To: Interested Parties
From: Brad Woodhouse, President of American Bridge
Subject: What You Need to Know Before Chris Christie “Clears” Himself
Date: Thursday, March 27, 2014
Governor Chris Christie’s taxpayer-funded attorneys today will release a report that supposedly “clears” Christie of any wrongdoing in the scandal known as Bridgegate. This report, which was conducted by a firm with close ties to Christie, involved analysis of documents the Christie administration failed to provide to the state legislative committee investigating the scandal. In other words, Christie’s defense team gave themselves a first look at everything – and now, they are continuing to keep those documents shielded from public view.
The firm that conducted the investigation has close ties to Christie. One of their attorneys even received a lucrative contract from Christie’s office as U.S. Attorney as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. Christie’s use of deferred prosecution agreements has come under fire in the past as a tool he used to reward allies.
What’s more, this self-investigation failed to interview key players whom we know to be involved the scandal – Bridget Anne Kelly, Bill Stepien, and David Wildstein. Without those interviews, any exoneration is suspect.
But the most egregious piece of Christie’s bogus self-exoneration is that it has come at a cost of $1 million of taxpayer money. The Star Ledger has called on Christie to return the taxpayer funds that were used for this farce, and I think most New Jerseyans would agree that their hard earned money could be put to much better use than “clearing” Christie in a scandal created by his own administration.
Read below for the background on what you need to know before Chris Christie “clears” himself of Bridgegate.
Christie Wasted $1M In Taxpayer Dollars On His Internal Investigation
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Earned At Least $1 Million In Legal Fees For Conducting Internal Investigation, Paid With Taxpayer Funds. According to the New York Times, “With his office suddenly engulfed in scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey two months ago summoned a pair of top defense lawyers from an elite law firm to the State House and asked them to undertake an extensive review of what had gone wrong. Now, after 70 interviews and at least $1 million in legal fees to be paid by state taxpayers, that review is set to be released, and according to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings. The review is the first of multiple inquiries into a scandal that has jeopardized Mr. Christie’s political future. It will be viewed with intense skepticism, not only because it was commissioned by the governor but also because the firm conducting it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has close ties to the Christie administration and the firm’s lawyers were unable to interview three principal players in the shutdowns, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.” [New York Times, 3/23/14]
Star-Ledger Editorial: New Jersey Paid $1 Million For Christie To Declare He Knew Nothing. According to an editorial in the Star-Ledger, “It cost New Jersey taxpayers at least a million bucks, but here’s what we finally know for a fact: Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers think he’s innocent. He knew nothing — nothing! — about those controversial lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in September. That’s the official conclusion of their internal investigation, the actual content of which we have yet to see” [Editorial- Star-Ledger, 3/24/14]
Star-Ledger Editorial: Investigation Was Christie’s “Overpriced Artificial Knockoff” Investigation. According to an editorial in the Star-Ledger, “And thanks to that diligence, taxpayers are now paying for the same thing three times: Once for a real investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office, again for the Legislature’s probe on behalf of New Jerseyans, and now for the governor’s overpriced, artificial knockoff.” [Editorial-Star-Ledger, 3/24/14]
Star-Ledger Editorial: Christie Owed Taxpayers A Refund For Internal Investigation. According to an editorial in the Star-Ledger, “The governor paid a lot of money to have his lawyers find nothing. Now he owes taxpayers a refund.” [Editorial- Star-Ledger, 3/24/14]
Christie’s Investigation Failed To Speak With Key Players
Christie’s Investigation Failed To Interview The Three Key Players In Bridgegate – Bridget anne Kelly, Bill Stepien, And David Wildstein. According to the Star-Ledger, “But Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) insisted that without speaking to three crucial sources — Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff; Bill Stepien, a two-time campaign manager for Christie; and David Wildstein, a high-ranking official of the Port of New York and New Jersey — the report, which reportedly cost more than $1 million at the taxpayers’ expense, was flawed and inconsequential. ‘It does not include information from Ms. Kelly,’ he said. ‘It can’t be a complete investigation.’ Wisniewski said the investigation, which was conducted by a team of lawyers headed by Randy Mastro, a litigation partner at Gibson Dunn and a former assistant U.S. Attorney, must be questioned. ‘If we don’t hear from the person who put the lane closures into motion, Bridget Kelly, who we know sent the email ‘Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee’ … if we don’t know why she sent that email, if we don’t know who gave her the authority to send that email, if we don’t know what she thought she may be accomplishing by sending that email, then we can’t have a complete picture of what happened here,’ he said.” [Star-Ledger, 3/24/14]
Star-Ledger Editorial: Us Attorney Chris Christie Would Not Have Taken This Internal Investigation Seriously. According to an editorial in the Star-Ledger, “Imagine what U.S. Attorney Chris Christie would have said. We’re guessing nothing — he would have laughed. Can you imagine him deciding not to indict somebody because an internal probe had found the person innocent? Surely he’d be skeptical about a lawyer like Randy Mastro, leading an investigation into a governor he’s politically tied to. Mastro’s firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has long served as Christie’s private counsel. And Mastro himself represented the Port Authority, the agency that created those traffic problems in Fort Lee. That’s a huge conflict of interest.” [Editorial-Star-Ledger, 3/24/14]
Christie Administration Gave Their Lawyers Private Documents to Construct Their Report, But Refused To Give Those Same Documents To Official Investigators In Response To Subpoenas
Christie’s Administration Failed To Comply With The State Legislative Subpoena For Documents On Bridgegate –Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Attorneys Used That Same Secret Information To Construct Their Report. According to the Star-Ledger, “Wisniewski also complained that his special committee had apparently received very little, if any, of the information relied upon by Mastro’s team, as described in The Times’ article. Wisniewski said his bi-partisan committee had issued a broad subpoena to Christie’s office, but had largely received summaries of media reports possessed by the governor’s office. ‘It certainly sounds like he (Mastro) has had more thorough access and complete access to the records than the records that he himself has turned over to the legislature,’ Wisniewski said, adding ‘A vast majority of the pages consists of press summaries.’ Wisniewski continued, ‘I hope that he (Mastro) has more information than he has provided us … If he has more information, than why hasn’t he responded and shared the information per the subpoena issued to the office of the governor.’” [Star-Ledger, 3/24/14]
Co-Chairman Of State Legislative Investigation Said That “A Vast Majority” Of The Christie Administration’s Submissions To The State Legislature “Consists Of Press Summaries.” According to the Star-Ledger, “Wisniewski said his bi-partisan committee had issued a broad subpoena to Christie’s office, but had largely received summaries of media reports possessed by the governor’s office. ‘It certainly sounds like he (Mastro) has had more thorough access and complete access to the records than the records that he himself has turned over to the legislature,’ Wisniewski said, adding ‘A vast majority of the pages consists of press summaries.’” [Star-Ledger, 3/24/14]
Law Firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Had Close Ties To Christie
Christie Administration Retained Law Firm Of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher To Conduct Internal Investigation Into Fort Lee Lane Closure Scandal. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Christie administration and the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, have each retained prominent legal counsel in the wake of the controversy surrounding the lane closures leading up to the George Washington Bridge. Gov. Chris Christie’s administration is retaining Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a firm with 18 offices internationally, to help with an internal review into the lane closures and outside investigations that have been opened into the matter, a spokesman said. ‘Governor Christie made clear last week that he will conduct an internal review to uncover the facts surrounding the lane closures in Fort Lee,’ the administration said in a statement released Thursday, referring to the New Jersey borough that sits on the western end of the bridge. The firm will ‘review best practices for office operations and information flow, and assist with document retention and production,’ the statement read.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/16/14]
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher “Has Long Served As Mr. Christie’s Private Counsel.” According to the New York Times, “Mr. Mastro, whom the statement characterized as an “outside, third-party perspective,” was an assistant United States attorney under Mr. Giuliani in New York, and later served as a deputy mayor. He now works for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which has long served as Mr. Christie’s private counsel.” [New York Times, 1/16/14]
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Possessed “Close Ties To The Christie Administration.” According to the New York Times, “The review is the first of multiple inquiries into a scandal that has jeopardized Mr. Christie’s political future. It will be viewed with intense skepticism, not only because it was commissioned by the governor but also because the firm conducting it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has close ties to the Christie administration and the firm’s lawyers were unable to interview three principal players in the shutdowns, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.” [New York Times, 3/23/14]
Debra Wong Yang
Christie Was “Friendly” With Debra Wong Yang, A Top Partner At Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher And Another Former U.S. Attorney. According to the New York Times, “Gibson Dunn has worked for the administration in the past, and Mr. Christie is friendly with a top partner there, Debra Wong Yang, who like him was appointed United States attorney by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s. In mid-January, after emails emerged showing that Mr. Christie’s aides had carried out the lane closings, the governor requested a meeting with Ms. Yang, and Mr. Mastro, a high-profile litigator who had served as a deputy mayor in the administration of Rudolph W. Giuliani and had never before met Mr. Christie.” [New York Times, 3/23/14]
Yang Was Co-Chair Of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s White-Collar Defense And Investigations Practice Group, And Personally Worked On The Firm’s Christie Administration Team. According to the New Republic, “And now Christie has hired her firm, where she is co-chair of the white-collar defense and investigations practice group, to lead the taxpayer-funded inquiry into his administration. In fact, Yang is part of the team working on the case, according to Randy Mastro, the former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani who is leading the team for Gibson Dunn.” [New Republic, 3/24/14]
Yang Was “A Loyal Republican With Close Ties To Alberto Gonzalez.” According to the New Republic, “Her selection as a corporate monitor by Christie had raised fewer questions than the others, beyond the fact that she was a loyal Republican with close ties to Alberto Gonzales, who succeeded Ashcroft as attorney general.” [New Republic, 3/24/14]
Yang Introduced Christie At An Event In 2011 As A “Very Dear Friend” And “Truly The Real Deal.” According to the New Republic, “But as the Star-Ledger of Newark recently noted, Yang had in 2011 introduced Christie at a 2011 event in New York in glowing terms that suggested their association went beyond being merely fellow former prosecutors, describing him as her ‘very dear friend’ and ‘truly the real deal.’” [New Republic, 3/24/14]
Yang Received One Of Several “Highly Lucrative Contracts” From U.S. Attorney’s Office Under Christie As Part Of “Deferred Prosecution Agreement” To Monitor Medical Device Makers Settlement. According to the New Republic, “What the article does not note is that Debra Wong Yang was one of six lawyers who received highly lucrative contracts from then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in 2007 to monitor a half-dozen medical device makers as part of a ‘deferred prosecution agreement’ he reached with the companies after an inquiry into allegedly fraudulent billing practices. […] And another, the amount of which has never been disclosed, went to Yang, who had in 2002 become the first ever Asian-American woman to be named U.S. Attorney.” [New Republic, 3/24/14]
Christie Was “Widely Criticized” As US Attorney For “Giving Political Allies Highly Lucrative Appointments As Federal Monitors” In Deferred Prosecution Agreements. According to the New York Times, “One area in which Mr. Fishman sharply broke with Mr. Christie was on deferred prosecution agreements, which let companies avoid indictment by agreeing to oversight by a federal monitor. Mr. Christie was widely criticized for giving political allies highly lucrative appointments as federal monitors in the hip-and-knee surgical implant industry, among others. Those he named included David Samson, the current chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who is a crucial figure in the bridge scandal; John Ashcroft, the former attorney general; and David N. Kelley, a former United States attorney in Manhattan who, in a controversial move, had opted not to indict Mr. Christie’s brother, Todd, in 2005, in an illegal trading scheme.” [New York Times, 2/9/14]
U.S. Department Of Justice Later Tightened Rules Regarding Deferred Prosecution Agreements To Prohibit U.S. Attorneys From Possessing Sole Discretion Over The Selection Of Monitors. According to the New York Times, “The Department of Justice later tightened rules so that monitors would not be chosen solely by a United States attorney.” [New York Times, 2/9/14]
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Investigatory Team Was Led By Rando Mastro, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Under Rudy Giuliani. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Randy Mastro, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, will lead the team. Mr. Mastro previously served as chief of staff and deputy mayor for operations for Rudy Giuliani, the former Republican mayor of New York City and a close ally to Mr. Christie. Several of Mr. Christie’s advisors have ties to Mr. Guiliani. Mr. Mastro didn’t immediately return a request for comment.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/16/14]
Mastro Formerly Represented The NY/NJ Port Authority On A Lawsuit Challenging Toll Increases. According to the New Republic, “Mastro, the lead Gibson Dunn lawyer representing Christie, had until recently been representing the Port Authority on a case challenging its toll increases.” [New Republic, 3/24/14]