JERSEY CITY, New Jersey–A report commissioned by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that absolved the governor of any wrongdoing also revealed the governor’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien and former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly were “personally involved” shortly before the lane closures.
The report, which concluded that Governor Christie did not know about the political retribution attempted through closing lanes of the George Washington Bridge to cause a major traffic jam, uses the knowledge that Stepien and Kelly dated for a short time to distance Stepien from the plan to close the bridge. According to the Washington Post, their relationship “had cooled, apparently at Stepien’s choice,” about a month before the lane closings, “and they had largely stopped speaking.”
The fact that the two were known to have stopped speaking implies that Kelly, who is blamed for coming up with the bridge plot with former Port Authority official David Wildstein, would not have felt comfortable divulging details of a sensitive and unethical plot to a former partner and someone who had previously held her position in the governor’s office.
An attorney for Stepien told the Post he objected to the use of the couple’s romantic history in the report, which he claimed was “gratuitous” and appeared to “be done for the purpose of creating an alternative headline.” Nonetheless, the fact helped the attorney who filed the report conclude that Stepien was not in on the plan, but only knew there was a traffic study planned as one of Wildstein’s “crazy ideas.” Stepien’s attorney, Kevin Marino, added that the report in its entirety made him question why Christie fired Stepien in the first place.
The report takes a stern tone with regard to Kelly, who is described, according to the Star-Ledger, as “nervous and weepy.” It calls for abolishing her deputy chief of staff position in its entirety because “it appeared to have functioned very effectively during the first three years of the Governor’s first term… But then, during the Governor’s re-election year, under Kelly’s stewardship, there was aberrational behavior at Kelly’s direction.” Stepien held the position for the years before Kelly took over.
Meanwhile, Governor Christie began a media blitz Thursday with an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer, to whom he said his staff had done “incredibly stupid” things but that he did not foster an atmosphere that would encourage such behavior. He also challenged the assumption that the fact that the report was commissioned by his office and used his lawyers made it somewhat questionable. “They’re not my lawyers,” he retorted.