Despite the fact that Governor Christie is using the recently released report by his lawyer Randy Mastro to claim that he’s been cleared of all wrongdoing, the two real investigations—one by the joint committee of the state legislature and the other by the US attorney’s office, under Paul Fishman—continue. What’s new is that one key witness who recently appeared before the grand jury convened by the US attorney was Michael Drewniak, the governor’s spokesman, and that another key witness, the lawyer for Hoboken’s mayor, Dawn Zimmer, has been cleared to answer the US attorney’s questions, as well.
Federal investigators are hauling witnesses in to testify before the grand jury on what they know about Bridgegate, the lane-closure scandal on the George Washington Bridge, and on Hoboken, in regard to Zimmer’s charge that she was being blackmailed by the lieutenant governor to go along with a development project in her North Jersey city in order to keep post-Sandy recovery aid flowing.
It’s ironic that Drewniak is the first of the governor’s top aides to be seen visiting the federal building in Newark to meet with the grand jury. For twelve years, including all seven of Chris Christie’s tenure as US attorney in New Jersey, Drewniak was spokesman for the US attorney’s office, and he bonded with Christie. When Christie was elected governor in 2009, he brought Drewniak to the statehouse in Trenton with him, so Drewniak is quite familiar with the inner workings of a federal investigation.
Fishman’s grand jury has issued subpoenas at least since January, asking for documents related to the case, and FBI agents have spoken to various people. But until now there were no sightings or reports of actual testimony. However, ABC News reported late Friday that Drewniak appeared before the grand jury on Friday. Apparently, his appearance was uncovered by accident. Reporters from ABC happened to see him walking into the courthouse, and managed to interview his lawyer, Anthony Iacullo, a specialist in criminal law, who said Drewniak was a witness, not a target, of the investigation. In any case, it isn’t known if he is the first person to testify. But he probably won’t be the last.
Drewniak’s testimony comes a week after the Mastro report [see pages 8 and 89] revealed this nugget: David Wildstein, one of the two senior Christie appointees at the Port Authority and the man who orchestrated the lane closures on the bridge, told Drewniak at a dinner in December that he had discussed the bridge issue with Governor Christie while the lanes were actually still closed. He said he told Christie about traffic issues during the memorial events at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2013.
Worse for Christie, the Mastro report also said that the day after Wildstein told Drewniak that he, Wildstein, had mentioned the issue to Christie, Drewniak went into then–Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd’s office to discuss it, and they were soon joined by Christie. Drewniak told Christie what Wildstein had said, according to the report, but Christie said he didn’t recall any such comment, a position he also repeated in television interviews when Mastro’s report came out.
Other documents that have been released earlier by the state legislative committee investigating the issue show that Drewniak was the person relied upon by Christie’s key Port Authority appointees for advice on handling media calls on the closures just days after they occurred.