's staff in on it.
The investigation concluded there was evidence Kelly and Wildstein engineered the closures at least in part "for some ulterior motive to target" Fort Lee's Democratic mayor.