The U.S. Justice Department investigation into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s role in “Bridgegate” has thus far uncovered no information he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.
The September 2013 closures – where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee were shut down causing a traffic nightmare for commuters – has been the subject of several federal and state investigations.
Federal officials caution that the investigation begun nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that after nine months authorities have uncovered no information Christie either knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes.
According to one former federal prosecutor, who had no involvement in any of the probes into the bridge closure, investigations of this kind will often turn up a solid connection early in the inquiry.
“My experience with federal law enforcement is that once you reach critical mass if you don’t have it within nine months or so you’re not likely to ever get it,” former federal prosecutor Robert W. Ray said.
When the final report is issued, Christie may still face complications from the scandal, said Lee Miringoff, Director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
“That’s good news for him,” Miringoff said. “The bad news remains that politically as chief executive it looks like he was not in control of his administration at the time when this occurred. So that remains the downside for him. That doesn’t go away but this panel provides greater credibility barring any further revelations coming out.”
Assemblyman John Wisniewski said the state legislative committee’s investigation into the bridge lane closures is continuing.
“This is not a Chris Christie investigation,” he said in a statement. “It’s an investigation as to why this happened and who authorized it. As a consequence, this does not change our position.”
Gov. Chris Christie, whose office initially declined to comment, said of NBC 4 New York’s report in a radio interview with NJ 101.5’s Eric Scott Thursday evening, “I don’t want to overreact to it because I’m not surprised by it, and I’m hoping that you know, we can start to focus on things that are important to all the people in the state of New Jersey.”
Spokesmen for the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI and New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s office all declined comment.
NBC News’ Tom Winter and Richard Esposito contibuted to this report.