FBI Quizzes Mayor's Aides Over Christie Sandy Threat Claims

Image: FBI Quizzes Mayor's Aides Over Christie Sandy Threat Claims Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, left, and New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 09:52 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The FBI has begun questioning witnesses in its investigation into whether aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy relief funds from Hoboken unless the city's mayor approved of a development project favored by the governor.

The U.S. Attorney's Office met with Democratic Mayor Dawn Zimmer for several hours Sunday after she recounted the threat she says she received from Christie's Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

The agency has since questioned Dan Bryan, Zimmer's chief of staff, and Juan Melli, her communications director, three sources with direct knowledge of the probe told NBC News.

The two witnesses are among at least five who Zimmer referred to authorities, and agents have instructed key witnesses to preserve all documents and emails related to the allegations.

The investigation hinges on an account by Zimmer about a conversation she had with Guadagno after a political event on May 17, 2013.

According to an entry in Zimmer’s personal diary, Guadagno pulled her aside in the parking lot in Hoboken and said, "I need to move ahead with the Rockefeller project. The word is you're against it and you need to move it forward or we're not going to be able to help you. I know it's not right. These things should not be connected, but they are. If you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it."

Zimmer also said that New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable told her, of the Rockefeller Group project and the Sandy relief, "If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you."

David Mello, a member of the Hoboken City Council, previously told NBC News that Zimmer told him about the Guadagno conversation last summer. "I distinctly remember [Zimmer] saying that the lieutenant governor said, 'If this came out, she would deny it'," he said, adding, "I thought it was absurd and outrageous."

He also said that when he asked Zimmer whether she would go public about what happened, she said she wouldn't because she did not want to jeopardize further funding for the city.

Guadagno on Tuesday categorically denied Zimmer's account, calling it "false," "offensive," and "illogical."

Christie is now facing multiple state and federal probes into the alleged misuse of Sandy Relief funds and the controversy related to bridge-gate.

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