Current, former Christie aides to be subpoenaed, sources say
January 15th, 2014
09:46 PM ET
9 years ago

Current, former Christie aides to be subpoenaed, sources say

(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.

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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.

Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. David

    Christie claims to know nothing about the closing. But during the time when this was being looked into, he not only evaded answering any questions about the event, but attacked the people calling for answers. Why would he do that if he didn't at least suspect that the accusations were true? Why not let the opposition look into the event?
    AFAIK, he has not apologized to those looking into the lane closures. Then again, he once encouraged reporters to attack one of these persons with baseball bats; I don't think he has ever apologized for condoning assault, either. So I doubt he'll ever apologize for bullying these people who happened to pick up on the fact that something illegal was going on.

    January 16, 2014 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  2. Thomas

    Christie will never be president now.

    January 16, 2014 12:57 am at 12:57 am |

    Can't wait to see the GOBP stuff Jeb Bush down the tea potty's throats 2012 Mitt the twit style.

    January 16, 2014 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  4. Marie MD

    They are either going to jail for doing what they did (under his orders) or for perjury.
    Twelve of one a dozen of the other.

    January 16, 2014 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  5. Tampa Tim

    I noticed Fox spent all last night on Benghazzi, and attacking Hillary. Little do they realize, Krispy is not the choice of billionaires. I think Greta and Bill really need to focus on their other real scandals, the War on Christmas and Santa.

    January 16, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  6. Tampa Tim

    The billionaires have been trying to get rid of Krispy, so they can give us another dose of the Bush Plague, which will finally destroy our government.

    January 16, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  7. Jered

    Why don't we just say that a boatload of subpoenas went out to everybody that Christie dealt with, took his photo over the past 5 months, had lunch with his staff, overheard coffee pot talk at the Port Authority, worked in a payables position with the state or Port Authority, was an elected official for a community that got slighted by Christie, saw him fly in a helicopter on tax payers' funds, had contact with him about the real estate development deal at the Fort Lee on-ramp to the GW Bridge that he was trying to stop for personal reasons, etc, etc.

    Probably the biggest subpoena release NJ has ever seen.

    January 16, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  8. rs

    The Republicans who have run 18 months of non-stop Benghazi nonsense are about to get schooled on what is and isn't evidence and what is and isn't criminal- which may be a very good thing regardless of whether Mr. Chirstie was involved in this juvenile prank or not. Too bad someone had to die though.
    It is starting to look like this event may wrap up quickly (unlike say the McDonnell, Renzi, or other criminal GOP affairs that drag on while they hide be hide lawyers and seek delays). This means if found involved and guilty, Christie and NJ will move forward in the nearer future, and if innocent, he can work on re-building his brand for 2016. None of this idiotic recycling of a "scandal" with no substance.

    January 16, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Have you noticed how it seems like every significant email that's been released has been a private email account, not an official account for state business? I know most states have laws requiring all state business be conducted on the employee's state email account or phone. Use of personal emails and phones is strongly discouraged, if not outright illegal.

    Gov. Christie stated that he would comply with all "appropriate requests" for information. Somehow I get the feeling that asking for records of Christie's private email will not be deemed "appropriate" by the Governor.

    January 16, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  10. Anonymous

    When do they investigate how the Sandy relief funds were doled out.

    Perhaps some data on funds receieved per resident of towns whose mayors backed cc to those whose mayors did not.

    Should be telling at least.

    January 16, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  11. Geo Bruno

    When do they investigate how the Sandy relief funds were doled out.

    Perhaps some data on funds received per resident of towns whose mayors backed cc to those whose mayors did not.

    Should be telling at least.

    January 16, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  12. Jered

    The subpoenas are going out, most likely thousands of them. No immunity deal requests from Christie's staff have been entertained by the feds or state. A special counsel has been appointed to the case, not just for an organizational function. That usually proceeds a grand jury convening (read: No pleading the 5th allowed while in the grand jury phase). Heads are going to roll.

    January 16, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  13. tom l

    Did you see the findings from the bipartisan congressional panel led by Feinstein? I am just so in shock at how much the liberals on here are willing to compromise their morals and bury their head in the sand over this. The report said it was "likely preventable" and that there was no indication that this was anything but a terrorist act immediately. How you can easily dismiss that our govt lied to us for days when they knew full well it was a terrorist attack and not a video is beyond me. Please read Obama's speech at the UN 2 weeks later where he still talks about the video. Why do you guys feel so compelled to not look at the facts? It's odd because you guys used to be so anti-interventionist and now you support something like this and just brush it off. So odd.

    January 16, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |