TRENTON, N.J. (CBS/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie on Friday defended a report by taxpayer-funded lawyers who cleared him of any involvement in closing lanes near the George Washington Bridge for political reasons, saying it “will stand the test of time.”
Christie was speaking at his first news conference since Jan. 9. His appearance came a day after a report from a law firm he hired issued a 345-page summary of the scandal.
“I think the report will stand the test of time and it will be tested by the other investigations that are going on,” Christie said, referring to separate probes by federal prosecutors and a special legislative committee.
Christie said the lawyers who produced the report would not “give away their reputations to do some kind of slipshod job for me.”
The report portrayed the Republican governor as a careful yet emotional leader who looked into the eyes of his top staffers as he asked what they knew about the lane closures. It was deeply critical of the former Christie aide and ex-Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official who it said were solely behind the September lane closures, which were apparent payback against a mayor whose town was tied up with traffic.
Democrats have blasted the report as one-sided and incomplete.
“My answer to that is look at the report – we gave them unfettered, complete access to everyone in this government,” Christie said.
Also Friday, Christie announced the resignation of David Samson as chairman of the Port Authority, which runs the bridge.
Christie says changes so far as splitting the Port Authority by state are being looked at and Samson thought a different leader was an appropriate start.
“But David had been talking to me for the better part of a year about wanting to move on because he just was tired. He had served a long time. He’s 74-years-old,” Christie said.
Samson, a former state attorney general, was a Christie appointee who has attracted scrutiny this year.
His law firm was representing a private firm with plans to do a redevelopment project in Hoboken. Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of that city, has said that members of Christie’s cabinet said her city’s Superstorm Sandy aid would be tied to her support for the plan. Christie’s administration denies that accusation.
Samson also was the subject of reports this year that found businesses he represented may have benefited by Port Authority actions.
He said in a statement that he had planned to step down from the chairman job anyway.
“Over the past months, I have shared with the governor my desire to conclude my service to the PANYNJ,” he said. “The timing is now right, and I am confident that the governor will put new leadership in place to address the many challenges ahead.”
Christie said Friday that he is interested in exploring a recommendation from Thursday’s report to consider splitting the Port Authority into two separate agencies: One for New York and one for New Jersey.
Iin regards to his former staffer Bridget Kelly who is being co-blamed with David Wildstein for ordering lane closures in Fort Lee – Christie says he didn’t question her before firing her to prevent the accusations he would try to coerce her into self-incrimination.
“I decided that the better course, the more prudent course was not to pursue someone who already not told me the truth when they had the opportunity to but to let her go, fire her and move on,” the governor said.
Christie admits the last few months have taken a toll on him.
“There’s no question that this shakes your confidence and if it doesn’t shake your confidence than your arrogant,” Christie said.
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