Feds Step Up Probe Into Christie's Aide in Bridge Scandal

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 08:28 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Two investigators have visited the home of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, as federal prosecutors appear to be actively investigating the role that the governor's aides played in the bridge-gate scandal.

According to court documents, Stepien was not home at the time, and his lawyer Kevin Marino has declined a request by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to interview Stepien, according to NJ.com.

Marino admitted that Stepien is under federal investigation in the probe surrounding the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political payback for the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign.

The lawyer said Stepien was first contacted by an FBI agent in mid-January by phone seeking an interview. Stepien, who worked with Christie on both his campaigns for governor and had been his pick to lead the New Jersey Republican Party, turned down the request.

In mid-February, the court documents showed that the FBI agent and a criminal investigator from the U.S. Department of Justice visited Stepien's home in Princeton.

The documents said, they "questioned his landlord about his conduct and his character —  was he was married, a rowdy tenant, did he pay his rent on time — and left behind their calling cards, which identified them as criminal investigators and left no doubt as to the nature of their investigation."

The U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, confirmed last month that his office was looking into the lane closings, according to The New York Times.

Christie has cut ties with Stepien and fired his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who sent an email calling for traffic problems on the bridge last year.

Stepien's lawyer claimed in the court documents that because his client is being investigated by federal authorities, he should not have to comply with a subpoena demanding that Stepien hand over documents to a state legislative committee also probing the traffic jam.

Stepien has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in declining to cooperate with the panel, which asked him to turn over calendars and electronic devices that might show communications regarding the closings.

Kelly is also refusing to comply with a subpoena on Fifth Amendment grounds. Both their cases will be heard in a Trenton courtroom next week, the Times reported.

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