Bridgegate subpoenas due for Chris Christie’s staff
By Beth DeFalco
January 13, 2014 | 4:00am
Subpoenas could be issued as soon as Monday for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and campaign manager, whose heads rolled after explosive e-mails implicated them in the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal, sources said.
And the ongoing Bridgegate investigation has paralyzed Christie’s office, with a ripple effect that’s frozen several top moves and appointments as a result of the mess.
Sources said on Sunday that state Senate Democrats have delayed the confirmation hearing for Kevin O’Dowd, Christie’s nominee for attorney general, who is his current chief of staff.
Sources said Democratic legislators want time to gather more information so they can grill O’Dowd on what he knew about the closure of lanes on the country’s busiest bridge as part of a political vendetta.
As a result, Christie has had to agree to keep acting Attorney General John Hoffman in place indefinitely, withdrawing his nomination for a judgeship.
The scandal also means O’Dowd’s named replacement, Regina Egea, can’t move up from her post overseeing state agencies.
Meanwhile, the Jersey assemblyman heading the probe into the shutdown said he doubted Christie’s claim that he was clueless about the September shutdown – and that the governor could face impeachment if he were found to be involved.
“When you use the George Washington Bridge for what the e-mail showed to be a political payback, that amounts to using public property for a private purpose or political purpose that’s not legal. So that constitutes a crime. If it becomes known that the governor was involved and he knew about it and he knew about the cover-up, and he was approving the actions taken by his senior staff, that raises serious questions that the assembly ought to look at. And that ought to be considered in light of what our responsibility is. The Assembly has the ability to do articles of impeachment,” Thomas Wisniewski, the Democrat said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday
“I don’t think it’s credible for the governor to have his chief of staff, his communication director, his deputy chief of staff, his chief counsel all involved in email communications on the day this took place and the days after, talking not only about the problems that were created in Fort Lee, but also talking about how to spin it to the press,” said Wisniewski, head of the Assembly’s transportation committee.
While state Senate Democrats stall nominations, the Assembly committee looking into the scandal is expected to issue a flurry of subpoenas this week.
A major one will be sent to Bridget Kelly, the then-deputy chief of staff who sparked the scandal by firing off an Aug. 13 letter to an ally of the governor at the Port Authority that said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
David Wildstein, who was appointed to the PA by the governor, replied to Kelly: “Got it.”
About a month later, bridge-entry lanes were closed under the guise of a traffic study — but it was really part of a political vendetta, allegedly against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who failed to endorse Christie’s campaign.
Wildstein was called before the panel last week and declined to answer questions, taking the Fifth numerous times.
Also expected to get a subpoena is Christie’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien, said Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski.
Stepien was kept in the loop on the bridge e-mails.
Other top Christie staffers will be dragged in front of the committee as well.
“The list is fairly large,” Wisniewski said.
O’Dowd also will likely be on the subpoena list, along with Charles McKenna, Christie’s chief counsel, Egea, who oversaw his Authorities Unit, David Samson, the Port Authority chairman, and Christie communications staff members Maria Comella and Michael Drewniak.
Kelly was fired last week, and Stepien was denied a chance to head the GOP in New Jersey.
“Bridget Kelly sent the e-mail. Bill Stepien was her boss before he went to be the campaign manager, and the governor terminated them both,” Wisniewski told The Post. “I don’t for a moment believe that Bridget Kelly came up with the idea of the lane closures on her own, or, quite frankly, even the language that she used on her own.”
Christie’s campaign had been seeking the endorsement of the Fort Lee mayor, whose town is a Democratic stronghold, to help show strong bipartisan support for the governor that he could use to bolster a 2016 White House bid.