A third federal investigation into the Bridgegate scandal may be ramping up. Last month, the U. S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee got suspicious enough about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to write a "what the hell is going on here?" letter to the Port Authority. Late yesterday, the Port Authority submitted answers to a blizzard of questions posed by committee chairman Jay Rockefeller.
Rockefeller wants to know what oversight the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority exercised regarding the lane closures, which clogged Fort Lee streets Sept. 9-13, and led to the resignation or firing of at least three officials close to Gov. Chris Christie inside the agency and the governor's office.Read Rockefeller's letter here. It's one ugly letter. Rockefeller was very concerned about what appeared to be evidence of "political appointees abusing their power to hamper interstate commerce and safety without public notice." He also wrote that based on a review of recent committee testimony, there was no evidence of a traffic study. One of the questions Rockefeller posed is very telling. It asks, in no uncertain terms, whether a traffic study had even been planned.
Rockefeller wrote in a Dec. 17 letter to Port Authority Chairman David Samson and Vice Chairman Scott Rechler that his committee has oversight authority over the bi-state agency, which was chartered by Congress in 1921, and he was concerned that the closures might have threatened safety and impeded interstate commerce.
Specifically, Rockefeller has asked for details involving: the agency's standard process for conducting lane closures and/or traffic studies, including assessment of their impact and notification of the public and emergency responders; how the two states share information about closures and other operations; what process was followed in this particular case; what prompted the closures and was there ever a traffic study?
Rockefeller also wanted to know who approved Baroni's Nov. 25 testimony to a state Assembly panel asserting the closures were linked to a traffic study; did the board of commissioners review his testimony; and were any concerns raised?
He also asked what the board is doing in response to testimony that staff members complied with closure orders they knew to be highly irregular because they feared for their jobs?
For those of you keeping score, this makes three federal investigations into this affair, along with separate investigations by the FBI and the U. S. Attorney for New Jersey. And we may be getting a fourth--Rockefeller has also asked the federal Department of Transportation to look into the matter.
Looks like Christie is about to be on the receiving end of the same thing that he administered to targets of investigations he launched as a federal prosecutor--a slow-motion strangulation.