Top members of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and political inner circle are among those receiving subpoenas for records of their emails, texts and phone calls related to the decision last year to redraw traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge.
Christie himself is not on the list of 20 people and organizations. Known recipients include the governor’s office and his campaign organization; the deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, whom Christie fired last week; Kevin O’Dowd, his outgoing chief of staff, recently nominated by Christie to be the state attorney general; his incoming chief of staff, Regina Egea; Bill Baroni, Christie’s top appointment at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who resigned last month; and Charles McKenna, the governor’s chief counsel, according to a list released Friday afternoon by the two-day-old Assembly Select Committee on Investigations.
In September, Christie’s top operatives at the Port Authority ordered local access lanes to the toll plaza closed off, creating a four-day traffic pileup in Fort Lee, N.J. Christie’s appointees said it was part of a traffic study. However, New Jersey Democrats sought and received emails that showed Kelly saying that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
The earlier records requests went back only a month, but the newest ones seek records going back to September, related to the lane changes and “any other matter raising concerns about an abuse of government power” or an attempt to conceal one. The records are due Feb. 3.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the committee’s chairman, said this week that the committee will look for clues to the motivation for the lane closures.
Names on the subpoena list include some of Christie's closest advisors, including Port Authority Chairman David Samson and Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager who Christie stripped from his political team last week. One went to David Wildstein, another now-departed Christie appointee to the authority who was deeply involved in the traffic decision. Wildstein invoked the 5th Amendment when called to a state panel last week. His lawyer, Alan Zegas, told the Associated Press that Wildstein is willing to talk, if he gets immunity.
Another one went to Matt Mowers, who worked on Christie’s campaign and, according to The Wall Street Journal, told Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich that the campaign would welcome an endorsement. But Sokolich endorsed Christie’s opponent, and later said the traffic pileup might have been retribution. Mowers is now executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party; the party’s chairwoman issued a statement saying Mowers had nothing to do with the lane closures.
The subpoena list makes it clear that the committee is trying to determine whether there was a coverup; some of those included were Christie’s top spokespeople and communications staffers, who were on emails questioning how to respond to a public uproar about the lane closures last fall.
The questions about the bridge closures are likely to consume state government for much of the year. The state Senate is running its own investigation, as is the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.