TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey legislative committee has ordered current and former aides to Republican Gov. Chris Christie and two officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to testify in the committee’s probe of politically motivated traffic jams last year near the George Washington Bridge.
Lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had issued subpoenas to former Christie aide Christina Genovese Renna, current press secretary Michael Drewniak, Port Authority Commissioner William Schuber and executive director Patrick Foye. Drewniak was looped in on the email exchange leading to the lane closures.
“These are individuals from whom we’ve received documents or individuals from whom we have references in existing documents,” Assemblyman John Wisniewski told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
Foye also testified before a different legislative panel last year on the September traffic tie-ups, which were orchestrated by an official at his agency, along with a former Christie aide. The agency runs the bridge. While the jams apparently were political retribution against Democratic Mayor Frank Sokolich of Fort Lee, it is not clear why he was targeted.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has also been investigating.
A taxpayer-funded law firm hired by Christie’s office issued a report last month finding Christie and his current top aides had no involvement in the traffic jams. Christie, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, has consistently denied any involvement.
Democrats in the Legislature have questioned the thoroughness and impartiality of that report and have pressed ahead with their probe. Previously, they released thousands of pages of communications about the traffic delays.
Wisniewski said the panel would ask those testifying to fill holes in the events leading up to the traffic jams and put conversations into context.
“The documents we’ve assembled answer certain questions but raise other questions,” Wisniewski said. “The best way to get the answers is to begin asking people under oath.”
The four who were subpoenaed were told to appear in May.
Henry Klingeman, a lawyer for Renna, who resigned from the administration earlier this year, said his client would testify before the committee. A lawyer for Drewniak did not immediately return a call.
Port Authority spokesman Christopher Valens said Foye plans to comply with the subpoena. Valens referred questions regarding Schuber’s subpoena to Schuber, who couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Wisniewski said the committee is also working on rewriting subpoenas for fired aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien after a judge ruled they didn’t have to turn over documents. Lawyers cited the pair’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination due to an ongoing
“The judge suggested to the committee that a narrower subpoeana might have the ability to withstand the kind of challenge we faced.”
In another development, election finance records show Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign owes more in legal fees than it has on hand, meaning it will need to resume fundraising to pay lawyers.
A finance report filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission last week shows the campaign has $157,000 but owes two law firms $264,000. The firms helped the campaign comply with subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office and the legislative committee.
In February, election regulators gave Christie’s campaign permission to spend beyond the normal campaign limit and raise more money if needed to comply with the subpoenas. But they said campaign funds could not be used for any staffers’ legal defense.
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