Federal agents met in secret with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last month as part of the so-called “Bridgegate” investigation looking into whether the governor orchestrated lane closures near the George Washington Bridge as political payback when a Democratic mayor refused to endorse his re-election campaign in 2013, ABC News reported Friday. The revelation of the meeting comes as Christie is battling allegations of improprieties concerning New Jersey’s pension system, his ties to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and further claims that he punished other elected officials who didn’t back his re-election.
Christie, FBI agents and federal prosecutors met at the governor’s mansion in Princeton, New Jersey, for about two hours last month for a session that was described as “professional, collegial and courteous” by a source familiar with the meeting, according to ABC News. The questioning was a chance for Christie to give his side of the story on Bridgegate, a scandal that led to the governor firing top aide Bridget Kelly. Emails sent by Kelly appeared to show she authorized traffic lane closures in Fort Lee, New Jersey, near the George Washington Bridge, snarling traffic for hours in a span of four days. Frank Sokolich, Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, endorsed Christie’s first bid for governor in 2009 but not in 2013. Christie has denied involvement or prior knowledge of the lane closures and an outside law firm hired by the governor to investigate the matter cleared him. But that probe has no bearing on the federal investigation.
The feds were considering issuing a subpoena to Christie after they contacted him months ago about a meeting and he didn’t respond, according to ABC News. But the governor eventually agreed to a meeting after Election Day.
Meanwhile, Christie’s re-election campaign was subpoenaed by U.S. Attorney Steven Fishman’s office for documents about government meetings that were canceled with Steven Fulop, Jersey City’s Democratic mayor who didn’t back Christie’s 2013 gubernatorial run, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The governor is also facing conflict of interest allegations after a firm that used to oversee $150 million in state pension funds later employed Christie’s wife, Mary Pat Christie, who earns $475,000 a year with Angelo, Gordon & Co. The chairman of the board of trustees of one of the state’s major pension funds earlier told IBTimes that the arrangement “raises some truly serious ethical red flags.”
Christie, an avid Cowboys fan, has also come under scrutiny after it was revealed that Jones paid for his travel and tickets for Cowboys games, although his administration has claimed the gifts are legal. The governor’s office has said Christie will be paying his own way to see the Cowboys take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFL playoffs on Sunday, the Washington Post reported.