Here’s a name you’re going to hear again before the George Washington Bridge scandal investigations are over: Phillip Kwon.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kwon has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, and that Kwon’s testimony could help explain what role, if any, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) staff played in pushing the idea that the September lane closures, which caused several days of traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., were part of a traffic study.
The Christie administration and its allies at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey pushed the traffic study idea for months, before mostly abandoning it following the release of internal documents tying Christie staffers to discussions of the closures.
Kwon, a Port Authority attorney with ties to Christie, acted as a liaison between the agency and the governor’s administration during discussions over who would testify before New Jersey lawmakers last year, according to the Journal. Kwon was then involved in the preparations made by former Port Authority executive Bill Baroni for a November hearing where Baroni — who was not under oath — told state lawmakers that the lane had been closed for a traffic study.
Baroni resigned from the Port Authority in December, making him one of the most prominent officials to lose their jobs during the scandal. Baroni’s resignation came a few days after that of David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official who orchestrated the lane closures.
Kwon isn’t the only current Port Authority official being looked at by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. The Bergen Record reported Thursday that prosecutors “have summoned or expressed interest in talking to up to a half-dozen current Port Authority officials as a grand jury investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closures accelerates.”
Both the Journal and the Record note that calling Kwon to testify could raise issues of attorney-client privilege. According to the Record, the Port Authority has said that Kwon was acting as Baroni’s legal representative when preparing him for the November hearing.
“That protection could be invoked by the Port Authority even if Kwon were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, a source said, unless prosecutors could prove that the advice has already been shared with third parties,” The Record reported. “The Port Authority could also agree to waive the privilege. It’s not clear if the agency has done so, or will do so.”
In March, lawyers hired by Christie’s office released the results of an internal investigation into the scandal, clearing Christie of any role in the closures. Those lawyers did not interview Kwon. In addition to the U.S. attorney’s office, a New Jersey legislative committee is investigating the matter, and it has also sent a subpoena to Kwon.