In Chris Christie scandal, more documents, more questions

For Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., things are probably about to get worse before they get better.

Democrats in the New Jersey state legislature were expecting about 20 subpoenas to be returned Monday that could shed light on whether the governor knew that his staff had ordered the closure of several lanes on the George Washington Bridge as an apparent act of retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. It was a subpoena from the body that first revealed the damning email that connected Christie’s top aides to the controversial bridge closure, an email from now-former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Ann Kelly that read, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

But some extensions have been granted of the submission deadline, according to The Associated Press.

 Every time the scandal begins to recede, a new development thrusts it back into the spotlight. The most recent one came Friday, when the attorney for David Wildstein, who was appointed by Christie to the Port Authority and later resigned after the scandal broke, said in a letter that "evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference."

The allegations will give New Jersey lawmakers (not to mention federal officials) some fresh material to search for: just what evidence Wildstein’s attorney was referring to. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Assemblyman John Wisniewski said he and other lawmakers “don’t really know what the evidence is,” considering it was Wildstein's 900-page document dump that led to the initial Bridget Ann Kelly bombshell. Later in the interview, he said “we don’t have any proof” that Christie ordered the shutdown of lanes on the bridge.

“It's a curious choice of words which may be he knows somebody else that has information. Maybe this is a conversation he had. Maybe this is something else that is not within the scope of the subpoena the committee issued,” he said.

Wildstein also invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when he testified in front of Wisniewski’s committee earlier this month.

The charge from Wildstein’s camp prompted Christie’s allies to hit back hard on Saturday. In a memo to donors, columnists and pundits Saturday, the governor’s political team said Wildstein was just looking for a way to save himself. They noted a lack of evidence, highlighted articles critical of his work and even dredged up unflattering stories from his childhood.

Christie’s defenders also came to his aid across the talk shows Sunday morning. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the New Jersey governor “a friend” and said he should not have to step down as head of the Republican Governors Association (RGA).

“I think he's been a fantastic governor. Right now, all we know is one person's word against another. You can't base any conclusion on such a thing. And so unless something else is known or made clear, I don't see why you would change what's going on right now. I don't think he should step down, because nothing has been proven. And you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kinds of situations in my judgment,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal,  R-La., who is currently the vice chairman of the RGA, came to the same conclusion as Ryan.

“With the RGA, no one governor is more important than the other. You're right. I was chairman last year. I'm vice chairman this year. Chris [Christie] is chairman this year. That doesn't really matter. What really matters is the RGA is a place for our governors to come together to discuss policy,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union”. When host Candy Crowley said his words weren’t exactly a “ringing endorsement,” Jindal said definitely that Christie should not step down and pointed to other successful Republican governors across the country.

   On CBS News “Face the Nation,” former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said people should wait and see what happens.

“So far, there's no evidence to suggest that he's not telling the truth. I think the governor knows the consequences. If he's lying, it's a really bad situation. If he's not lying, then something very unfair is being done to him,” he said. 

Giuliani also said there were “big credibility issues” with Wildstein’s assertions, noting that the former official is looking for someone to pay his legal bills and also seeking immunity, and that he hasn’t turned over any evidence.

Even Wisniewski, in an interview with “Face the Nation,” admitted any discussions of impeachment were “premature.”

“We don't have enough facts to even get to that conversation. We need to get all the facts on the table. We need to make decisions about who knew what when. And when that's done, maybe it might be appropriate at that time to have that conversation. But clearly we're way ahead of that right now,” he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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