Attorneys for the law firm whose report absolved Gov. Chris Christie of blame in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal are seeking to avoid being called as witnesses in next month’s trial of two former Christie loyalists.
Attorneys for Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher wrote in court filings recently that they will seek to block subpoenas issued by attorneys for former Christie aide Bridget Kelly and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive Bill Baroni.
Kelly and Baroni were indicted last year on wire fraud and civil rights charges for closing access lanes to create traffic jams in 2013, apparently to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing the re-election of Christie, a Republican who is now serving as a close adviser to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Gibson Dunn has billed the state more than $10 million for its 2014 report that found Christie wasn’t aware of the September 2013 lane closures until well afterward and for representing Christie’s office in the subsequent federal investigation.
The report, called the Mastro Report after lead attorney Randy Mastro, was heavily criticized by Democrats as biased and incomplete because it didn’t include interviews with several key figures in Christie’s office and at the Port Authority.
Attorneys for Kelly and Baroni have repeatedly referenced the report in court filings and during hearings and clearly want to make it part of the trial. The report laid most of the blame on Kelly and former Port Authority official David Wildstein — a former high school classmate of Christie who has pleaded guilty — while calling Baroni’s role “inconclusive.”
In a court filing Sunday, Mastro argued that the attorneys shouldn’t be forced to testify since they didn’t have direct knowledge of the lane closures and could only offer hearsay testimony if a witness interviewed for the report testifies differently during the Kelly-Baroni trial.
Testimony of attorneys who worked on the 2014 report “is irrelevant to these proceedings, which concern the Government’s investigation and the charges by the grand jury, and therefore would be of no probative value to the trial jury and, indeed, only serve to confuse it,” Mastro wrote.
Defense attorneys have unsuccessfully sought Gibson Dunn’s interview notes used to draft its report; the firm has claimed the notes weren’t saved but instead were summarized for use in the final report.
In a ruling in December, U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton said Gibson Dunn didn’t have to turn over the notes but also criticized what she called the firm’s “unorthodox” method of overwriting the notes and drafts in real time, accusing the firm of employing “opacity and gamesmanship.”