New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) defended on Thursday the report commissioned by his administration that cleared him of any wrongdoing associated with lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, while denying that he inspired his former staffers to order them to take place.
“I don’t believe it was for me,” Christie told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. “I don’t believe it was for me.”
The interview aired hours after the report by the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher blamed the September 2013 incidents on former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey appointee David Wildstein.
The report also accused them of harboring an unidentified “ulterior motive” and “animosity” toward Fort Lee, New Jersey Mayor Mark Sokolich (D), but rejected the theory that the closures were ordered as retaliation against Sokolich for not endorsing Christie during his successful 2012 re-election campaign.
“These people have their own professional and personal reputations,” Christie said of the firm. “Six of them were former federal prosecutors. They’re not going to whitewash anything for me and put their reputations at stake.”
Though neither Wildstein nor Kelly were interviewed for the report, the firm did determine that Wildstein mentioned the Fort Lee closures during a 9/11 memorial event taking place during the September 2013 lane closures, a conversation that Christie told Sawyer he did not recall, since he talked to “hundreds” of people that day.
“I’ll tell you this. I’ll tell you what he didn’t say,” Christie said. “He didn’t say, ‘Hey, by the way governor, I’m closing down some lanes of the George Washington Bridge to stick it to the mayor. Is that OK?’ That, I’d remember.”
Christie also referred to the closures as “inexplicably stupid” on several occasions, and denied the argument that he or his governing style contributed to creating an abrasive culture around his administration.
“I don’t believe that I did,” he said. “But I’m certainly disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to pick up these traits in these people.”
Watch Sawyer’s interview with Christie, as aired on ABC on Thursday, below.