'Bridgegate' hearings to heat up this summer

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center right, addresses a gathering at a town hall meeting Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Haddon Heights, N.J.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center right, addresses a gathering at a town hall meeting Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Haddon Heights, N.J.

Welcome to the summer of “Bridgegate.”

The state legislative committee investigating the lane closure scandal that has tarred New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration has set aside four dates in July for hearings as up to 13 more people could be called to testify—including one of the Republican’s top political advisers.

A source close to the committee told msnbc that the group of lawmakers was still waiting to get feedback from the U.S. attorney’s office – who is holding a separate probe – before issuing up to a dozen new subpoenas. Regina Egea, Christie’s incoming chief of staff, was subpoenaed on Monday.

Egea, who is currently director of the state’s authorities unit, is scheduled to testify under oath on July 8. According to emails that have been made public, Egea was made aware of the September lane closures on the George Washington Bridge and the fact that they may have been illegal by a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official.

Dates for additional hearings have also been set aside for July 15, July 17, and July 21. The committee source said additional days and times would likely be scheduled in August if the other 12 people are served with subpoenas, as hearings from two individuals typically take up one day.

The additional 12 who may be called to testify in front of the committee include Christie’s chief political strategist Michael DuHaime, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, the governor’s former chief counsel Charles McKenna, Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Deb Gramiccioni, president of the Port Authority police union Paul Nunziato, attorney in Christie’s authorities unit Nicole Crifo, ex-Christie aide Evan Ridley, the governor’s chief counsel Christopher Porrino, the Port Authority’s deputy general counsel Philip Kwon, Christie’s deputy chief counsel Paul Matey and the former adviser to ex- Port Authority chairman, Philippe Danielides.

So far, the panel has heard oral testimony from five witnesses but has unearthed few findings in the quest to find out who shut down the lanes and why.

Christie has repeatedly denied any prior knowledge of the plan to cause traffic jams on the bridge seemingly for political retribution. He has since fired his deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and cut ties with former adviser Bill Stepien after emails were made public showing Christie’s inner circle was involved.

The governor’s popularity took a big hit immediately following the scandal. But according to a poll released Monday by Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press, Christie’s approval ratings have stabilized at 50%, essentially unchanged since April and February.

“Governor Christie’s job rating took a significant hit in the aftermath of the Bridgegate email revelations, but those numbers bottomed out within a month,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who chairs the Republican Governor’s Association, is trying to turn the page on his recent troubles. Last month, he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon -- his first foray back into late night comedy since his administration was rocked with allegations. Christie stoked further speculation about a bid for the Oval Office with a trip to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire on June 20. And he’s also scheduled to visit the political heavy weight state of Iowa on July 17 to campaign for Gov. Terry Branstad.

On Tuesday, the governor also tried to shift focus onto his controversial budget, which slashed Democrats’ proposed pension payment and resulted in Christie vetoing a tax increase on millionaires.