N.J. Gov. Chris Christie hires firm for review of traffic scandal

By Angela Delli Santi

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16 2014 12:19 p.m. MST

In this Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 file photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie arrives to deliver his State Of The State address at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie, eager to get on with business amid a scandal over traffic jams that appear to have manufactured by aides, is meeting Thursday morning, Jan. 16, 2014, with homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy even as the Legislature prepares to issue new subpoenas as part of its investigation.

Julio Cortez, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he has hired a legal team headed up by a former federal prosecutor to help the administration conduct its own review of an apparent political payback scandal and to help his office deal with multiple investigations, including by the U.S. attorney.

Former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro will lead the team from the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the administration said. The firm will "review best practices for office operations and information flow, and assist with document retention and production," the administration said in a three-paragraph statement.

The U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey and the Legislature are looking into a plot that shut down lanes to the George Washington Bridge for four days in September, causing massive traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee. The plot apparently was hatched by Christie's aides as a political vendetta, possibly because Fort Lee's Democratic mayor wouldn't endorse the Republican governor's re-election.

At a news conference last week, Christie said he would continue interviewing his senior staff to determine if there is any other information he needs to know and if he needs to take any further action, but he did not indicate his review would go further than that.

The governor's statement said the hiring of the law firm "will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation."

Mastro was an assistant U.S. attorney who specialized in organized crime cases and led the federal government's landmark racketeering suit that compelled the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to hold elections and undergo court supervision, the administration said. He also served as a deputy mayor of New York City.

His hiring was announced one day after the state Assembly tapped Reid Schar, the federal prosecutor who won the corruption conviction of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich of corruption, to aid in its investigation.

On Thursday, the Legislature was prepared to issue new subpoenas as part of its investigation.

The subpoenas will be served once the New Jersey Assembly votes to renew its authority to continue the inquiry in the new legislative session. The vote is a formality.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is leading the legislative investigation, said the new subpoenas will seek emails and text messages from key Christie aides. Documents that were subpoenaed earlier and released recently showed that a now-fired member of Christie's administration gave the go-ahead to shut down the traffic lanes.

The Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate hasn't been implicated, but the scandal has dogged him.

He planned to seek to turn the cameras away from the scandal and onto his work as governor during a visit Thursday to a firehouse on the Jersey shore, an area devastated by the October 2012 storm. He was to meet with homeowners.

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