Moments ago, a hearing started in which the ongoing investigation of the George Washington bridge closure will focus on the role of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christe’s former deputy chief of staff. The state legislative committee investigating the matter seeks to retrieve subpoenaed documents from Bridget Anne Kelly, and Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager. Just like in the case of IRS commissioner Lois Lerner, so Kelly is expected to plead the fifth. Watch the hearing below.
As reported earlier by Bloomberg:
A New Jersey judge is set to hear arguments today over whether two former aides to Governor Chris Christie must comply with subpoenas by lawmakers seeking documents related to the George Washington Bridge traffic jams.
Bridget Anne Kelly and William Stepien asserted their constitutional right to silence, saying that producing documents would harm them in a criminal investigation by U.S. prosecutors. Kelly’s e-mail saying “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” came almost a month before Christie allies directed the shutdown of access lanes to the bridge from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12.
A legislative committee investigating the lane closings has urged a judge in Trenton, New Jersey, to rule that the Fifth Amendment doesn’t protect Kelly and Stepien from having to produce documents. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson will decide whether they must hand over documents that could shed light on who ordered the tie-ups and why — questions that may imperil Christie’s possible White House bid in 2016.
And courtesy of NJ.com, here is a deeper look at they key players in this morning’s hearing in Trenton:
BRIDGET ANNE KELLY
Former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Chris Christie
Kelly was a longtime staffer to state Assemblyman David Russo (R-Bergen) before Christie hired her in 2010 as director of legislative relations. In April, Kelly, 41, was promoted to Christie’s deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, dealing with officials at all levels of government, faith-based and community groups and trade associations. But Christie fired her on Jan. 9 after emails surfaced showing she apparently had advance knowledge of the lane closures at the George Washington bridge. In a now-infamous email she sent weeks before the closures, Kelly said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
MICHAEL CRTICHLEY SR.
Bridget Anne Kelly’s attorney
Described as having the style of “a professional fighter” who throws “questions like punches,” Critchley has represented clients as diverse as failed presidential candidate John Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter, the Archdiocese of Newark, and former Essex County Executive James Treffinger. He is perhaps best known for leading the defense team for 20 reputed members of the Lucchese crime family acquitted of racketeering charges in 1988. He represented Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, acquitted of bribery charges in the 2009 FBI sting that netted 46 politicians and rabbis. His pro bono work included a $5 million settlement from the state for a foster child abused by his family.
Christie’s former campaign manager
Stepien was one of Christie’s closest aides, the political ace who ran both of his campaigns for governor and a behind-the-scenes enforcer who kept Republican troops in line in every county and township. He cut his teeth working with Michael DuHaime, Christie’s top strategist, on Giuliani’s presidential campaign and other races. Stepien also worked closely with Bridget Anne Kelly; Christie fired Kelly and cut ties with Stepien as the bridge scandal began to unfold.
Bill Stepien’s attorney
A prominent criminal defense lawyer, Marino’s name often shows up in New Jersey’s biggest legal battles. He defended a Goldman Sachs programmer from West Orange accused of stealing the bank’s software code. He defended a West Windsor businessman accused of stealing $13 million in tax dollars and worker compensation premiums. He has represented cities and contractors fighting over millions of dollars.
Democratic state Assemblyman from Middlesex County, co-chair of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation
Wisniewski, 51, served as Democratic state chairman from 2010-13, during which he honed his skills as the party’s main attack dog against Christie. Wisniewski also led Democrats’ successful effort to redraw the legislative district map, putting in place districts that have helped Democrats retain their majority in both houses of the Legislature. Since 2002, Wisniewski has chaired the Assembly’s influential transportation committee, which put him in place to help lead the investigation into the bridge controversy.
Democratic state Senator from Bergen County
Weinberg, 79, is a 22-year veteran of the New Jersey Legislature. In 2009, then-Gov. Jon Corzine selected her as his running mate in his unsuccessful re-election bid against Christie. Weinberg, whose district includes Fort Lee, was among the first lawmakers to question why the lanes were closed, filing a public records request seeking information and documents related to the issue in November. She is now co-chair of the joint legislative committee investigating the scandal.
Attorney for the joint legislative committee
Schar gained prominence for being the federal prosecutor who led the corruption case against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was found guilty of multiple corruption charges in June 2011 — including those related to his attempt to essentially sell the Illinois U.S. Senate seat that had been vacated by President Obama. Schar is now a partner at the law firm Jenner & Block LLP and co-chairs the firm’s “white collar defense and investigations practice.” He was hired in January as special counsel to the state legislative committee investigating the bridge controversy.
JUSTICE MARY C. JACOBSON
Superior Court judge
Jacobson, a 60-year-old Bayonne native, was appointed to a Superior Court justice in 2001 by then-Gov. Christie Whitman. She gained national attention last September when she ruled that New Jersey must allow same-sex marriages in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.