The Democratic mayor at the center of the controversy surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge is rejecting a request to be interviewed by the governor’s legal team.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, through this lawyer, described the request from attorney Randy Mastro to hand over any related documents and to sit down for a one-on-one meeting as inappropriate.
In the Feb. 17 letter to Mastro, obtained by msnbc, attorney Tim Donohue argues Sokolich has gone “out of his way to be fair to all parties.” But given that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New jersey and the joint state legislative committee are both actively investigating the lane closures, “I do not believe it would be appropriate for the mayor to be interviewed by you or to produce any documents.”
It was revealed that some of Christie’s staffers were involved in a scheme to cause a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge –allegededly for political retribution against Sokolich. Christie has since fired one of his top aides but insists he had no prior knowledge of the plan.
Mastro, who is being paid $650 an hour to represent the governor’s office, did not immediately return requests for comment.
Like Sokolich, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer—who is separately alleging Christie staffers threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy aid if she didn’t green light a real-estate development project in her city – turned down a request by Christie’s lawyers to interview her.
Zimmer’s lawyer Gerald Krovatin rejected the request, arguing the Democratic mayor and city are cooperating with the state probe. “We question whether it is appropriate for the governor’s office, in essence, to be investigating itself, particularly when an investigation of the same subject matter is being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office,” Krovatin wrote to Mastro.
Christie’s list of troubles seem to be growing. This week, the inspector general of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it was proving what its police officers knew about the lane closures. The investigations comes after msnbc’s Steve Kornacki reported that that a man with long-time ties to Christie, Port Authority Police Lt. Thomas “Chip” Michaels, seemed to know of the pending lane closures before they happened, even taking David Wildstein, Christie’s point man at the Port Authority, on a tour during the start of the traffic jams.
His brother, Jeffrey Michaels is considered one of the most powerful Republicans in New Jersey politics. The lobbyist has frequently donated to pro-Christie organizations. Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie, told msnbc on Monday that “the governor has never had any conversations with either Jeff or Chip Michaels on this topic.”
Christie was supposed to hold a town hall meeting in Middletown, N.J. on Tuesday morning—the first he has held since so-called “Bridgegate.” But his office postponed it, citing inclement weather. Christie is still expected to go to New York City for the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s winter retreat on Tuesday evening.