New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
TRENTON, N.J. (Ashbury Park Press) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie confirmed Monday night that his office has been subpoenaed by New Jersey's U.S. Attorney in the George Washington Bridge lane closures, the same day a joint legislative body was set to begin receiving documents from other administration officials for its own investigation into the scandal.
"That's fine," Christie said of the subpoena, on his monthly interview on WKXW-FM, New Jersey 101.5's "Ask The Governor" program. "We are complying with that in the same way we're complying with the legislative subpoenas."
On the show, Christie stuck to his message about his role in the lane closure controversy, saying he did not authorize, approve or "know anything about" the shutdown that virtually shut down traffic for four days in September.
The public embraced it.
After the governor answered a couple initial questions about the scandal from host Eric Scott, callers quickly shifted from one of the most captivating political stories in the country to the more routine grievances of living in the Garden State.
When asked why he didn't find out what the issue was when he learned about the closures, Christie said that as soon as he found out about the problem he inquired with his staff and was told, as he has said before, that there was a traffic study being conducted.
"I still don't know whether there was a traffic study," Christie said. "What I'm saying, Eric, is, did this start as a traffic study that then morphed into some political shenanigans, or did it start as political shenanigans that morphed into a traffic study?"
Meanwhile, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, invoked the Fifth Amendment by declining to provide the joint legislative body documents that it subpoenaed for its investigation, said her attorney, Michael Critchley. Kelly is a central figure in the controversy, having e-mailed a top Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, David Wildstein, a message before the closings that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," to which Wildstein replied, "Got it."
"A witness is legally required to invoke the privilege against self incrimination to avail oneself of its protections," Critchley wrote in a letter dated Monday to Reid Schar, the Chicago-based attorney for the joint committee. "The Fifth Amendment's protections are not limited to verbal testimony."
She was invoking that right because some of the information requested by the committee "directly overlaps with a parallel grand jury investigation being conducted by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey."
That information subpoenaed involved all written and electronic records, phone calls, videos and other records from Sept. 12 to the present day about the lane reductions that occurred between Sept. 9 and 13.
For the same requests, Kelly invoked her rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, her federal and state right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
She will not produce day planners, calendars, diaries, notes or personal digital devices or cell phones, because they are "impermissibly overboard," Critchley wrote.
The documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation were due Monday, although many extensions were granted. Senate and Assembly Republicans were keeping up pressure on the joint investigative committee investigating the lane closures to release documents that flow in from 20 subpoena requests.
But Democratic leaders of the panel have said that no documents in response to those subpoenas were going to be released Monday.
Assemblywoman Amy H. Handlin, a Republican from Monmouth, said the letter was prompted by difficulties the GOP members of the committee have experienced in trying to obtain information.
"There's been an ongoing problem with those of us who are minority members of the committee learning about developments from the media," Handlin said.
Committee co-chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat from Middlesex, challenged the Republican committee members' take on the committee's actions.
"If it wasn't for a snowstorm, those documents might have been available Tuesday morning," he said. "The Office of Legislative Services has to get the documents and put them in the proper format."
The governor's office and Christie's re-election campaign organization, plus 18 individuals, have been asked to respond by lawmakers to provide e-mails, text messages and other correspondence responsive to the lane closures at the bridge.
Wisniewski declined to name the subjects of the subpoenas who have been granted extensions.
"Nearly all those subpoenaed have asked for extensions or some kind of modification," he said.
Key targets include Port Authority Chairman David Samson and top Christie aides Regina Egea, Kevin O'Dowd, and Charles McKenna.
Bill Stepien, Christie's former re-election campaign manager, wants his George Washington Bridge subpoena withdrawn because it violates his "Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination," according to a letter sent Friday by his attorney to Schar.
Christie fired Stepien after the e-mails indicated that Stepien had made derogatory remarks about the mayor of Fort Lee as the closings began to attract media attention.
The number of Christie aides or campaign staffers out of jobs since the investigation began has reached five. Christina Genovese Renna, the director of departmental relations for the governor's office, announced her departure Sunday in a statement issued by attorney Henry Klingeman.
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