HACKENSACK — Federal investigators have subpoenaed documents compiled by the legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, a panel co-chair confirmed Friday.
While the U.S. attorney’s investigation continues, the Securities and Exchange Commission is launching an inquiry of its own into possible misuse of funds by the Port Authority, according to the legal news website Main Justice.
The explosive emails and text messages, obtained and first reported by The Record, sparked a political firestorm that extended far beyond New Jersey and Fort Lee.
The SEC is looking into the way Gov. Chris Christie's administration convinced the Port Authority’s counsel to justify spending $1.8 billion from Port-issued bonds to rebuild the Pulaski Skyway and other New Jersey roads that are not owned or controlled by the Port Authority, the report says.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, sent a letter to the SEC and to the Internal Revenue Service earlier this month asking for an investigation. Lesniak said Friday that he did not know whether an inquiry was launched.
The new federal prosecutor subpoena came from the office of Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, committee co-chairwoman, said the subpoena requests all the records the panel has obtained through dozens of its own subpoenas. The committee has gathered thousands of pages of emails, text messages and other documents from people in Gov. Chris Christie’s office and in the Port Authority.
“The U.S. attorney’s office will have access to all of it,” Weinberg said. She said the subpoena was “not unexpected” and was received in the past two weeks. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, panel co-chairman, could not be reached for comment.
Rebekah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment, saying the office doesn’t speak publicly about the specifics of an ongoing investigation.
Critics of the legislative panel have questioned whether it can continue its investigation into the lane closures while the U.S. attorney’s office is conducting its own inquiry. But the committee leaders have maintained they are not stepping on federal prosecutors’ toes. Weinberg emphasized Friday that the lawmakers are complying with requests from the prosecutor.
“We’ve cooperated with the U.S. attorney’s office. We’ll continue to do that,” she said. The federal subpoena was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The panel issued four new subpoenas earlier this week, seeking testimony from Michael Drewniak, Christie’s primary spokesman; Christina Renna, a governor’s office staffer who resigned amid the scandal; Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye; and Port Authority board member William “Pat” Schuber.
The committee is crafting its subpoenas carefully, a person close to the legislative inquiry said earlier this week. Its four newest subpoenas target people who may have information about the bridge scandal, but who are not so closely involved in it that they may be targets of the ongoing federal investigation, the person said.