Chris Christie's approval rating stabilizes

New Jerseyans' opinions of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., have stabilized, a new poll reveals, however their trust in the governor in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal is still lagging.

Christie's job approval rating is 51 percent in a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Wednesday, statistically the same as his 50 percent standing in February, though that's a double-digit drop since the George Washington Bridge scandal broke in January. Forty-one percent of the Garden State's residents disapprove while 43 percent of registered N.J. voters disapprove.

The poll comes on the heels of a Christie-ordered report that looked into the scandal - a report that exonerated the governor from any wrongdoing.

"The bleeding has stopped for now. The poll was conducted after the ... report was released, but this does not seem to be the reason why Christie's ratings have stabilized. In fact, few New Jerseyans agree with the report's conclusions," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Only 30 percent saw the report as "a fair and unbiased" investigation and only 32 percent feel that Christie has been completely honest about what he knew about the lane closings.

Christie, who has long been considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has seen that prospect jeopardized by the scandal, and 62 percent of New Jersey residents feel his presidential prospects are hurt by the controversy.

The poll surveyed 803 New Jersey adults from March 30 to April 1 and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percent.

Meanwhile, a New Jersey legislative committee probing a political payback operation carried out by Christie's aides and associates plans to subpoena interview transcripts and other documents from the lawyers the governor hired to carry out an internal investigation, the committee co-chairman said Monday.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski said lawyers retained by the Christie administration to conduct an internal investigation into the scandal appeared to have access to information that the committee hasn't seen.

Wisniewski also said lawyers at the firm, Gibson Dunn, appeared to withhold documents subpoenaed by the legislative panel while their own report on the lane closings was being compiled.

Lawyer Randy Mastro released the report last Thursday concluding that Christie, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, had no advance knowledge of the plot to stall traffic in Fort Lee, apparently to punish the local mayor, who did not endorse Christie for re-election. The report also dismissed allegations that members of Christie's administration tied Superstorm Sandy recovery funds to approval of a favored redevelopment project.

Democrats blasted the findings as incomplete because the lawyers did not interview key players in the traffic jam plot or the mayor who made the Sandy aid allegations.

After the 345-page report was being released by Mastro, Christie faced off with reporters on Friday during his first press conference in two months.

The legislative committee has subpoenaed more than two dozen people and organizations close to Christie in its probe of the lane closings, which created four days of traffic gridlock in Fort Lee until the lanes were ordered reopened by the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge. Patrick Foye, the New York appointee who reopened the lanes, said he had no idea what Christie's appointees had been up to.

Five people close to Christie has lost their jobs amid the scandal, including Bridget Kelly, the deputy chief of staff Christie fired after learning she set the operation in motion with the message, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Wisniewski said the panel still does not know who authorized Kelly to send the email and why.

Federal authorities are conducting a parallel criminal investigation.

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