(CNN) – A special New Jersey State Assembly committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal that has rocked the administration of Gov. Chris Christie gets to work on Thursday, and the first priority is to subpoena documents as well as current and former aides, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, the governor's chief spokesman, Mike Drewniak, and Bill Stepien, a sharp-elbowed Christie political confidante who managed both his successful gubernatorial runs, are on the list, according to the sources.
Other names are also being discussed by the panel that is led by Democrats and will be assisted by a key figure in the federal prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The new committee will take the lead from the Assembly's transportation panel. The New Jersey Senate also has its own special panel conducting an investigation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey is also looking into the scandal that threatens to complicate Christie's political prospects, which include a possible run for president in 2016.
At issue is whether top aides to the embattled Republican orchestrated traffic gridlock last September on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge as political payback against the mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse Christie for re-election last November.
Christie has said he was stunned by the suggestion, which was first made by Democrats and subsequently magnified by explosive e-mails released last week by state legislators.
Christie fired Kelly. Her name appeared in e-mails with an appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Wildstein, who left his job as the scandal unfolded last fall. One e-mail quoted her as saying: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
In other exchanges involving Wildstein, Stepien described Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, as an "idiot." E-mails also suggested that Stepien was aware of the maneuvering that led to traffic gridlock. Christie asked Stepien to leave his political operation.
E-mails do not link Drewniak to the traffic jam scandal or even suggest it. But they do indicate that he had dinner with Wildstein two days before the transportation official resigned in December. Wildstein thanked him for his "sound advice," and the two men later e-mailed back and forth about how to announce his departure from the Port Authority.
On Tuesday, Christie addressed the scandal briefly in his State of the State address, saying that "mistakes were clearly made." He said previously, however, that he knew nothing about any notion of a deliberate attempt to tie up traffic, much less exact revenge on Sokolich.
For now, the scandal with overtones of abuse of authority has not resonated much with the public nationally, according to one poll.
An NBC News/Marist survey released Wednesday indicated that nearly seven in 10 of those questioned said the bridge controversy had not changed their opinion of Christie, and nearly half describe him as a "strong leader." Only a quarter labeled Christie, known for his swagger and forthright political style, a "bully."
The special committee led by Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who has led the investigation to date, plans to review the documents first, then hear testimony from witnesses.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar, currently in private practice specializing in white-collar defense and investigations, will assist the panel.
He was a point-person in the federal prosecution of Blagojevich, who was convicted in 2011 of corruption charges related to his attempts to "sell" Barack Obama's Senate seat after he was elected President.
"It's vital to have someone of the caliber of Mr. Schar joining us in this effort," Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said in a release announcing the appointment.