TRENTON, New Jersey — Twenty people and organizations close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were due to turn over emails, text messages and other documents as the presidential prospect challenges accusations he knew about an apparent vindictive plot to block traffic near the busy George Washington Bridge to Manhattan.
The subpoena returns were likely to be voluminous as a state legislative committee seeks to unravel how high up Christie's chain of command the order to shut traffic lanes went, whether the operation was meant to punish a Democratic adversary, and if so, why?
New Jersey legislators are investigating whether Christie aides engineered the lane closures to send a message to the town's Democratic mayor, who did not endorse the governor ahead of his resounding re-election last November. The U.S. Attorney's office also is investigating.
Christie, who has been urged to run for president in 2016, has denied knowing about the planning or execution of the operation, and has said he learned that members of his circle were involved after an original batch of subpoenaed documents were published on Jan. 8.
However, one former loyalist, David Wildstein, indicated Friday there was contradictory evidence to show that the governor knew about the closings as they were happening. Christie has refuted the accusation.
The unannounced lane closures leading to the George Washington Bridge caused massive gridlock in September in Fort Lee, the small northern New Jersey town across the Hudson River from upper Manhattan. The closures delayed emergency vehicles and school buses, tying up some commuters for hours over four mornings.
Five people close to the Republican governor have been fired or resigned amid the scandal, including Wildstein, who is seeking immunity from prosecution.
Fellow Republicans, meanwhile, remained adamant that Christie should not resign from his post as chairman of the Republican Governors Association following Wildstein's latest claim, for which he has so far produced no evidence.
Almost all the subpoena recipients have requested more time from the New Jersey joint legislative panel leading the state's investigation. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the panel's co-chairman, told The Associated Press that some extensions of Monday's deadline were granted. The requests of others who asked to produce documents on a rolling basis were also being considered.
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