New Jersey Republican lawmakers denounced the findings of the state legislative committee looking into Gov. Chris Christie's role in the lane closings of a major transportation bridge as a highly partisan waste of public money, even though the interim report did not accuse Christie of wrongdoing.
In their 119-page minority statement, Republican members of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee
that examined Christie's role in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing controversy called the investigation "a shiftless, broken political vehicle" driven by partisan Democrats.
"An opportunistic and power-hungry politician also used those reprehensible lane reassignments as cover, while leading a legislative committee to try to execute a two-pronged political mission: take down Governor Chris Christie, the biggest political threat to state and national Democrats," the statement said.
Republicans also called for an independent investigation into whether committee Democrats misused public funds to pursue their charges against Christie.
"With unfettered power, Democrat Select Committee co-chairs ran up exorbitant public costs, while providing little or no benefit to the residents of New Jersey. They proved to be some of the most-partisan elected officials in modern times, using public resources to apparently carry out a national Democrat mission to destroy a popular Republican governor all the while advancing their own political ambitions," Republicans said.
While the investigation failed to find evidence Christie was involved in ordering commuter lanes to the George Washington Bridge closed, the interim report left the door open to further inquiry.
"The Committee is also not in a position currently to conclude what Governor Christie himself knew about the lane closures or when and how his knowledge of these events developed.
"While there is evidence that the Governor was informed of the lane closures while they were in progress, the Committee cannot evaluate the reliability of this evidence as it has yet to hear from the witness — [then-Port Authority official and Christie ally David] Wildstein — who has claimed to have contemporaneously told the Governor of the closures," the interim report
Speaking to reporters after the report's release, Democratic state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, one of the panel's co-chairs, emphasized that point, saying "we don't have enough information to draw conclusions in certain aspects. This is a summary of where we've been and a road map of where we need to go," reported NJ.com
The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey is continuing with its investigation into the 2013 lane closings, NJ.com reported.
The backdrop for the release of the interim report is the 2016 presidential campaign and whether the investigation would impact Christie's possible run for the Republican nomination.
"It seems to me that in New Jersey, people are over the Bridgegate scandal, and nationally, it is not even on the public’s radar. I’m not speaking to whatever the future may hold," said Adam Geller, CEO of the Republican polling firm National Research Inc. and Christie’s pollster, according to PolitickerNJ
Regardless of the report's impact, Christie would have his work cut out for him if he were to face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll
The survey showed Clinton, the potential Democratic candidate, would defeat Christie by 42 percent to 36 percent.
The survey also found that voters only gave Christie a 36 percent favorable rating, compared to a 35 percent unfavorable rating, and provided insight into some of the challenges his candidacy would face.
Half of respondents said Clinton was better than Christie at having a vision for the future, while 33 percent preferred the New Jersey governor. Clinton also bested Christie in terms of which candidate shares their values by 48 percent to 34 percent, and leads 48 percent to 37 percent on the question of who would be a strong leader.
The survey of 1,001 adults was conducted Dec. 3-5
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