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 bridge.
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
"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
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 Party.
[to top of second column]
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 decisively.
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)
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