PENNINGTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that the lawyer who has represented him in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal will remain his attorney “unless and until” he gets sworn in as FBI director.
President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he would be nominating Christopher Wray, whom Christie described as a “great lawyer and good friend,” to head the FBI.
Christie, a Republican, spoke after an unrelated announcement on transportation funding, and said for the first time that Wray also represented him during a citizen’s complaint stemming from the Bridgegate scandal that ultimately failed to get any traction in the courts.
“He’s been a great lawyer for me and a good friend, but he’s still my lawyer unless and until he no longer is practicing law. That would be if and when he’s confirmed as FBI director,” Christie said.
Wray’s firm, Atlanta-based King & Spalding, has been paid $2.1 million since Christie hired him in 2014.
Bills show the firm was paid $653,034 during an earlier federal criminal trial that led to the convictions of two former Christie aides in the political revenge plot to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge near Fort Lee to punish the city’s mayor for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bid. Christie wasn’t charged and denies wrongdoing.
Wray held the missing cellphone that was used by the governor and contained about a dozen text messages that Christie exchanged with a former staffer during a legislative hearing related to the bridge in 2013.
Several witnesses who testified at the trial contradicted Christie’s version of when, or how much, he knew about the traffic jams and their objective. He continues to maintain he didn’t know about the plot, and the two aides have filed plans to appeal their convictions.
Christie and Wray met and bonded when Christie was the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey in President George W. Bush’s administration. Christie said earlier this month that Trump made an “outstanding choice” for FBI director, calling Wray an independent, nonpolitical pick.
“When I was at the absolute lowest point of my professional life, he was who I called. I don’t think you can give a better recommendation than that,” Christie told reporters after Wray was nominated. “And it’s not like I don’t know a lot of lawyers.”
Christie has informally advised the Republican president, who called Wray “a man of impeccable credentials” when he announced his nomination to replace James Comey in a tweet. Wray’s appointment still needs Senate approval.
A second law firm, Gibson Dunn, has billed New Jersey taxpayers more than $11 million for legal work related to Bridgegate.