How Bridgegate could actually help Chris Christie as probe deepens

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – Chris Christie’s name continues to be mentioned in association with the so-called Bridgegate scandal, as the investigation into it expands.

There is no evidence of New Jersey’s governor being directly involved in what appears to be a politically motivated intentional closure of access to the George Washington Bridge, but because his senior aides have been implicated, and because there are new efforts to compel them to speak out, Christie’s name continues to come up in the same breath.

On Monday, New Jersey state assemblyman John Wisniewski announced that a special counsel is being appointed to the investigation.  Wisniewski chairs the assembly’s transportation committee, and in that capacity has been leading the assembly’s investigation into the mid-September incident.  The special counsel will be an investigator devoted exclusively to rooting out information about the four-day closure that brought Fort Lee and a half dozen other towns to a screeching halt during the morning rush hours of September 9th through 12th of last year.

In another indication of the investigation expanding, state senate leaders announced Monday that now both houses will have investigative committees looking into what happened.

A bipartisan state senate investigative committee will begin meeting this week, issuing subpoenas and hearing testimony.

By Thursday, top aides to Christie are expected to be called to testify, particularly Bridget Anne Kelly, who wrote the now famous “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email last August that began the closures, which blocked emergency traffic as well as commuter and school traffic.

Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien is also expected to be subpoenaed to testify.

Both Stepien and Kelly wrote emails that were included in a release of documents last week by the investigating committee.  David Wildstein, a Port Authority project director, also had emails in the document release.  In fact, it was the subpoena of Wildstein by the state assembly’s transportation committee that led to the original document release that resulted in the implicating emails.

Wildstein, whom Christie has known since high school, was forced to testify before the assembly investigating committee last week, but he was found in contempt after he refused to answer any questions.

An analyst of New Jersey politics, Matthew Hale, PhD, of Seton Hall University, pointed out in an interview with PIX11 News that the investigations into the politically motivated traffic blockage may themselves be politically motivated.

“It’s in the interest of Chris Christie’s opponents to keep this story going as long as possible,” said the political science professor.  However, he added, “There’s more to tell.”

Hale acknowledges that the bridge shutdown still has unanswered questions, but also points out that Christie’s handling of it has garnered positive results in polls, in which he is still by far the Republican frontrunner for president.

“He’s got to keep talking,” said Hale, “and be as transparent as possible.  That’s how this story will go away, assuming nothing is found about any links to him.”

The efforts to find links to the governor are now at full power in the legislature, while the efforts by Christie to keep talking will be on full display Tuesday at the legislature, as well.

Christie will address both houses of the state legislature in his State of the State Address Tuesday morning.