By Shushannah Walshe and Josh Margolin
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager told lawmakers investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal today that their probe is invalid and political and he will not hand over the subpoenaed documents under any circumstances.
The New Jersey legislative committee probing the issue authorized motions last week to try and force Bill Stepien to turn over subpoenaed documents, but Stepien’s attorney has issued a forceful response, again refusing to turn over any of the requested documents.
Kevin Marino, the attorney representing Stepien, wrote a letter to Reid Schar, the attorney representing the state legislative committee, saying, “in response to your request for my input, I can think of no lawful way the Committee can obtain documents responsive to its Subpoena from Mr. Stepien.”
“Stated simply, his principled objections to the Subpoena raise significant legal issues that are no less valid because they here arise in the context of a politically-charged investigation,” Marino writes in the letter obtained today by ABC News.
“Hence, I respectfully suggest that if the Committee persists in its refusal to withdraw the Subpoena, we confer on an orderly process and schedule for seeking a judicial determination as to the validity of those objections,” Marino added.
Last week, the committee passed six motions attempting to compel both Stepien and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff Bridget Ann Kelly to hand over the documents under threat of legal action. Both have refused, invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The motions authorized the committee to “take all appropriate legal steps to enforce the subpoenas.”
“We do not believe they have constitutional grounds to stand on the Fifth Amendment for the production of documents before that committee,” Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the co-chair of the committee, said last week.
Weinberg and the other co-chair of the committee, Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski released a statement today after receiving the letter saying they will “review it and continue our efforts to enforce the subpoena served” on Stepien.
The so-called bridgegate scandal exploded last month when emails were released implicating top Christie aides, including Kelly and Stepien, in the controversial decision to close local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the country’s busiest span, as political retribution against a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse his re-election bid. Both the New Jersey legislature and the U.S. attorney are investigating.
Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has repeatedly denied knowing about the lane closures before they occurred and has said he had nothing to do with the decision to close them. There has been no evidence directly linking Christie to the lane closures.