Lawmakers squabble over probe of lane closures

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2014 5:16 PM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — After a second report found no proof GOP Gov. Chris Christie was involved in the politically motivated bridge scandal, the investigation devolved into political sniping Monday as Republicans charged that Democrats might have illegally leaked information and Democrats fired back that Republicans were distracting from the report's findings.

The four Republican members of the Democrat-led legislative panel probing Christie's connection to the traffic jams unveiled their own 119-page report Monday, just before the panel approved releasing the committee's report to the public.

The Republican report was especially critical of co-chairmen Assembly John Wisniewski and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, casting their investigation as overtly political. At a hearing Monday, Wisniewski signaled any potential Republican motions to enter the report into the record or vote on it wouldn't be formally considered.

"This is not North Korea, John. This is America," Republican state Sen. Kevin O'Toole responded. "Now I have my moment to say something, and you're trying to gavel me down."

Wisniewski let him go on and O'Toole criticized Wisniewski for frequently appearing on TV and suggesting there was a definitive link between the decision to close the lanes leading up to the George Washington Bridge and the administration, saying his behavior amounted to a "constant cascade of made-for-TV sound bytes."

Wisniewski said Republicans were unhappy about the report "so they came up with a distraction."

"They're going to accuse just about everybody on the committee of having some taint or some disqualification to try to distract attention away from the facts," Wisniewski said.

Weinberg defended the content of the panel's report.

"There is nothing in this report that has been manufactured by anybody," Weinberg said. "The report stands for itself and to answer it with a personal attack on members of this committee without discussing what they want to refute, if anything, in the report was clearly in my opinion inappropriate."

Republicans say confidential documents and information were routinely leaked to the media and "destroyed the credibility of the committee and its ability to carry out fair proceedings." Several media outlets, including The Associated Press, obtained the legislative committee's report last week after it was released to lawmakers.

The GOP lawmakers said that they are turning their report over to the state attorney general and that lawmakers on the panel may have violated laws during the investigation.

"They can do whatever they'd like," Wisniewski said after the hearing.

At the start of the hearing, Wisniewski called the 12-member committee's interim report a "shining example" of legislative oversight.

That report says no evidence has been found showing Christie played a role in the scheme to close lanes or that he knew about it as it happened. Supporters of the governor say the report clears him. Opponents say it shows a lack of curiosity about how his administration is run.

Democrats in March criticized a report commissioned by Christie as defending the governor, who's weighing a run for the White House in 2016.

Wisniewski said the committee's next step is unclear, but its report sketches a "road map" for where the investigation may turn by pointing out which questions remain unanswered.

It's not likely to be the final word on the matter. The U.S. attorney also is conducting an investigation.