Two former close aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Jeffrey Chiesa and Deborah Gramiccioni, both of whom worked with Christie when he was the US Attorney in New Jersey before becoming governor, have been subpoenaed in an investigation into what looks to have been an illegal maneuver to secure a cool $1 billion in Port Authority funds to rebuild a roadway in New Jersey. And it’s this, if it has legs, and not the lane-closing scandal, that could end up doing the real damage to Christie’s political future.
Acting as though Bridgegate and other scandals are behind him, Christie sought to recharge his efforts as head of the Republican Governors Association last week, making appearances and organizing fundraisers to help the re-election efforts of three GOP governors. All of it, of course, is aimed at renewing his 2016 presidential hopes. But the possibility that the bubbling scandals will burst to the surface and derail those hopes mounted as federal and local prosecutors expanded their investigations behind the scenes.
Christie hosted a fundraiser in New Jersey on May 28 for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who is running for re-election in the first caucus state, then started a two-day trip to New Mexico to stump and raise money for the re-election of Governor Susana Martinez, who, as Christie Watch noted, has been touted as a potential vice-presidential contender on a Christie ticket. He stopped off to help Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on his way back. The week before, he was campaigning with the embattled Florida Governor Rick Scott.
But while Christie has been promoting his fellow GOP governors elsewhere, back home federal and state prosecutors, the SEC and state legislators are expanding their investigations. Tomorrow the special New Jersey legislative committee investigating Bridgegate hears testimony from a commissioner at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, William Pat Schuber. Back on September 19, committee co-chairwoman Loretta Weinberg sent a letter to Schuber raising concerns about the previous week’s lane closures, CCing Christie, and demanding to know why it occurred. She received no reply, and now she wants to know why.
The committee was also supposed to query Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. Last fall, it was Foye who reopened the lanes on the George Washington Bridge closed by Christie’s aide and who warned that laws had been broken. Foye’s testimony was delayed at request of US Attorney Paul Fishman.
This is the second time that Fishman asked the legislature to delay Foye’s testimony. Fishman wanted it postponed in May, according the Bergen Record, because he wanted Foye to testify first to the grand jury investigating the lane closures. It appears that Fishman has more to glean from Foye than what he has already said.
It is unlikely that Foye knows much about why the lane closures happened, but he can shed light on other aspects of the scandal. Back in December he testified under oath to another legislative committee that he did not know about the lane closures until they happened, and didn’t discuss it afterwards with the Christie politico who ran the closures, David Wildstein. But he did say they were not closed as part of a traffic study, as Christie confidante and former PA deputy executive director Bill Baroni stated before the same committee. Foye also testified he saw the lane closures as illegal, violating numerous state and federal laws. Why he allowed Baroni to claim to the committee that the closures were a traffic study, and why he allowed a top PA lawyer and Christie appointee Philip Kwon to prep Baroni for several days on how to package his testimony, are questions Fishman and the committee likely want answered. Another issue is whether Foye was subjected to any intimidation after he re-opened the lanes, as some of the e-mails released by the committee indicate.