Jan 27 New Jersey state legislators voted on
Monday to merge parallel investigations into the George
Washington Bridge traffic scandal ensnaring Republican Governor
The newly-formed joint committee will have the power to
subpoena witnesses and correspondence and to order testimony
under oath as part of its investigation into allegations that a
gubernatorial aide engineered the traffic jam to punish the
Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, which abuts the
It will also examine the abuse of government power, the
investigating committee of eight Democrats and four Republicans
from the state's Assembly and Senate said in a statement.
"Throughout the earlier stages of this investigation, it
became clear that for every answer we uncovered, many more
questions arose," Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a
leader of the probe as the head of the Assembly Transportation
Committee, said in a statement.
"Forming this joint committee is the best way to streamline
and expedite our inquiry in order to obtain the answers we need
to prevent future abuses of power," Wisniewski said.
He and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, another
Democrat, will co-chair the new panel. They said in a joint
statement that 20 subpoenas issued previously by the Assembly
committee will now be reissued by the joint committee "with an
unchanged return date of Feb. 3."
The committee's special counsel is Reid Schar, a Chicago
lawyer who as an assistant U.S. attorney, prosecuted both
corruption trials of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey is also looking
into the traffic tie-ups over four days in September 2013,
nicknamed "Bridgegate" by local newspapers, which angered
commuters and delayed school buses and ambulances. It has issued
subpoenas to Christie's campaign as well as the state Republican
Christie, seen as a top Republican contender for the White
House in 2016, has denied being part of a scheme to snarl
traffic at the bridge linking New York and New Jersey by
abruptly closing access lanes. He has promised cooperation with
the federal probe.
E-mails released earlier this month link two of his former
top aides to the traffic tie-ups after Fort Lee's mayor refused
to support Christie's re-election. Christie won a second term
A recent poll shows that his support has fallen almost 20
points since his landslide re-election.
Other Democratic allegations about Christie administration
strong-arm tactics have surfaced in recent weeks, including
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's charge that Christie withheld
recovery funds for Superstorm Sandy for political reasons.
Christie's office has strongly denied Zimmer's allegations.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, G Crosse)