New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s staff and members of the Port Authority have been served. And now the big question is whether they’ll comply with subpoenas or plead the Fifth like two predecessors before them.
The state committee investigating so-called “Bridgegate” issued 18 new subpoenas on Monday. The new round of demands to see documents relating to the September lane closures on the George Washington Bridge tops the 20 subpoenas issued last month. The deadline to turn those records over was last week, although several have been granted more time. The panel also threatened to hold former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien in contempt (they pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to produce material) if they don’t comply with their subpoenas.
The joint panel of the state legislature is also now specifically looking into Christie’s helicopter travel to see if he flew over the bridge, allegedly with former Port Authority official David Wildstein, to survey the controversial lane closures.
Christie’s office says the Republican governor never flew with Wildstein. The governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, is also sticking to his story, denying any “prior knowledge” of the lane closures – apparently for political payback -- that spurred three days of severe traffic backups on one of the country’s busiest bridges.
Here’s what you need to know about the 18 new people – several of whom are assistants and aides to key officials -- who were served with subpoenas:
Barbara Panebianco, Bridget Kelly’s executive assistant: It was Kelly, Christie’s now-fired deputy chief of staff, who sent the damning email to Wildstein in August: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she wrote. The message apparently kicked off the lane closures. Kelly is refusing to comply, but the hope is Panebianco can shed light into what happened.
Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director at the Port Authority: Baroni was considered Christie’s right-hand man at the agency. He has argued the lane closures were part of a traffic study but has since resigned.
Philip Kwon, deputy general counsel, Port Authority: Kwon helped prep Baroni on Nov. 25 for testimony before a New jersey legislative committee in which Baroni argued the lane closures were for a traffic study. Officials now assert that there was never any study.
Gretchen DiMarco, assistant to Baroni, Port Authority
Matthew Bell, special assistant to Baroni, Port Authority
Regina Egea— director of the authorities unit, governor’s office and Christie's incoming chief-of-staff: Emails suggested Egea, who served as the governor’s go-to person on issues having to do with the Port Authority, knew the lane closures were never part of a traffic study. Records also showed that Egea received a scathing complaint over the closures from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye.
John Ma, chief of staff to Executive Director Patrick Foye, Port Authority: Foye, appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, testified under oath that he was completely unaware of any traffic study. He also sounded alarm bells to other Port Authority officials arguing the lane closures were illegal.
Arielle Schwarz, special assistant to former Director of Interstate Capital Projects David Wildstein, Port Authority: Wildstein, a Christie appointee, pleaded the Fifth Amendment on Jan. 9 at a hearing on the lane closures. Wildstein, according to the emails, wrote “Got it” in response to Kelly’s “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein has since resigned but claims “evidence exists” proving Christie knew of the lane closures.
William “Pat” Schuber, commissioner at Port Authority: The Port Authority board member and former GOP Bergen County Executive has been criticized by committee co-chair, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg for not providing information about the lane closure plan in September.
Custodian of records, State Police aviation unit: The state lawmaker panel is looking at the aviation unit that operates the helicopter Christie uses to see if the governor flew near Fort Lee during the time of the closures.
Custodian of records, Port Authority: This applies to the person who keeps all recorded information for the Port Authority.
Christie’s office: The governor has not commented on the latest subpoena but last month said he would cooperate with a federal probe into the lane shutdown. The governor’s office has since retained a high-powered legal firm.
Chris Christie for Governor, the governor’s re-election campaign: The U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey has also subpoenaed documents from Christie’s re-election committee. The campaign organization has since lawyered up.
Nicole Crifo, senior counsel to the authorities unit, governors office: Crifo was forwarded Weinberg’s letter expressing concerns about the traffic jam. Someone with the same first name as Crifo was mentioned in texts between key players. Wildstein texted Baroni after Baroni’s testimony on Nov. 25: “I have only texted bridget and Nicole they were VERY happy.” On Nov. 30., month, Baroni texted: “Can u check your gmail and make sure Nicole has all that.”
Jeanne Ashmore, director of constituent relations, governor’s office: Ashmore, who served as GOP Congressman Leonard Lance’s district director, joined Christie’s team four years ago. Her job is to respond to constituent’s mail, email and in-person requests.
Rosemary Iannacone, director of operations, governor's office: Iannacone was formerly the chief administrator at the United States Attorney’s Office from 2000 to 2009, a stint that included Christie’s tenure.
Mark Muriello, assistant director of Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals, Port Authority: Emails made public last month between Cedrick Fulton, the Port Authority’s director of bridges, tunnels and terminals and other agency officials, including Muriello, indicate they were aware of the traffic jams created by the lane closings.
Steve Coleman, deputy director of media relations, Port Authority: Baroni asked Coleman multiple times to ignore media requests about the lane closures. In emails made public, Coleman wrote to Wildstein and Baroni: “I am not responding to any of the inquiries unless otherwise instructed,” said Coleman. “Agree. No response,” Baroni wrote back.