WASHINGTON -- The New Jersey state Assembly is stepping up its investigation into "Bridgegate," announcing Monday that it has created a special investigatory committee to focus on the issue.
The committee, which will have subpoena power and a special counsel, will be led by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D), who also chairs the chamber's transportation committee. Wisniewski has been leading the effort to figure out why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., in September.
"The evidence that has come out in recent weeks makes clear that this now goes above and beyond a transportation issue and goes into the highest ranks of the executive branch," Wisniewski said in a statement Monday. "A concerted and focused investigation with increased resources is now needed, and I look forward to continuing to uncover answers for the people of New Jersey with these new tools at hand. This investigation will continue with increased intensity."
Last week, the state Assembly released documents related to the bridge scandal obtained in a subpoena of the records of former Port Authority official David Wildstein, a Christie appointee. The documents showed that Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Christie, was involved in coordinating the closures, despite the governor's earlier assertion that no one in his office was involved.
Until last week, members of the Christie administration -- and the governor himself -- claimed that two of the three bridge access lanes in Fort Lee were shut down as part of a traffic study. But the released emails and text messages indicate there was a pettier, political motive at play, and that the closures were possibly intended as retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse Christie's reelection bid.
The New Jersey transportation committee also subpoenaed testimony from Wildstein, who ordered the closures. But last week, he invoked his Fifth Amendment and refused to testify.
Wisniewski has said impeachment might be a possibility if evidence shows Christie was directly involved in the lane closures, which lasted from Sept. 9 to 13, causing massive traffic jams and delaying emergency personnel.