David Samson, 74, a lawyer and ally of the governor at the agency
that oversees bridges and tunnels connecting the two states, had
been discussing for a year his desire to step down, Christie told a
"David tendered his resignation to me this afternoon, effective
immediately," Christie said in his first news conference since a
two-hour-long question and answer session on January 9 after a
scandal erupted over the purportedly politically motivated closure
of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge between New York
City and Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Christie spoke to reporters a day after a law firm hired by his
office released a report finding him faultless in the massive
traffic jam last September, which was apparently orchestrated by his
senior staff possibly as political payback.
Critics of Christie quickly dismissed the report as a whitewash.
State lawmakers and federal prosecutors are separately investigating
the lane closures.
Christie defended the report, which blamed former deputy chief of
staff Bridget Anne Kelly and Port Authority official David Wildstein
for closing bridge entrance lanes in an apparent bid to retaliate
against the Democratic mayor of the town of Fort Lee who had not
endorsed Christie's 2013 re-election campaign. Christie fired Kelly
and Wildstein resigned from his job.
On Friday, Christie repeated the assertion he has made since the
scandal broke that he was unaware of his aides' apparent political
motives in orchestrating the lane closures.
"Nobody dropped the ball here," Christie said. "If I knew then what
I know today, we would have done a lot of things differently."
Kelly's lawyer issued a statement on Friday saying the internal
review as a "preemptive strike to isolate Ms. Kelly and impugn her
credibility is not surprising."
The lawyer, Michael Critchley, added, "The report's venomous,
gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning Ms. Kelly
have no place in what is alleged to be a professional and
Christie, meanwhile, suggested the report would have little
influence on whether or not he would seek the Republican nomination
to run for president.
"There is significantly less interest around the country about this
report than in this region, and appropriately so," Christie told
And in a sign that he was trying to move past the scandal and use it
for at least some political gain, Christie called for reform at the
Port Authority, which is beset by rivalries between political
appointees from New York and New Jersey.
[to top of second column]
In a statement, Samson said he had been discussing retirement plans
for "months" with Christie.
"The timing is now right, and I am confident that the Governor will
put new leadership in place to address the many challenges ahead,"
Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey
issued a subpoena for Port Authority documents related to Samson and
how he voted on two bridge contracts worth nearly $3 billion, a
source told Reuters.
The probe will focus on a possible conflict of interest when two
construction companies with ties to Samson's private law firm, Wolff
& Samson, were awarded the government contracts.
The governor defended his decision to go two months without taking
questions from the media.
"I'm not afraid to answer questions from you. But the fact is, if I
know what you're going to ask and I don't know the answer to it,
there is no reason to submit myself to you."
Called a bully by critics, Christie was far more combative on Friday
than he was at his contrite appearance in January. He did say,
however, that the scandal had damaged his self-confidence.
"There's no question that this shakes your confidence and if it
doesn't shake your confidence, you're arrogant," Christie said.
Thomson Reuters: Reuters Insider http://reut.rs/1jfWMT5.
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston, David Jones in
Newark, New Jersey and Hilary Russ in New York; editing by Grant
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