Christie aide says had no prior knowledge of bridge lane closures
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[July 18, 2014]
By Daniel Kelley
TRENTON N.J. (Reuters) - A top aide to
Governor Chris Christie on Thursday told the New Jersey panel
investigating lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that she had
no prior knowledge of, or participation in, the incident that sparked a
Regina Egea, who oversaw the Christie administration's relations
with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was among the
first gubernatorial staffers to get word of the September 2013 lane
closures after being forwarded a strongly worded email from the
authority's executive director that called the closures illegal.
The controversy has proven embarrassing for Christie as he considers
a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He has denied
knowing about the incident at the time or being involved.
Egea, who is now Christie's incoming chief of staff, said she
chalked up the email to an ongoing dispute between appointees from
New York and New Jersey.
"My assessment was that it seemed consistent with the tension
between them," Egea said.
Egea's testimony came as panel members expressed concern that the
inquiry into the scandal was losing steam. They said the pace of the
probe into the massive four-day-long traffic disruption had slowed
to a crawl because potential witnesses had refused to cooperate.
The panel, formed in January, has interviewed just five of the 13
people it had planned to question. In addition, the U.S. Attorney's
Office for New Jersey asked the committee to delay interviews with
key witnesses to avoid interfering with the criminal investigation,
committee members told Reuters.
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"It leaves us with very slim pickings in terms of witnesses," said
Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, a Republican on the committee, which is
controlled by Democrats.
Democratic Senator Loretta Weinberg, a co-chair of the panel, said
it was likely to issue a report in late summer or early fall.
The shutdown in Fort Lee, New Jersey, of access lanes to one of the
nation's busiest bridges caused hours-long snarls that delayed
school buses, ambulances and commuters. Critics have alleged the
closures were orchestrated by Christie's allies to retaliate against
Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for failing to endorse the Republican
governor's re-election bid.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Alden Bentley and Ellen Wulfhorst)
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