NEW YORK -- Lawyers hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration said Thursday the governor was not involved in the plot to create traffic jams last fall, a conclusion that left the lead lawyer defending the integrity of his report, which came ahead of the results of separate and ongoing federal and legislative investigations.
The taxpayer-funded report released by former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro relied on interviews with Mr. Christie and other officials in his administration -- who were not under oath -- and 250,000 documents, many of them emails and text messages.
But the key figures in the political payback plot did not cooperate, leading Democrats to question the credibility of the report and its thoroughness.
The investigation concluded Mr. Christie had no knowledge beforehand of lane closings Sept. 9-12 near the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York that caused four days of massive gridlock in the community of Fort Lee, N.J.
Democrats blasted the findings, with the party's national committee calling the report "nothing more than an expensive sham." New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, co-chair of the legislative committee investigating the same issues, said it "raises more questions than answers."
Her co-chair, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, also a Democrat, was critical of the report for not including information from those who refused to cooperate.
The report did not find even minor missteps by Mr. Christie and his inner circle. It cast Mr. Christie as a leader who was deeply troubled about the possibility that staff members were not being truthful to him -- asking "with tears in his eyes" whether any of his top aides were involved in the lane closures.
During a news conference, Mr. Mastro emphasized that the review found no evidence that the scheme was reflective of the wider operations of the governor's office.
Defending the report, Mr. Mastro said his team was able to review a trove of documents, including emails and text messages among Christie, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, top governor's office staff and former staffers.
The report, issued at Mr. Mastro's New York law office, concluded that former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein and ex-Christie aide Bridget Kelly were behind the closures and that they were targeting Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.
It did not determine why they wanted to hurt the Democrat yet said there was no evidence that it was because he refused to endorse Mr. Christie for re-election.