The federal grand jury investigating the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge has subpoenaed the legislature’s Select Committee on Investigation and any records relating to testimony by Bill Baroni, the former executive director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who resigned from the bi-state agency amid scandal in 2013, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by PolitickerNJ.
According to the document, the Select Committee on Investigation’s attorney and co-chairs, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), were notified this week to deliver “any and all records obtained …. by the Committee in connection with its inquiry and investigation of the reduction of access lanes for the Borough of Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge.” It also asks for “any and all recordings of William E. Baroni before the New Jersey Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee on or about November 25, 2013.”
Baroni, a former Republican state senator appointed to one of the Port Authority’s top positions by Gov. Chris Christie in 2010, is thought to be a key figure among a group of staffers within Christie’s inner circle who were involved in the lane closures, which had Fort Lee gridlocked with traffic for days and which is now widely considered to have been an act of political retribution. It was Baroni who told lawmakers during his testimony in front of the Assembly Transportation Committee in November of 2013 that the lanes were closed for a study of traffic flow in the North Jersey city, and who shortly thereafter resigned from his post.
Evidence produced from hearings held by that Assembly committee as well as the joint Select Committee on Investigation in the weeks and months since, however, has suggested that there was likely no such traffic study, and materials obtained in January — including the now well-known “time for some traffic problems email” — indicate that the jam was probably arranged several weeks earlier by two close Christie staffers: his former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, and former Port Authority executive David Wildstein.
The subpoena is the second sign of life in recent weeks from the yearlong federal investigation into the Bridgegate scandal, led by U.S Attorney Paul Fishman, and comes as Christie prepares to announce whether he’ll run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Yesterday, it was reported that the investigation had subpoenaed Christie’s re-election campaign for documents regarding government meetings allegedly cancelled with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop after the Democrat declined to endorse the Republican governor.
Neither Wildstein, Kelly, Baroni or others involved in the scandal, including former chairman David Samson or Christie’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien, have themselves been subpoenaed to appear in front of a jury since the investigation began, though at least Wildstein is said to have met privately with prosecutors regarding the case.
In May, investigators did subpoena Port Authority attorney Phillip Kwon, a longtime Christie ally who had reportedly helped prepare Baroni’s testimony in front of the Transportation Committee.