A top aid in new Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration was questioned for two hours by a federal grand jury. Michael Drewniak, a long time aid for the Republican Governor was being questioned in a federal probe over bridge closings in Sept. 2013 in Fort Lee, NJ that was said to be in retribution for the town’s mayor, Mark Sokolich not endorsing Christie’s bid for reelection.
While Drewniak is not a target in the investigation, he was in federal court for several hours to answer questions about the closures. Drewniak’s attorney, Anthony Iacullo stated that the US Attorney’s office assured him that his client is being treated as a witness and declined to comment any further.
Two former aids have been blamed for the closures as Gov. Christie maintains that he had no prior knowledge or involvement in the scandal. Last month, a probe that was commissioned by Christie reported their findings and concluded that through extensive questioning of over 70 witnesses and over 250,000 documents that the governor was not involved.
Many say that the investigation that was commissioned by Christie himself and cost the taxpayers $1 million dollars was insufficient because it did not include interviews with the key players in the scandal, including Bridgette Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and David Wildstein, a former port authority employee, both of whom are believed to have originated and implemented the plan.
Although the independent commission cleared Christie of any involvement, there are still several investigations that are still ongoing at the state and federal level. US Attorney Paul Fishman launched an investigation into the closures in January to investigated whether or not any federal laws had been broken and the investigation by the state legislature is to determine how far up in the Christie administration the order to close lanes went and why it happened.
Drewniak, who is Christie’s Press Secretary and has been with the governor since he was a US Attorney for New Jersey had received emails about the lane closures, although those emails were received after it had already taken place.
Attorneys for the two people said to be responsible, Kelly and Wildstein say that their clients have not received any requests for questioning by the Grand Jury, however, both Kelly and Wildstein are trying to have subpoenas withdrawn due to their 5th amendment rights that protects against self-incrimination, however, most people in Christie’s administration have handed over requested documents to state and federal authorities.
A judge will be issuing an order next week on whether or not both Kelly and Wildstein will be required to hand over requested documents to the state legislature about the scandal and the legislature will be in session next week as well to vote on whether or not to issue subpoenas to the lawyers whom Christie hired in the independent investigation for the interviews they used to clear the governor of involvement in the closures.
Lawyers for Kelly state that if she is granted immunity from any criminal charges from the US Attorney’s office, she will be willing to fully cooperate with investigators.
By Nathaniel Pownell
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