A special committee investigating the manufactured traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge could issue its first round of subpoenas Thursday to allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Among those most likely to receive subpoenas, state lawmakers have said, is Bridget Kelly, Christie’s since-fired deputy chief of staff, who sent the email last August — “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — that appeared to set the jam in motion.
Trying to get back to business, the governor vowed to victims of Hurricane Sandy that “nothing will distract me” from the work of rebuilding the state.
“I was born here, I was raised here, I’m raising my family here, and this is where I intend to spend the rest of my life,” he said. “Whatever test they put in front of me, I will meet those tests because I’m doing it on your behalf.”
At an appearance with homeowners on the Jersey Shore, the governor took note of the large media contingent following him and said: “I hope all these people with cameras will frequent the local businesses.”
The special committee, formed by the state Assembly to focus exclusively on the bridge fiasco, was to begin its work later in the day. The state Senate, a committee of the U.S. Senate and the Justice Department are all looking into the mess, too.
Emails released last week suggest that allies in Christie’s office and at the bridge-controlling Port Authority closed lanes at the bridge to create a traffic jam and punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia on Thursday released a 17-page letter from the Port Authority answering his questions about the matter. He said the Port Authority submission included “zero evidence” of a traffic study — the original explanation for the lane closures.
The Port Authority submission lays out concerns raised within the Port Authority before the lanes were closed, including that it would create serious congestion and raise the risk of collisions. It says that David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority, ordered and oversaw the lane closures.
Wildstein, who has since resigned, was the recipient of Kelly’s “Time for some traffic problems” email on Aug. 13. The lane closures began Sept. 9.
Christie’s office announced Thursday that it had hired a prominent law firm to help with its internal investigation, and to cooperate with the inquiry opened by the Justice Department.
The governor said in his State of the State address this week that his office would cooperate “with all appropriate inquiries to make sure that this breach of trust does not happen again.”
Christie’s legal team will be headed by Randy Mastro, a former federal prosecutor in New York who specialized in organized crime cases, and a former chief of staff to then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The special committee of the state Assembly investigating the bridge matter hired its own legal top gun on Wednesday — Reid Schar, who helped convict former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2011 of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.
Two of Christie’s appointees to the Port Authority, including Wildstein, have resigned, and Christie fired Kelly and severed ties with his two-time campaign manager. Christie himself has denied any involvement in the scheme.
Kelly O’Donnell of NBC News contributed to this report.