N.J. mayor meets with U.S. Attorney's office

12:13 AM, Jan 20, 2014   |    comments
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he knew nothing about the plot. (Photo: Mel Evans, AP)

 


 


 

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. - As Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey said they're ready toexpand the "Bridgegate" investigation to look at claims that politics played a role in the distribution of Sandy relief funds, the mayor of Hoboken said she met with the U.S. Attorney's office.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said over the weekend that the Christie administration withheld Superstorm Sandy recovery aid because the city wouldn't give approval to a major redevelopment project pitched by David Samson's law firm. Gov. Chris Christie appointed and named Samson board chairman at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the George Washington Bridge.

Samson received one of the 20 subpoenas issued last week by an Assembly panel investigating the politically motivated lane closures at the bridge in September. Samson has hired lawyer Michael Chertoff, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

Zimmer on Sunday released the following statement: "This afternoon I met with the U.S. Attorney's office for several hours at their request and provided them with my journal and other documents. As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, Rebekah Carmichael, declined to address the statement because "our office doesn't make a habit of discussing whom we do or don't meet with."

Christie has already issued a lengthy public apology for the lane closures and the traffic jams that ensued for four days, but he said the scheme was carried out by aides without his knowledge.

Christie's office has denied Zimmer's claims. Spokesman Colin Reed pointed out that Zimmer publicly praised Christie months after the alleged conversations in which she claims disaster aid was tied to the development project. Reed said Zimmer's description of a May conversation with the lieutenant governor "is categorically false."

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is leading the lane closure investigation, said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that his committee will look into Zimmer's complaints and "look at the facts, hear her story, look at the e-mails and consider where we go next.

"Clearly the allegation that she was asked to support a redevelopment project where there was funding from the Port Authority, which we're investigating, in turn for her getting money for her municipality, raises serious allegations. We don't know where it goes. We don't know if there's more to it. I think it's something the committee has to consider as part of the overall investigation," Wisniewski said.

Zimmer said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable III told her she would have to go along with a private development project the governor wanted in order for her city to receive Superstorm Sandy relief money.

Zimmer, a Democrat, brought her story to light on MSNBC on Saturday. On Sunday, she stuck by her story in an interview on CNN. She said the alleged quid pro quo offer from the high-ranking administration officials was "a direct message from the governor."

"It's stunning. It's outrageous. But it's true," she said Sunday. "I probably should have come forward sooner, but I really didn't think anyone would believe me."

Meanwhile, Christie made the rounds in the Sunshine State over the weekend at a series of fundraisers but refused to take questions from reporters. He spent part of Sunday at a fundraiser hosted by Wall Street titan Kenneth Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot. Christie joined Florida Gov. Rick Scott at a series of other stops to raise money for Scott's re-election campaign and test the waters for a Christie presidential run in 2016.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani also appeared on Meet the Press and said Wisniewski should not be leading the investigation because he has already said he found it hard to believe Christie didn't know about his office's involvement in the lane closures.

"When you announce before you even investigate it you don't believe the subject of the investigation, or the person who's the ultimate focus of the investigation, it would seem to me the assemblyman has an ethical obligation to step down, to recuse himself. He's no longer an impartial arbiter of the facts," Giuliani said. "He should not be handling the investigation. It gives it no sense of credibility and it clearly is a partisan witch hunt."

Other Republicans piled on and also called for Wisniewski to step down.

A spokesman for Wisniewski, Tom Hester Jr., called them "uniformed critics.''

The investigation led by Wisniewski so far "has already led to two resignations from the Port Authority and the removal of two top members of Gov. Christie's organization,'' Hester added.

Republicans have more than Wisniewski to worry about. Another probe, by the Senate Select Committee on Investigation, will get underway Wednesday. Its chairwoman, Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Bergen, said its first subpoenas will seek documents from Samson, Port Authority Commissioner William "Pat" Schuber and Gov. Chris Christie's authorities unit director Regina Egea.

"To me, an important part of this story is the craziness of what happened and who authorized the traffic jam and why," Weinberg said. "Then the second half of the story for me is also: What did everybody who had responsibility, accountability do about it? That's one of those things that people who are in public service should get the answer to so that it can be a lesson for the future of what not to do."

Contributing: Paul Singer, USA TODAY

 

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