David Wildstein has been at the center of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) bridge scandal from the outset. It was, after all, Wildstein who called Port Authority officials in Fort Lee last September, telling them to close the access lanes in secret, and it was his communications that were a key element of yesterday's blockbuster revelations.
Today, however, was supposed to offer Wildstein, who resigned from the Christie administration a month ago, a chance to tell his side of the story -- he'd been subpoenaed to appear before a state Assembly panel investigating the controversy. Wildstein and his attorney yesterday tried to resist the subpoena, but a judge rejected the effort this morning, compelling him to appear.
He didn't say much.
Citing his right to plead the Fifth Amendment, David Wildstein has declined to answer questions today posed by a state Assembly committee investigating his role in the George Washington Bridge scandal. [...] "Under the advice of counsel, I assert my right to remain silent," Wildstein told the Assembly's transportation committee at the Statehouse. Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the committee's chairman, proceeded to ask him questions about e-mail exchanges with Bridget Anne Kelly, one of Gov. Chris Christie's top aides. But Wildstein continued to plead the Fifth. "Same answer, Mr. Chairman," he said repeatedly.
Note that pleading the Fifth is not an admission of wrongdoing and should not necessarily be viewed as evidence of misconduct. As a political matter, however, Wildstein's refusal to respond to questions leaves everyone involved in the process wondering what he knows but won't say.
Indeed, given that Wildstein "was known as the governor's eyes and ears inside" the Port Authority, he presumably has quite a bit of light to shed on what happened and why. For now, however, he's choosing to say nothing.
And while this was unfolding in Trenton, the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey said it's prepared to open an inquiry to see whether any federal laws were broken. A spokesperson for the federal prosecutor said in an emailed statement, "The Port Authority Office of Inspector General has referred the matter to us, and our office is reviewing it to determine whether a federal law was implicated."
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