WESTFIELD – It was a breach of confidentiality, Gov. Chris Christie said of leaked Supreme Court nominee questionnaires – so much of a breach it may have been a crime.
“The actual leaking (of questionnaires) never happened before,” he said. “That, by the way, could be a crime…The underlying leak of the documents to the press (could lead to) civil and criminal penalties.”
But Christie said, “That’s up to law enforcement to decide what they want to do.” In the meantime, he is urging state Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, to take the appropriate action. “We didn’t write these rules,” he said regarding the chamber rule that bars release of the internal documents used for vetting candidates. “I take great encouragement in Sen. Sweeney’s response.”
As U.S. Attorney, Christie said he “conducted a number of different leak investigations over time,” but found that finding the leak was harder that it may seem. “Very difficult to get to the bottom of,” he said.
Information from the questionnaires appeared in a Star-Ledger story on Tuesday. Christie said laws protecting the release of confidential medical information, HIPAA laws, may have been violated. “I don’t know whether it was a Republican or a Democrat (or) a staff member at OLS,” he said. “I am not going to permit my nominees…to be smeared though (this) process.”
Aside from the actual leak, he also picked out state Sens. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck; Ray Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth, and Paul Sarlo, (D-36), Wood-Ridge, for comments they made to the press about information or lack of information on the questionnaires. “They promised them upfront that it would become strictly confidential,” he said of the questionnaires. “These guys don’t deserve this treatment.”
Asked whether Christie supported the Legislature’s call for release of nominee tax returns, he said, “I’m not responding to calls for anything for these nominees.” He said tax return information would have been supplied if the lawmakers’ questionnaire asked for it. “Change your questionnaire,” Christie said.