A newly formed special state committee investigating the George
Washington Bridge scandal issued 20 subpoenas Thursday, including
several to key staff members of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The legislative committee sent subpoenas to 17 individuals and three institutions. None was immediately named.
Assemblyman John Wisinewski, who is leading the investigation, said no names would be revealed until the recipients were officially served. That could happen Friday.
New Jersey Senate committee is also investigating whether Christie's
top advisers orchestrated or covered up lane closures near the bridge
for political purposes.
Two Christie appointees to the Port
Authority, which operates the bridge and other bi-state transportation
entities, have already resigned in the wake of the uproar over the
abrupt reduction from three access lanes to one onto the George
Washington Bridge on Sept. 9.
The unannounced closure, which lasted four days, created huge traffic
jams in Fort Lee, N.J., which is located at the base of the bridge,
and raised speculation that it was retribution against the town's
Democratic mayor for declining to endorse Christie for re-election in
Christie fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, for allegedly lying to him about her involvement in the incident.
a sign of increasing pressure, Christie announced Thursday that he has
hired an outside law firm, including a former federal prosecutor, to
head up an internal review of the case and to deal with the legislative
inquiries and a probe by the U.S. attorney's office, the Asbury Park Press reports.
Christie said in a statement that hiring a law firm "will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation."
member of the law firm, Randy Mastro, is a former assistant U.S.
attorney in the southern district of New York who specializes in
organized crime and racketeering cases.
In yet another development, Christie's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, has hired an attorney,The (Bergen) Record reports.
special committee created by the New Jersey Assembly on Thursday was
given subpoena powers and has appointed its own former federal
prosecutor, Reid Schar, to serve as special counsel. Schar successfully
prosecuted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a
14-year sentence for corruption.
"I am confident these talented
legislators have the backgrounds, temperaments and experience to conduct
this inquiry in a bipartisan, professional and responsible manner,"
newly sworn-in Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, said after
appointing the special committee.
Among those who could receive
subpoenas are Port Authority Chairman David Samson, a Christie adviser;
Christie aide Regina Egea, who is slated to become Christie's new chief
of staff; and Michael Drewniak, the governor's chief spokesman.
The Senate committee that is running its own investigation will also
subpoena documents and witnesses. "I'm not going to rule anybody out,"
said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who will chair the
investigative committee in the upper house. "There are many other
Christie, who said he had no prior knowledge of
the lane closures, said last week that he would cooperate "with all
appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen
David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, who claimed the closure
was part of a traffic study, have already resigned from the Port
The role of Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of
staff, emerged in e-mails subpoenaed by a New Jersey transportation
committee and released last week.
In one e-mail exchange between
Kelly and Weinstein about two weeks before the lane closures, Kelly
wrote: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
To which Weinstein replied: "Got it."
in announcing Kelly's dismissal, said he did not quiz her about why she
sent the directive, saying he did not want to be accused of interfering
with a witness in the case.
The Port Authority, which operates
the bridge at the heart of a New Jersey scandal, has informed a U.S.
Senate committee inquiry that there is "zero evidence" that any
legitimate traffic study was being carried out at the time that access
lanes were closed.
The Port Authority statement came in response to an inquiry from Sen.
Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, who is chairman of the
Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
As the scandal
unfolded, aides to Christie attempted to explain the abrupt closures as
part of a traffic study. As recently as last week, Christie - who said
he had no prior knowledge of the lane closings - held out the prospect
that a traffic study might have been involved, at least in part.
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