Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hiring by Christie Suggests He May Be on the Defensive

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hiring by Christie Suggests He May Be on the Defensive

Article excerpt

TRENTON, N.J. -- As the New Jersey Assembly voted Thursday to authorize what Democrats and Republicans alike called a historic investigation into abuses of power by Gov. Chris Christie's administration, Mr. Christie seemed to be maneuvering against the inquiry, hiring a high-powered defense lawyer and resisting questions about whether he would cooperate with the Legislature's efforts.

The investigative panel created by the Assembly issued subpoenas to 17 individuals and three organizations that members believe may be able to answer why Mr. Christie's deputy chief of staff gave the signal to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey to New York City in September in an act of political punishment.

Mr. Christie's administration announced that it had hired Randy Mastro, a longtime associate of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, to conduct an internal review and cooperate with the investigation announced last week by the U.S. attorney's office into the lane closings, which gridlocked emergency vehicles, commuters and school buses in Fort Lee, N.J., for four days.

But while the statement said Mr. Mastro would also assist with "other appropriate inquiries," it left unsaid whether Mr. Christie intended to cooperate with the Legislature. When asked directly whether the governor considered the legislative inquiries appropriate, Christie spokesman Colin Reed declined to answer. "I have nothing to add beyond the statement," he said.

The day's events underscored the sudden reversal of fortune for the governor, who just more than a week ago was widely considered the leading candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.

While the governor's political aides have often described his strategy as "governing on the offensive," his hiring of Mr. Mastro suggested that he was on the defensive.

Members of the special Assembly investigative panel declined to say who was subpoenaed until the papers had been received. But earlier they had said they expected the list to include members of the governor's Statehouse and campaign staffs whose names were in documents revealed last week, outlining cooperation between the governor's staff, his campaign and his operatives at the Port Authority to close the lanes and then cover up the political motive. …

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