In an interview with the Star-Ledger's editorial board on Monday, Sweeney addressed the ongoing court battle between the committee and two key figures in the bridge scandal: former Gov. Chris Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien. Both Kelly and Stepien have refused to comply with subpoenas for documents issued by the committee, and the matter is now before a state judge.
"If we lose that lawsuit that we can’t make people speak, then I think at that point we really need to walk away and let the U.S. attorney — not interfere with his investigation," Sweeney said, referring to the New Jersey U.S. attorney's inquiry into the scandal.
But Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D), one of the co-leaders of the investigation, disagreed with Sweeney's assessment, and hours after he made the comments, Sweeney issued a statement supporting the work of the committee, saying it had a mission "separate from federal investigators to determine the facts of the case and to make legislative changes to ensure any abuse of power that occurred does not happen again."
"I do not believe the committee’s work has run its course," Sweeney said, according to the Star-Ledger. "If there comes a time when the committee has exhausted all of its options, we would make a determination with the committee members to discontinue our review."
It's not the first time Sweeney has spoken up to downplay the committee's investigation. In January, Sweeney spoke on the state Senate floor and urged his colleagues not to let the scandal become a "distraction."
Sweeney, who plans to run for governor in 2017, has been an ally of Christie's in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger's Tom Moran has noted Christie's "on-and-off bromance" with Sweeney. But when he was asked by the newspaper on Monday where his relationship with the governor had anything to do with wanting to halt the committee's investigation, Sweeney said "that’s not even close to being fair."