New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s re-election campaign and the state Republican Committee received a U.S. subpoena seeking documents related to the September lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, a lawyer said.
The grand jury subpoena, issued Jan. 17, came in an investigation by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, lawyer Mark Sheridan, who represents the Christie for Governor campaign and the state GOP committee, said yesterday in an interview. State lawmakers previously subpoenaed the campaign about the lane closures.
“The campaign and the state party intend to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state legislative committee and will respond to the subpoenas accordingly,” Sheridan’s law firm, Patton Boggs LLP, said yesterday in a statement.
Timeline: Governor Christie’s Unfolding Scandals
The grand jury’s request signals a widening of the investigation by federal prosecutors into the shutdown of lanes leading to the bridge, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, from Sept. 9 to 12. Christie, a Republican who won re-election in November, fired his deputy chief of staff and jettisoned his campaign manager over the closings.
Democrats, who control both houses of the state legislature, are examining what Christie or members of his administration knew of the lane closings and whether they tried to cover the matter up. Legislative committees on Jan. 16 issued 20 subpoenas to individuals and organizations.
Dawn Zimmer, the Democratic mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, has said Christie’s administration threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy recovery grants unless she supported a development project. Christie’s office denied that claim.
Zimmer said she was interviewed on Jan. 19 by Fishman’s office. Fishman’s spokeswoman, Rebekah Carmichael, said she couldn’t confirm or deny any specific investigatory action.
“The federal subpoena certainly creates new complications for the governor,” Rob Pallitto, who teaches political science at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, said yesterday by e-mail. “First of all, it reaches people who are not under his control, and second, it comes from the federal government. These elements of the probe will make it more difficult for Christie to vet or to limit the information being released.”
Sheridan said his firm also represents Nicole Davidman Drewniak, a fundraiser for the Christie re-election campaign and the state GOP who is married to Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor. Patton Boggs partner Robert Luskin is also working on the case, according to Sheridan.
Luskin has worked on high-profile cases including the defense of cyclist Lance Armstrong in a lawsuit in which the U.S. accuses him of defrauding the government by using banned drugs while riding for the U.S. Postal Service.
Luskin also defended Karl Rove, a political adviser to former President George W. Bush, when the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee voted to hold him in contempt over the firings of the U.S. attorneys.
Christie’s office has hired Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP to respond to the federal inquiry. The firm’s lead lawyer, Randy Mastro, was a deputy mayor of New York City under Rudolph Giuliani. He has represented Chevron Corp., the world’s second-largest energy company by market value, which asked a federal judge in New York to find that an Ecuadorean court handed down a multibillion-dollar verdict against it because of a racketeering plot.
The lane closures snarled traffic in Fort Lee at the New Jersey end of the bridge, which connects with New York. The bridge is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The administration’s ties to the traffic messes came to light in a cache of e-mails and text messages obtained on Jan. 8 by news outlets. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote on Aug. 13 to David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port Authority.
“Got it,” Wildstein replied.
Christie fired Kelly earlier this month. Kelly initially hired Walter Timpone, a former federal prosecutor. Christie nominated Timpone in 2002 to be his top deputy in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Timpone later withdrew from consideration.
Timpone no longer represents Kelly, who has since hired Michael Critchley, according to Critchley, a prominent New Jersey defense attorney.
Port Authority Chairman David Samson has hired attorney Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary and U.S. attorney in New Jersey. He also was a judge on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bill Baroni, the deputy executive director at the Port Authority who resigned last month, has hired Michael Himmel of Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, New Jersey. Himmel represented Solomon Dwek, a real-estate investor and informant in New Jersey’s largest corruption sting.
Dwek spent 2 1/2 years helping the Federal Bureau of Investigation gather evidence that led to convictions of three dozen people, including politicians, religious leaders and a black market kidney broker. His work as an informant began after his 2006 arrest for trying to pass two bad checks, each for $25 million, at PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
He was sentenced to six years in prison for money laundering and a $50 million bank fraud scheme.