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Governor Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat Foster attend his inauguration service in Newark, New Jersey, January 21, 2014.  REUTERS/Adam Hunger
Five months ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's definition of good news was trouncing a little-known Democratic rival as he romped to victory in a blue state, fueling a wave of national stories anointing him as the GOP's next presidential nominee, if not the next president of the United States.

And now, this is "good" news:

With his office suddenly engulfed in scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey two months ago summoned a pair of top defense lawyers from an elite law firm to the State House and asked them to undertake an extensive review of what had gone wrong.

Now, after 70 interviews and at least $1 million in legal fees to be paid by state taxpayers, that review is set to be released, and according to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings.

Okay, I'll grant that this definitely could have been worse. For example, if the inquiry had revealed Christie personally moved the traffic cones—as he once famously joked—then that would have been pretty devastating.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

Actually, I take that back. There's zero chance this review was ever going to put Christie in hot water. Sure, taxpayers paid for it, but even though Christie wasn't footing the $650 hourly bill:

It will be viewed with intense skepticism, not only because it was commissioned by the governor but also because the firm conducting it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has close ties to the Christie administration and the firm’s lawyers were unable to interview three principal players in the shutdowns, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.
Yet even though this "investigation" smells more like Christie graft than anything else, his team is talking it up as a clean bill of health, even trying to make a big deal over things like this:
Friendly exchanges with Christie aides turned a bit frosty as the lawyers’ requests multiplied, according to interviews. A less-than-popular move: collecting iPhones and BlackBerrys from the governor’s top aides for inspection.
Oooh! They reviewed BlackBerrys. If that's not a sign of a really thorough investigation, I don't know what is. But yet the lawyers never talked with any of the three individuals most closely implicated in the scandal: former Christie political chief Bill Stepien, former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, or former Port Authority executive David Wildstein.

The bottom line is that this inquiry fails to explain why the lane closures were ordered and treats this absence of information as an exoneration of Christie. But don't expect New Jersey taxpayers to be getting a refund anytime soon.

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