Federal Grand Jury Probing Christie Bridge Scandal

Image: Federal Grand Jury Probing Christie Bridge Scandal Mike Drewniak

Friday, 04 Apr 2014 09:18 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A probe commissioned by Gov. Chris Christie cleared him in the Bridge-gate scandal, but the New Jersey governor's woes may not be over – a federal grand jury is looking into the case.

ABC News reported the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey has convened a panel to investigate the involvement of Christie's office in the scandal that has rocked his administration – and squeezed him out of the GOP presidential frontrunners.

Convening the grand jury shows the federal investigation has now moved to the "criminal phase," ABC News reported.

Urgent: Do You Like Chris Christie? Vote Now

Christie press secretary Mike Drewniak took the stand Friday – and was inside the federal courthouse in Newark, N.J., for two hours. But lawyer Anthony Iacullo insisted his client isn't a target of the probe.

"We're here to answer questions and that's what Michael did today," he told ABC News.

"I'm not going to get into the specifics as to what would be discussed in the grand jury," he added. "I would say though that Mike is a witness and we have been assured that he continues to be a witness throughout these proceedings and Mike has continued to cooperate as requested by the government into this inquiry."

Iacullo also wouldn't comment about whether Christie knew of, or had a direct role in the shutdown of lanes leading to the busy George Washington Bridge last September that caused massive traffic jams.

The issue erupted into a major scandal when Christie acknowledged in January a top aide and an associate orchestrated the closure.

Christie, however, has repeatedly denied knowing about the plot or being involved in it.

ABC News also reported state prosecutors are monitoring the federal case, and would continue the probe if the feds turn it over to them. A spokesman for acting New Jersey Attorney General declined to comment.

Lawyers for Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, two former Christie associates who are key figures in the scandal, said their clients have not been called to testify before the federal grand jury, The Associated Press reported. A lawyer for Bill Baroni, a former Christie deputy with the agency that runs the bridge, refused to comment.

The legislative panel will meet next week to vote on issuing subpoenas for the interviews Christie's lawyers used as the basis for clearing the governor. A judge's ruling is also expected soon on whether Kelly and Stepien will be required to turn over documents to the legislative investigators involving the lane closings.

Kelly and Stepien are fighting to have subpoenas withdrawn by asserting their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Most of the people and organizations close to Christie that have received subpoenas are handing over the requested documents.

Urgent: Do You Like Chris Christie? Vote Now

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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