The chairman of the Senate transportation committee said Thursday he will hold off on conducting hearings into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) bridge controversy if federal prosecutors are also investigating, although he's still not convinced that Christie is telling the whole story.
"I don't put us out of the game entirely," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told reporters at the Capitol, according to the Bergen Record. "I just don't think a hearing at this point -- it would be seen as entirely political and my guess is we wouldn’t get many answers."
"I think they got a big fat problem there," Rockefeller added. "Am I convinced [Christie] didn't know about it? No I'm not."
Rockefeller heads the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In December, he asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to conduct a review into why the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey abruptly shut down two of the three access lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., a move that caused massive traffic jams and delayed emergency personnel from responding to life and death situations.
"While this type of decision tends to be local in nature, I am concerned about the larger federal implications of what appears to be political appointees abusing their power to hamper interstate commerce and safety without public notice," wrote Rockefeller.
Since Rockefeller called for a review, emails have been released showing that the lanes were closed as part of a political retribution scheme orchestrated by a Christie Port Authority appointee and one of his deputy chiefs of staff.
Christie held a two-hour press conference Thursday in which he insisted that even though members of his inner circle were part of the scandal, he knew nothing about it.
The U.S. Attorney for New Jersey plans to launch a "preliminary inquiry" into the controversy to examine whether the lanes were closed as retaliation against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, who did not endorse Christie's November reelection bid.
Rockefeller also wrote to the chairs of the Port Authority, asking for answers to a list of nine questions about the controversy by Jan. 15. He has not yet received a response.
The New Jersey Assembly plans on Friday to release thousands of documents, including email communications, from former Port Authority officials about the lane closures.