Former Christie adviser 'innocent of any wrongdoing,' says attorney
(CNN) — An attorney for Chris Christie's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, sought again to clear his client's name in the George Washington Bridge scandal that has rocked the New Jersey governor's administration and cost Stepien his job.
"The time has come to set the record straight," attorney Kevin Marino said on Wednesday.
"He is innocent of any wrongdoing with respect to the Bridgegate affair. He is not 'callous,' 'insensitive,' or idiotic,'" Marino said in a letter obtained by CNN.
A former top adviser to Christie, Stepien's name has surfaced along with others in connection with the orchestrated closure of access lanes at the foot of the world's busiest bridge last year, leading to several days of traffic gridlock in Fort Lee.
A state legislative committee investigating the matter wants to know whether officials abused their authority to punish the town's mayor for not endorsing Christie for reelection.
The scandal has called into question Christie's forceful governing style, and has clouded any potential GOP presidential run.
Stepien, a strategist who managed Christie's two gubernatorial campaigns and was primed to play a senior role in any 2016 White House bid, was asked to step down from his political post in January as details of the scandal became public.
He has not been accused of any specific wrongdoing.
Marino's letter continues: "Mr. Stepien is the finest Republican political consultant in America, and his banishment from the (Republican Governors Association) and the New Jersey GOP was unsound and unfair."
Stepien, along with Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, have waged a successful legal campaign to blunt legislative committee subpoenas for documents and other information.
In the statement, Marino points to an internal investigation commissioned by the governor's administration that cleared Christie of any wrongdoing in the traffic tie ups but implicated Stepien as a figure who knew of the plan to close the lanes in advance.
Marino goes on to call on the lawyer who led that review, Randy Mastro, to acknowledge that Stepien was not involved in the traffic mess.
"The widespread acceptance of the Gibson Dunn report's false narrative about Bill Stepien, obviously concocted to justify his unwarranted banishment by the governor, can be clearly seen in the mainstream media's rank speculation about Mr. Stepien's involvement in the sordid affair," the statement said.
Mastro responded to Marino's letter maintaining that a correction was not warranted.
"Shortly after receiving Bill Stepien's lawyer's request to 'correct' our report, we respectfully declined because, based on the evidence, there is no basis for any correction. We nevertheless offered Bill Stepien and his lawyer the opportunity to provide us with any evidence they wanted us to consider, but we have received nothing from them. And self-serving statements by lawyers are not evidence. Hence, our report stands as is," he said.
Marino said continuation of that false narrative was evident in questions posed by the legislative committee members on Tuesday to Christie's chief spokesman, Michael Drewniak.
Drewniak said in testimony before the panel that he was told after-the-fact by a central scandal figure, David Wildstein, that Kelly and Stepien knew about the lane closures.
Drewniak said he had no knowledge of the fiasco at the time, calling it a "strange, unnecessary and idiotic episode."
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