Attorneys for the New Jersey Legislature’s committee investigating the Bridgegate scandal released new emails and text messages obtained from its ongoing probe into last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge Monday. The new documents were released as part of a court case relating by attempts to quash the committee’s subpoenas by attorneys representing two former aides to Gov. Chris Christie.
Lawyers for Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and the governor’s ex-deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, have argued the committee’s subpoenas requesting communications about the closures from their clients violate their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson heard arguments about both Kelly and Stepien March 11.
During that hearing, Jacobson asked whether the subpoena issued to Stepien was part of a “fishing expedition.” One of the committee’s attorneys, Reid Schar, responded to the judges concerns by indicating the committee had seen “additional documents” in response to its subpoenas of other officials and Christie aides indicating Stepien was “central to” the closures. Stepien’s attorney, Kevin Marino, subsequently demanded to see the documents Schar referred to at the hearing.
In a supplemental brief filed to the Superior Court Monday, the committee’s special counsel explained they were providing the documents requested by Stepien’s attorney
“In response to Mr. Stepien’s demand and in the interest of providing the Court with all of the information to decide the issues before it, plaintiff is hereby submitting … the additional documents requested by Mr. Stepien,” wrote the special counsel.
The attorneys explained they also provided documents “regarding Ms. Kelly” even though her lawyers did not demand to see them.
The new documents filed to the Superior Court include some of the communications that were previously released including the email that showed Kelly declaring it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” and another email exchange where Kelly joked with another official about using “traffic problems” to take revenge on an enemy. There are no major new revelations in the documents, but they continue to illustrate close allies of the governor were involved in discussions about the closures and subsequent negative coverage. Some Democrats have alleged the closures, which caused days of traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., were ordered to retaliate against the mayor there for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bridge.
Marino issued a statement shortly after the documents were released in which he declared they do not show Stepien playing a key role in the closures.
“The documents released today — as distinct from the familiar rhetoric that attended their release — thoroughly discredit the Committee’s desperate attempt to paint Mr. Stepien as a central figure in the lane closure controversy,” Marino said. “Stated simply, those documents do not contain a shard of support for the Committee’s position, which we are confident will be roundly rejected.”
Additionally, the supplemental brief filed by the committee’s attorneys attempts to answer the questions Jacobson had for them. The attorneys argued the committee does not have the authority to compel Stepien and Kelly to produce the documents it requested and, as a result, had to turn to the court. They also argued the committee does not have the power to grant Kelly and Stepien use and derivative use immunity for producing the documents.
Attorneys for Kelly and Stepien have until March 24 to file their briefs to the court. Jacobson has indicated she will make a final ruling at the next hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
Updated with Marino’s statement 7:05 PM
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