More trouble may be on the horizon for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is now reportedly investigating the relationship between the Republican and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Vance’s office has subpoenaed information on communication between Christie staffers and the Port Authority on several projects, according to The Wall Street Journal. That includes the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site and a PATH transportation hub in lower Manhattan.
Vance’s office declined to comment and Christie’s office did not return requests for an interview from msnbc. But if the report is correct, it would be the third government entity probing Christie’s relationship with the Port Authority, which oversees much of the regional transportation structure in the two states.
Just days after the new probe was made public, Anthony Sartor, a Port Authority commissioner – and New Jersey appointee – announced his resignation on Monday, a spokesman for the agency and Sartor's spokesman confirmed to msnbc. Sartor had been chairing the agency’s subcommittee on World Trade redevelopment. In his resignation letter, Sartor makes no mention of the recent controversies, only saying that it’s time for him to retire after serving for 15 years.
David Samson, another of one of the state's six commissioners and Christie ally stepped down less than a month ago. Samson had once dismissed controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge back in September as a mere "inconvenience" and his law firm was being investigated by federal prosecutors for potential conflicts of interest with the Port Authority. In announcing Samson's resignation at a news conference last month, Christie insisted that decision had nothing to do with the lane closures and was because "he's 74 years old and he is tired."
Similarly, Bob Zito, a spokesman for Sartor, said the ongoing investigation has "absolutely nothing" to do with his client's decision.
A state legislative panel and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman are separately looking into allegations that Christie’s aides and the governor’s allies at the Port Authority were involved in a scheme to close lanes near the George Washington Bridge, seemingly for political retribution. Christie has denied having any prior knowledge of so-called “Bridgegate.” He has since fired op aides and last month, Port Authority chairman David Samson stepped down.
An internal review – ordered by Christie—has cleared the governor of any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Tuesday showed that Christie’s approval ratings, which were in free fall, have stabilized, hovering at 55%. Meanwhile, 41% disapprove. However, the survey showed the majority – 63% – said Christie’s own internal review was not objective. Just 22% believe Christie’s explanation of what happened.
The governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has kept an ambitious schedule, holding town hall meetings and fundraising for the Republican Governors Association, which he chairs. Christie will hold a town hall in Franklin Township on Tuesday to discuss the state budget.
Christie will also deliver a keynote address to Rowan University graduates on May 16. At a town hall in Mount Laurel last month, six protestors who identified themselves as Rowan University students heckled the governor on a number of issues, including the lane closure plan. That resulted in Christie telling one interrupter to “either sit down and keep quite or get out. We’re done with you.”
A petition has been started on change.org to “not celebrate Chris Christie with an honorary degree or with the privilege of being the Keynote speaker” at the commencement, and asserts the governor “has been more adversarial to teachers and public education” than any previous governor.
How Christie’s troubles affect 2016 is yet to be seen. Home Depot co-founder and mega Republican donor has recently come out in support of Christie, calling the bridge scandal merely a “rough patch.”
“Jeb [Bush] would be a superb president, but I think Christie would connect better,” Langone told Buzzfeed.