On Face the Nation, Gov. Christie under scrutiny

(CBS News) -- The New Jersey Assemblyman leading the investigation into the shutdown of three lanes last September on the George Washington Bridge expressed skepticism on Sunday that Gov. Chris Christie could have been kept in the dark by his top advisers, who have been accused of orchestrating the scheme as an act of political payback. Documents revealed last week suggested that two port authority officials, working with Christie's deputy chief of staff and his campaign manager, planned the lane closures, which caused relentless traffic. The move was an apparent attempt to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., who had supported Gov. Christie's democratic opponent in last year's gubernatorial race.

"I don’t think it’s possible for all of those people to be involved and know and for the governor to absolutely have no communication," Assemblyman John Wisniewski told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. "Remember, this was in the midst of his re-election campaign. Any governor running for re-election is going to want to know about problems that come up, if for no other reason to know how to respond when asked a question.”

The assemblyman's comments were covered widely, including in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, The Associated Press, Fox News, and the Asbury Park Press.

The New Jersey Assembly announced on Monday that Wisniewski will lead a special investigation into the alleged wrongdoing. His committee will have subpoena power and has retained a special counsel, according to a press release distributed today.

Even if no further revelations implicate Gov. Christie in the scandal, the political fallout of his top aides' wrongdoing could have long-lasting effects. Gov. Christie has been considered a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and he is the current chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

When Mr. Schieffer asked Sen. Marco Rubio for his reaction to the scandal, the senator declined to comment. Later on the broadcast, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D - MD, shared Assemblyman Wisniewski's incredulity about Gov. Christie's claim to ignorance of his aides' actions. "I think we need to see what comes out," Rep. Cummings said. I've got to tell you, though, when I look at Christie’s style... it’s hard for me to believe that he was blindsided by anything."

Moving beyond the unfolding drama in New Jersey, both lawmakers took time to comment of the release of Robert Gates' new memoir, in which the former Secretary of Defense is critical of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and Hillary Clinton, among others. Both Sen. Rubio and Rep. Cummings expressed reservations about publishing an insider critique of the president while he is still in office.

"My preference would be that people would refrain from writing these sorts of things until the President is out of office," Sen. Rubio said, "because I think it undermines the ability to conduct foreign policy." 

Nonetheless, Sen. Rubio seized on Secretary Gates' criticisms of President Obama's foreign policy, particularly in Afghanistan. "At the same time that he announced the surge, he also announced an exit date and strategy, thereby emboldening the Taliban to believe they could wait us out," Sen. Rubio said. "And the result is now evident across the globe. Our allies see us as unreliable. And our enemies feel emboldened." 

Rep. Cummings expressed support for the president and highlighted the parts of the book which praise Obama's leadership. But he also felt that the timing of the book's publication might have been misguided. "My one quibble is that when we've got troops in harm’s way, Bob, it does concern me that these kind of comments are made," Rep. Cummings said. He added, "I just wish he may have-- he could have waited a little while."

Sen. Rubio and Rep. Cummings' comments were picked up in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and McClatchy Tribune.

  • Peter Fulham

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