TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A handful of emails sent to or from Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager are due to be released Monday in a court filing by a New Jersey legislative panel investigating a political payback scandal.
The latest emails involving Bill Stepien are being turned over to a judge who is considering whether to enforce a subpoena, said Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who co-chairs the legislative panel. Though the emails do not contain groundbreaking content, Weinberg says, they help establish a pattern of communication between Stepien and others in the governor’s circle responsible for carrying out traffic lane closures near the George Washington Bridge.
The scandal has overshadowed Christie’s administration and raised questions about his viability as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.
The panel claims the existence of additional emails bolsters the subpoena’s validity. The subpoena seeks emails and other documents involving the traffic jams, apparently orchestrated to punish a Democratic adversary of Christie’s.
Stepien and former Christie aide Bridget Kelly have asked a judge in Mercer County to quash the subpoenas. Other people and organizations close to the Republican governor have complied or are in the process of turning over documents.
Attorney Kevin Marino, who represents Stepien, has requested that the panel immediately forward him any additional emails.
He argued in court last week that complying with the legislative subpoena would violate Stepien’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The U.S. attorney’s office is conducting a parallel criminal investigation.
Marino said Stepien’s name appeared on five emails, including three documents that were forwarded to him by Bill Baroni or David Wildstein, Christie’s top two appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the bridge. Both have since resigned.
Marino argued that the volume and content of the correspondence with Stepien’s name doesn’t justify the panel’s demand for additional documents dating back more than a year.
The judge is also expected to hear from the state panel Monday on why it does not believe it has the power to grant immunity to Stepien and Kelly in exchange for documents.
A ruling isn’t expected until at least the end of the month.
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