Though Chris Christie had a relatively successful appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week—despite his mediocre results in CPAC’s straw poll, won by Rand Paul—back home in New Jersey it looks like the noose is tightening.
The twin inquiries into the various scandals surrounding the governor—one by a joint committee of the state legislature and another by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey—have both expanded in recent weeks. And now, there’s a third, related investigation just underway, looking into the conflict-of-interest problems surrounding David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a key Christie ally. The legislative committee, which began with the lane-closing scandal at the George Washington Bridge, has broadened its inquiry to include the charges by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that the Christie administration threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy recovery aid unless Zimmer threw her support behind a $1 billion development project in the town, whose lawyers just happened to be David Samson’s law firm, Wolff & Samson. And US Attorney Paul Fishman, who at first seemed to concentrate on the Hoboken story, has recently refocused on Bridgegate, too. (Back in January, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Fishman already had issued subpoenas to Governor Christie’s re-election unit and to the New Jersey state Republican party.)
And yesterday, in a New Jersey courtroom, lawyers for two former Christie aides, Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien, both ousted in the Bridgegate scandal, pleaded with a judge to quash subpoenas demanding their emails and other records.
Over the past several days, various newspapers—including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Newark Star-Ledger and the Bergen Record—have each reported that the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, issued and then withdrew a subpoena asking the Port Authority to hand over records, including e-mails, pertaining to Samson’s conflict-of-interest problems. Since the start of Bridgegate, there has been a deluge of reports that Samson, who had power over the awarding of huge construction and development contracts by the PA, apparently used that power to benefit his law firm, Wolff & Samson, which represented many of the developers and construction firms. A very detailed accounting of Samson’s political influence was published this week by The Asbury Park Press, and Christie Watch has reported on the Samson story here, here, and here.