The New Jersey Assembly and Senate today announced that they will merge their investigations into the George Washington Bridge closure scandal that has enveloped Chris Christie’s administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Former assistant U.S. attorney Reid Schar, who helped in the successful prosecution of former Illionois governor Rod Blagojevich, will act as special counsel to a new joint panel equipped with subpoena power.
Eight Democrats and four Republicans will comprise the 12-member panel, which will be co-chaired by the two legislators who have spearheaded the bridge scandal investigations: Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Senate majority leader Loretta Weinberg, both Democrats.
The Assembly’s investigatory panel issued 20 subpoenas last week, many of them to Christie administration officials. Recipients must respond to them by February 3.
In a press release from the Senate and Assembly, the merging of the investigations was framed as a question of efficiency. But it also removes a potential avenue for Christie’s legal team to challenge the investigations by arguing that complying with parallel processes is unduly onerous.
“Both houses of the Legislature have recognized the need to conduct an examination of these very serious matters,” said Weinberg, in a statement. “A joint committee will allow for a coordinated and focused investigation, which we believe will provide the most effective means of getting to the facts.”