New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faced more political peril on Monday as the deadline arrived for thousands of pages of internal documents to be submitted to a committee in the state legislature investigating the motives behind his administration throttling access to the George Washington Bridge last year.
Subpoenas had been issued to 18 officials from Mr Christie’s inner circle and the top echelons of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that manages the bridge. It may be weeks before their contents are made public. Investigators will be striving to determine whether the Governor has been truthful in asserting he knew nothing of the lane closures and whether, as has been claimed, they were ordered as part of a political vendetta.
It meanwhile emerged that one of the aides targeted by the subpoenas, Christina Genovese Renna, has resigned from the Governor’s office where she used to report directly to the former Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, who was fired last month after media outlets uncovered a message she had sent to a colleague at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, that said, “time for some traffic problems” in Fort Lee, on the New Jersey end of the bridge.
The scandal, which has already damaged Mr Christie’s hopes of claiming the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, triggered new headlines at the weekend after lawyers for Mr Wildstein, who resigned his post in December, said that “evidence exists” showing that the Governor was aware of the lane closures, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee for several days, while they were ongoing. He has repeatedly said he was not.
In his statement, the lawyer said that Mr Christie had “direct knowledge of the lane closings, during the period when the lanes were shut, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly”. It did not, however, make any claims as to whether the Governor knew of the reasons for closures, which Democrats say were engineered by Ms Kelly and Mr Wildstein to punish the Democrat Mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to support Mr Christie’s re-election bid last year.
The new claims by Mr Wildstein prompted New Jersey’s leading newspaper, The Star-Ledger, to argue that Mr Christie should resign as Governor or be impeached immediately should such evidence indeed exist showing he knew of the closures at the time and has been lying about it. He was sworn in for a second term last month.
In the midst of the weekend brawl, some in the Republican Party spoke up for the embattled Governor. “So far, there’s no evidence to suggest that he’s not telling the truth,” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York Mayor and presidential candidate, said. “If he’s lying, it’s a really bad situation. If he’s not lying, then something very unfair is being done to him.”