New Jersey state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D) said Thursday that he will call for a federal investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s administration over allegations that members of Christie’s staff were involved in lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as part of political retribution.
When new documents were released showing deeper involvement from the Christie administration, Lesniak said Wednesday that it “smells of corrupt use of government authority at the highest levels.”
He expanded on that comment Thursday on CNN, telling “New Day” that this appears to be “a line that is rarely crossed.”
“There’s certainly reasonable suspicion that criminal acts have been involved here. Not only abuse of governmental power for political purposes, but we have reckless endangerment of people’s lives and possibly criminally negligent homicide,” Lesniak said.
“Those investigations have to be pursued by the authorities of the U.S. attorney’s office.”
A series of emails and text messages released Wednesday revealed that Christie’s deputy chief of staff and two of his top appointees at the Port Authority were deeply involved in a decision to close a pair of access lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D) had declined to endorse Christie for re-election, unlike many other Democratic municipal officials in the state.
Lesniak said the line was crossed because people’s lives were “endangered.” He referenced the report that the lane closures caused delayed emergency-response times on at least four occasions. That included an incident in which a group of paramedics tried to reach an unconscious 91-year-old woman. She later died at a hospital of cardiac arrest. An official, however, did not specifically point to the delayed response times as the cause of death.
Still, Lesniak said that was more than enough cause for investigation.
“Someone died here,” he said. “Now, whether it was criminally negligent homicide, we don’t know. Someone died as a result of an abuse of governmental authority. That certainly has to be investigated.”
The Record, the newspaper that first broke the news of the documents’ release, also questioned on Thursday whether the Christie administration complied with a public-records request filed by the newspaper last month.
At least one document released on Wednesday meets the conditions of The Record’s public-records request, but the Christie administration stonewalled the newspaper’s request.
The Record has more:
Part of that request, filed on Dec. 17 under the state Open Public Records Act, sought emails sent between David Wildstein — the Christie appointee at the Port Authority who ordered the lane closures — and certain employees in the Governor’s Office, including Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman.
At least one of the documents that became public Wednesday meets that description. Wildstein sent a message from his personal email account to Drewniak’s official account and to a personal account of Bridget Anne Kelly, a member of Christie’s senior staff who emerged Wednesday at the center of the controversy. The Sept. 12 email contained a statement that was later issued by the Port Authority saying that the bridge lane closures were part of a “traffic safety” review.
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