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Christie faces tough week with State of the State address Tuesday

The State Assembly plans to further investigate a political motive in 'Bridgegate,' and it could mean subpoenas for more of Christie’s "inner circle."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reacts during a news conference, Jan. 9, 2014 in Trenton, N.J.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reacts during a news conference, Jan. 9, 2014 in Trenton, N.J.

Another day, another headache for Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The State Assembly is set to extend its investigation into whether lane closures on the George Washington Bridge were politically motivated, a move that could lead to subpoenas for more members of Christie’s inner circle.

New Jersey State Assembly Speaker-Elect Vincent Prieto said Saturday that he would convene a special legislative session in order to reauthorize subpoena power for the investigation. The committee's authority to issue subpoenas will expire on Tuesday, the last day of the legislative session, and also when Christie is scheduled to give his annual State of the State address.

After a nearly two-hour press conference on Thursday, his longest to date, Christie has stayed out of the public eye, leaving his Republican allies to defend him on the weekend's morning shows.

After shying away from commenting on "Bridgegate" as a whole, members of the Republican establishment offered Christie support on Sunday, perhaps suggesting the GOP is anxious to move on from the controversy as it gears up for 2016. Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, said on CNN's State of the Union that he admired Christie's stamina during his marathon press conference. "I thought he did an excellent job by the very lengthy press conference," McCain said. He continued, "I think he can now move on as long as another shoe doesn't drop."

Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus echoed McCain when he appeared on Meet the Press: "He showed leadership. He held people accountable," Priebus said. "Americans are a very forgiving people."

Christie also got help from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another official known for his abrasive political style. Speaking on This Week, Giuliani said that he didn't believe Christie would put his future political career at risk by lying about what he knew.

But Christie's silence the past few days has left room for more Democratic Mayors to come forward with allegations of their own. Some have even gone so far as to say that they too may have been targeted for retribution over endorsements, according to a Star-Ledger report. New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chair of the committee that has been investigating the traffic fiasco, told NBC News that Christie could face impeachment if it turns out he lied about knowing nothing about his subordinates' actions.

Documents released Friday also show that an email from Christie's appointee to the Port Authority, which called the lane closures "hasty and ill-advised" and questioned their legality, was forwarded to an adviser, Regina Egea, who Christie has tapped to be his chief of staff.

Christie's own second term legislative agenda could face serious hurdles if the bridge scandal continues to cast a shadow. Kevin O'Dowd, the former Christie chief of staff and nominee for Attorney General, saw his nomination hearing postponed. It has not yet been rescheduled.

Theories are still emerging about other possible motivations for the lane closures. On Sunday's Up with Steve Kornacki, Kornacki suggested that the real goal of the supposed study that snarled traffic was to threaten the future of a billion dollar development project currently underway in Fort Lee. Initial allegations focused on possible retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for his refusal to endorse Christie during last year's Governor's race.

As the investigation continues to unfold, one thing is certain: if any concrete evidence that Christie had knowledge of what happened during those four days in September does come to light, his political future is on much shakier ground.

“He’s taken the complete risk that his political career is over," Giuliani said. "I don’t think he’d do that if there’s any suggestion he knew about this.”