N.J. Senate Majority Leader Says Criminal Charges May Come In Bridge Scandal

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January 8, 2014 1:05 p.m.

New Jersey State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) said Wednesday she thinks criminal charges may come in the growing scandal over last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Weinberg’s comments came after TPM and other news outlets obtained emails and other communications that showed one of Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) closest aides was involved in the discussions of the lane closures weeks before they took place.

Democrats, including Weinberg, have alleged that the closures were ordered in an effort to snarl traffic in nearby Fort Lee, N.J. in retaliation for the Democratic mayor there not endorsing Christie’s reelection bid.

When asked if she thought criminal charges were possible based on the new revelations, Weinberg replied: “Yes.”

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“I am not a lawyer,” she said. “I am not a prosecutor, but from where I come from, you can’t use public facilities to politically punish people.”

The documents were obtained after the New Jersey Assembly’s Transportation Committee subpoenaed seven officials, including two of Christie’s top appointees at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which oversees the bridge.

Emails and text messages revealed through the subpoenas show officials in Christie’s administration were communicating with his appointees at the Port Authority.

The messages also show Christie’s close ally and former high school classmate, David Wildstein, who was a high-ranking Port Authority official, apparently mocking Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich when the mayor expressed dismay about the traffic.

In one exchange, Wildstein corresponded with someone who joked that the Port Authority official shouldn’t worry about children being delayed from getting to school because they were probably the kin of voters for Christie’s Democratic challenger in the election, Barbara Buono.

“The whole thing is troubling,” Weinberg said. “That an atmosphere where somebody who was described as the eyes and ears of the governor at the Port Authority could say that he doesn’t care about the school kids because they’re children of Buono voters, that at best is worthy of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ parody and, at worst, is disgusting.”

On Jan. 2, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who has been investigating the bridge scandal, told TPM he estimated he had received at least 3,000 pages of documents in response to the subpoenas. Only 22 pages of documents emerged on Wednesday. Wisniewski did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TPM.

Weinberg, who is doing her own investigation into the issue, said she has been in touch with people who have seen other documents from the subpoenas that have not been revealed.

TPM asked whether Weinberg thinks the public has seen “the worst” of the documents.

“I don’t know,” Weinberg said.

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