The investigation into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal is not open-ended. A state Assembly probe was approved last year and given the legal authority to explore the alleged misconduct, but when the legislative session ends, so too does the committee’s power to investigate further – and the session technically ends tomorrow.
In practical terms, that means state lawmakers will have to reauthorize the probe or the process will effectively come to a halt. Christie and his team have been well aware of the deadline, and by all appearances, hoped to run out the clock.
Over the weekend, however, we learned that the investigation is very likely to continue and expand.
The Assembly will meet in special session Thursday to decide whether to re-authorize its subpoena power so its investigation of the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal can continue, Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto said this morning.
Prieto (D-Hudson), who will be sworn in as Speaker on Tuesday, said the special session has been called to consider legislation reauthorizing subpoena power, which has already turned up explosive e-mails and text messages linking Gov. Chris Christie’s administration to the September lane closures.
Prieto said in a written statement released to the press, “The documents released this week related to the George Washington Bridge situation clearly show the need for a continued thorough investigation by the New Jersey General Assembly. Many questions remain unanswered about this threat to public safety and abuse of power. I expect to call the Assembly into special session on Thursday to consider legislation that would reauthorize subpoena power so this investigation can continue.”
Note, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) also “emphatically” supports reauthorizing subpoena power.
As the investigation enters its next phase, expect the number of Christie aides facing scrutiny to grow. The Bergen Record reports that the probe may reach deeper into the governor’s office as early as today when “a new round of subpoenas is expected to land on the desks of key members of Christie’s inner circle.”
A total of four Christie aides – the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, his former campaign manager, and his top two appointees at the Port Authority – have either resigned or been fired. The next question is who, if anyone, will be the next official to walk the plank.
Friday’s release of thousands of documents, for example, noted that Regina Egea, the governor’s incoming chief of staff, was alerted “within hours” of lane-closures last September, while Christie spokesperson Michael Drewniak talked to David Wilstein after the incident about keeping information from local journalists. It’s easy to imagine state lawmakers wanting to hear directly from both of them.
And then, of course, there’s David Samson, whom Christie appointed as Chairman of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners, who said of Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, “[H]e’s playing in traffic, made a big mistake.”