TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — There was new information Thursday about the federal probe of the George Washington Bridge lane closures.
The U.S. Attorney in New Jersey has expanded the investigation to include Gov. Chris Christie’s political operatives and other Republican Party members, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.
Christie spoke at a Camden education event earlier in the day, trying to put the scandals behind him.
“For me, the next four years is going to be about finishing the job on education,” Christie said.
But try as he might, he couldn’t because more subpoenas were issued to the governor’s re-election campaign and the state’s Republican Party committee by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Investigators want to know if Christie aides or political operatives created traffic jams as political payback.
The subpoenas will force Christie’s political arm to turn over such things as: emails, texts, phone messages, and records dealing with the decision to close access lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge in September – if they indeed exist.
Christie didn’t talk scandal Thursday — just why Camden’s educational programs are moving ahead.
“We are not spending time bickering with each other in order to make things better,” Christie said.
The governor’s lawyer, Mark Sheridan, confirmed receiving the subpoenas, and confirmed that they relate to the bridge scandal, Kramer reported.
“All three subpoenas focus on the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge,” Sheridan said. “The campaign and the state party intend to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state legislative committee and will respond to the subpoenas accordingly.”
A state legislative panel is also investigating the bridge lane closures, but co-chair Sen. Loretta Weinberg told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond she is not concerned about duplication.
“We plan to continue with this unless there’s some reason that our attorney says in talks with the U.S. attorney that there should be a reason for us not to do so,” Weinberg said.
This comes as FBI agents have started questioning staffers for Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer to probe her charges that the Christie administration threatened to hold up Hurricane Sandy relief money if she didn’t support a development project.
“The lieutenant governor pulled me aside and said that you got to move forward on the Rockefeller project. The project is really important to the governor,” Zimmer said.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has since denied the charges saying the allegation was “not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all the facts are examined.”
Christie is also under fire for allegations that aides shut down access lanes leading to the bridge as political revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing his re-election.
Christie addressed the bridge scandal in his State of the State address saying, “Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we were entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better — much better.”
“I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state,” Christie added. “This Administration and this Legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people’s lives in New Jersey to be delayed for any reason. I am the leader of this state and its people and I stand here today proud to be both. I am always determined to do better.”
A CBS News poll released Thursday shows the bridge scandal is having only a slightly negative impact nationally on Christie, a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said their opinion of him has not changed, but 28 percent said they think worse of Christie.
Christie’s favorability rating nationally has dropped from 16 percent in September to 14 percent now, while 23 percent said they view him unfavorably — up from 10 percent four months ago. Sixty-percent of those surveyed admitted, however, they are undecided or don’t know enough about the governor.
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