New Jersey legislators investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal are going to court to try to shake loose documents from two key figures in the case.
Bridget Anne Kelly, former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Chris Christie, and Bill Stepien, the man who ran Christie's campaigns, are refusing to comply with subpoenas seeking copies of emails and other records in the months before the scandal. Their lawyers say turning over the records would violate their 5th Amendment rights.
After weeks of back-and-forth letters, a joint investigating committee on Wednesday filed lawsuits seeking to obtain the records, releasing a statement that called the move an “unfortunate but necessary step to further the committee’s work.”
The outcome may determine whether the committee is ever able to solve the main mysteries in the investigation: Whose idea was it to close local access lanes leading to the bridge last September? And why? The closures led to massive traffic jams.
A month before the incident, Kelly sent an email to David Wildstein, Christie’s appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge. It said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” the town on the New Jersey side of the bridge, which crosses into Manhattan.
Wildstein ordered the lane closures, and when Fort Lee’s mayor, who did not endorse Christie in his reelection bid, sent a letter of protest, Wildstein forwarded it to Kelly and to Stepien.
When the emails came to light, Christie said he was shocked and disappointed. He immediately fired Kelly and cut Stepien loose from a job consulting for the Republican Governors Assn., which Christie heads.
Documents have been trickling in to the legislative joint committee as a result of more than a dozen additional legislative subpoenas to individuals and groups involved in Christie's administration and campaign. The U.S. attorney’s office is also conducting an investigation.