Federal prosecutors talk to New Jersey town council members, issue subpoena in bridge scandal

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NEWARK, New Jersey — Federal prosecutors investigating apparently politically motivated traffic lane closures crafted by aides to Republican Gov. Chris Christie near one of the nation's busiest bridges have been interviewing members of a town council and have issued a new subpoena.

The investigators talked to members of the Borough Council in Fort Lee, the town where traffic was gridlocked, and issued the subpoena to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the region's bridges and tunnels, in recent weeks.

The council interviews, which wrapped up last week, focused on conditions in Fort Lee during the week of Sept. 9, 2013, when local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were redirected, according a person familiar with the meetings. The person didn't want to interfere with the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The lane closings at the bridge, which links Fort Lee and New York City, caused massive traffic problems for days and appear to have been retribution against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for failing to endorse Christie's re-election bid.

Christie, who appears to be moving forward with a likely presidential bid, has denied any prior knowledge of the traffic scheme.

Federal prosecutors also issued the new subpoena to the Port Authority this week, seeking evidence related to claims that members of the Christie administration may have engaged in retaliatory action against Jersey City's Democratic mayor after he also declined to endorse Christie for re-election, according to a person who was familiar with the subpoena but wasn't authorized to discuss it and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The request included records from former Port Authority officials who were appointed by or were allies of Christie.

The Port Authority had previously been subpoenaed in the case. The ongoing investigation has remained a point of frustration for many supporters of Christie, who has termed the lane closings "inexplicably stupid." Lawyers hired by the governor and a legislative committee investigating the circumstances of the lane closures have found no evidence to contradict his denials of any advance knowledge of them.

In Fort Lee, most of the six borough council members were interviewed about three weeks ago on borough property while the last was interviewed last week at attorney Timothy Donohue's office, the person familiar with the meetings said. Council President Harvey Sohmer declined to comment, and Borough Administrator Alfred Restaino referred questions to a town attorney.

The town attorney referred questions to Donohue, who was hired to represent the borough in the investigation but declined to comment.

Council member Ila Kasofsky confirmed the meetings in a telephone interview but quickly hung up. Other members declined to comment or did not respond to messages.

The U.S. attorney's office said it doesn't comment on its investigations.

News of the subpoena was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

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