BridgeGate panel to hear from ex-Chris Christie aide

Anthony Johnson live at the Bridgegate hearings in Trenton, N.J.
May 6, 2014 3:46:30 PM PDT
New Jersey lawmakers probing the George Washington Bridge lane closures are set to hear from a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie.

Christina Renna has been subpoenaed to appear Tuesday before the legislative committee investigating who was behind the politically motivated order to close lanes leading to the bridge last September.

Renna had worked for Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly. Kelly apparently set the lane closings in motion with an email saying "time to cause some traffic problems in Fort Lee." She was later fired.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who co-chairs the panel, would not specify who else might be called, but he said no one has been excluded, including the governor.

Wisniewski said it is "a possibility but not a certainty" that the governor would be asked to testify under oath. He said the investigation is not far enough along to decide whether Christie's testimony will be sought.

The email set in motion lane closings near the George Washington Bridge in September that created gridlock in the town at the base of the heavily traveled span between New Jersey and New York, apparently to retaliate against the mayor, who did not endorse Christie. A review commissioned by Christie and released three weeks ago cleared the governor of wrongdoing. It placed the blame on Kelly and then Port Authority head James Wildstein, who was forced to resign in December.

Wisniewski has said that the panel would not call anyone whose testimony might interfere with a federal criminal investigation. That presumably would rule out Kelly and Wildstein - whose lawyers say they are willing to testify if granted immunity from prosecution - and perhaps other former Christie associates caught up in the scandal.

The legislative panel previously issued 28 subpoenas to people and organizations close to Christie for emails and text messages related to the lane closings. People will be called to testify based on contents of the tens of thousands of documents the committee received, as well as notes from 75 interviews conducted by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the New York law firm Christie's office hired to conduct an internal review.

Kelly and Bill Stepien, who managed both of Christie's gubernatorial campaigns, invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to turn over documents. A Superior Court judge agreed. The legislative committee is considering an appeal.

The scandal has been a major distraction for Christie as he contemplates a 2016 run for president.

He cut ties with Stepien after picking him to run the state Republican Party and naming him as a consultant to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads. Stepien, who was believed to be in line to run any national Christie campaign, knew about the lane closings but not the political reason behind the plot, Christie's report found.

In all, five Christie loyalists have lost their jobs amid the scandal that has overshadowed the 51-year-old governor's second term.