Further documents sought over George Washington Bridge scandal

Saturday 11 January 2014 20.13
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Members of NJ Governor Chris Christie's staff appear to have engineered a traffic jam
Members of NJ Governor Chris Christie's staff appear to have engineered a traffic jam
Mr Christie is under pressure over the controversy
Mr Christie is under pressure over the controversy

A New Jersey politician has said he intends to formally request Governor Chris Christie and his staff hand over more correspondence and documents related to a bridge scandal.      

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat who chairs his legislative body's Transportation Committee, told CNN he would make the request on Monday.

He said "there's still a lot of documents we haven't gotten we'd like to see".            

Mr Wisniewski's comments came a day after more than 1,000 pages of anxiously-awaited papers, subpoenaed by New Jersey politicians, were made public.

They relate to revelations a member of Mr Christie's staff appeared to have orchestrated massive traffic jams over four days in September on the George Washington Bridge that severely affected the town of Fort Lee.

It may have been political payback because the mayor there did not endorse Mr Christie's election bid.             

Mr Christie, a powerful figure in the Republican Party and a likely contender for the White House in 2016, has adamantly denied any knowledge of an apparent scheme to cause a traffic jam.

On Thursday, he apologised for the fiasco and said he had fired a top aide, Bridget Kelly, and severed political ties with his former campaign manager after emails surfaced that seemed to link them to the scandal.

Two of Mr Christie's appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bi-state agency that oversees transportation facilities in the region, have resigned over the controversy linked to the closures.

Mr Wisniewski told CNN today no evidence or documents have surfaced that link Mr Christie to the lane closures, but he said the Transportation Committee was probing whether anyone else in the governor's office might have been involved.             

"Our investigation would be made immeasurably simpler if the governor's office would say, 'Please tell us what you'd like, we'll turn over all of those documents, the governmental emails, the personal emails, the correspondence, so that you can look at them and determine for yourself,'" Mr Wisniewski told CNN. 

A representative for the governor did not respond to requests for comment.             

Mr Wisniewski yesterday said the documents released that day raised more questions than they answered about whether Mr Christie knew about the traffic tie-up, and in particular he pointed to a reference to a potential meeting between Port Authority Chairman David Samson and Mr Christie one week before the jam.

The documents show chaos and anger, but fail to clear up whether the epic traffic jam was the result of what Mr Christie said may have been a Port Authority traffic study.             

The hastily-called closure of three local access lanes leading to the bridge slowed school buses and emergency workers, as well as commuters.             

Mr Wisniewski said he believes laws were broken but said any decision to bring criminal charges would depend on prosecutors.

US Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman, whose job Mr Christie held before being elected governor, has opened an investigation into the decision to close the bridge lanes.

Documents previously released show Ms Kelly emailed Port Authority executive David Wildstein in August to say, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Mr Wildstein, a Christie appointee, replied: "Got it."             

Ms Kelly could not be reached for comment today.

Mr Wildstein has admitted to ordering lane closures and resigned his post.

He declined to answer questions in an appearance before the Transportation Committee on Thursday, invoking his constitutional protection not to say anything that might incriminate himself.