Christie Aides Refuse To Comply With Subpoenas

Two key aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are now trying to convince a judge not to force them to testify. They're citing their fifth amendment rights in order to avoid complying with subpoenas.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On to the scandal better known as Bridgegate. Two people at the center of the New Jersey political drama were called to court today. Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien both worked for Republican Governor Chris Christie. And today, both tried to get out of turning over text messages and other communications at the center of the widening investigation into the Christie administration. Matt Katz of member station WNYC joins us now. And, Matt, first, talk a bit about Bridget Kelly's role in this story.

MATT KATZ, BYLINE: Kelly sent the now-infamous email - time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. And three weeks after she sent that email, lanes were closed to the George Washington Bridge and a massive traffic jam ensued at the foot of the bridge in the town of Fort Lee. So, Kelly took the fall for this. She was fired by Christie in January and had barely been seen in public until today when she showed up to court. She didn't talk but her lawyer, Michael Critchley, portrayed her as an innocent victim in all of this. And he decided to bring her in front of the press.

MICHAEL CRITCHLEY: She's a 42-year-old single mom with four children trying to make do in a difficult time. She's unemployed, doing her best to try and seek employment. So, I don't know if I should say this for Mrs. - Miss Kelly, but if anybody needs someone to work or, you know, just give me call because I have an excellent employee.

KATZ: Kelly was at court because she's fighting a subpoena from a special legislative investigative committee looking into Bridgegate. And the committee is trying to figure out who else was involved in Bridgegate. Was there another email that may have preceded her time for some traffic problems email? And did that email come from another staffer, did it come from Governor Christie, did it come from somebody we don't even know about yet? That's what the legislature is trying to figure out.

BLOCK: OK. Well, let's talk about the second figure here. That's Bill Stepien. He was Governor Christie's campaign manager. He was set to become an adviser to the Republican Governors Association until this story broke. And he was not in court today, right?

KATZ: That's right. He was not there, but his lawyer was there. And his lawyer argued quite vehemently that the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects him from turning over documents. So we're used to hearing people plea the Fifth, and normally it refers to they don't want to talk because they're avoiding self-incrimination. But in this case, the lawyers here are trying to say that the Fifth Amendment also applies to documents. So the very act of turning over a document qualifies as testimony, and they should be protected from doing so. Otherwise, they'll incriminate themselves.

BLOCK: And there's another key ally of Governor Christie who's also under increasing scrutiny. That's David Samson, the Christie appointee who chairs the Port Authority, which controls the George Washington Bridge.

KATZ: Right. And Samson is mentioned in these emails as being involved in some sort of retaliation plot against officials who may have leaked the truth about these traffic jams, that they were part of some sort of political plot. And yet, Christie has not fired Samson. Christie see Samson as a father figure and a political mentor, so he's remained in his role. And as a result, the press has just had something of a feeding frenzy, and they've uncovered a slew of instances in which Samson seems to have benefited from his official capacity at the Port Authority via his private law firm. And that's really brought Samson into the public's light. And now, federal investigators are now also apparently looking into him as well.

BLOCK: OK. WNYC's Matt Katz. Matt, thanks very much.

KATZ: Sure thing.

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