TRENTON, N.J. – A New Jersey legislative committee probing a political payback operation carried out by Gov. Chris Christie’s aides and associates plans to subpoena interview transcripts and other documents from the lawyers the governor hired to carry out an internal investigation, the committee co-chairman said Monday.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski said lawyers retained by the Christie administration to conduct an internal investigation into the blocking of traffic near the George Washington Bridge appeared to have access to information that the committee hasn’t seen.
Wisniewski also said lawyers at the firm, Gibson Dunn, appeared to withhold documents subpoenaed by the legislative panel while their own report on the lane closings was being compiled.
Lawyer Randy Mastro released the report Thursday concluding that Christie, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, had no advance knowledge of the plot to stall traffic in Fort Lee, apparently to punish the local mayor, who did not endorse Christie for re-election. The report also dismissed allegations that members of Christie’s administration tied Superstorm Sandy recovery funds to approval of a favoured redevelopment project.
Democrats blasted the findings as incomplete because the lawyers did not interview key players in the traffic jam plot or the mayor who made the Sandy aid allegations.
The legislative committee received “tens of thousands” of documents from the governor’s office in response to a subpoena late last week, Wisniewski said, but a list of the 70 people the lawyers interviewed and transcripts of those interviews were not provided.
A statement from Mastro released by the governor’s office late Monday afternoon said any additional subpoenas would be reviewed. Mastro said transcripts of interviews already conducted had not been released because the governor’s office is co-operating with a federal investigation.
Wisniewski said the additional subpoenas will be voted on as soon as the committee can be convened. The panel is comprised of eight Democrats and four Republicans.
As the 345-page report was being released by Mastro, Christie was at home sitting for a taped interview with ABC News personality Diane Sawyer, part of a full-court press to move beyond the scandal that has overshadowed his office. He faced off with reporters on Friday during his first press conference in two months.
The legislative committee has subpoenaed more than two dozen people and organizations close to Christie in its probe of the lane closings, which created four days of traffic gridlock in Fort Lee until the lanes were ordered reopened by the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge. Patrick Foye, the New York appointee who reopened the lanes, said he had no idea what Christie’s appointees had been up to.
Five people close to Christie has lost their jobs amid the scandal, including Bridget Kelly, the deputy chief of staff Christie fired after learning she set the operation in motion with the message, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Wisniewski said the panel still does not know who authorized Kelly to send the email and why.
Federal authorities are conducting a parallel criminal investigation.