Christopher Baxter, of the Star-Ledger reports remarks by legislative committee chairmen John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) in, Bridge scandal panel weighing immunity after judge's subpoena ruling.
TRENTON — A leader of the legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closings said today that it will consider granting immunity to witnesses in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of New Jersey to move the inquiry forward.
State Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), a co-chairman of the panel, said Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson empowered the Legislature to grant sweeping protections to those subpoenaed for records or testimony in her ruling Wednesday
Although, Judge Jacobson's ruling yesterday, was seen as major setback for the New Jersey state legislatures committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures last September, the one silver lining, was clarification of the committee's power of subpoena, which was called into question during the last month.
Wisniewski also said whatever the committee does will be done in close coordination with U.S. Attonorney Paul Fishman.
The way to move the legislative inquiry forward, Wisniewski said, would be to work in close consultation with federal prosecutors to ensure the committee does not give anyone protections before U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s inquiry into them is complete.
The Star-Ledger also has a live interview up with Assemblyman Wisniewski which I will link to in a moment, unless someone already has. nted and said lawmakers had a different mission and should push forward.
The Star-Ledger suggests that supporters of Governor Chris Christie who are celebrating yesterday's ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson that Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien do not have to comply with subpoena's from the New Jersey legislative committee because they were too broad, and violate their Fifth Amendment rights, are misreading the Judge's ruling.
The Star-Ledger disagrees with those demanding that the implication is that the committee shut down their work and leave the investigation to the U.S. Attorney -- calls we've heard increasingly over the last few weeks.
This Star-Ledger editorial refutes these calls and agrees with what I suggested yesterday - that the committee first reissue more sharply focused subpoenas:
The Star-Ledger reminds us of he immunity errors made with Oliver North, whose immunity deals with Congress enabled him to escape prosecution. After encouraging cooperation, at least at first, which the committee already has announced intentions of above, the Star-Ledger suggests a strategy of starting with the little fish first and working their way up. Also, they remind us that immunity for the use of the testimony does not necessarily mean immunity for the crime.
The committee’s first step seems obvious. It should issue new subpoenas that are more narrowly tailored, answering Jacobson’s central concern. The subpoenas she struck down asked Kelly and Stepien to turn over all documents related to the lane closures. Jacobson suggested a more focused subpoena asking for communications among Kelly, Stepien and David Wildstein, the governor’s man at the Port Authority who ordered the access lane closures. That is certainly worth a shot.
There may come a day when the Legislature should grant immunity even over the objections of federal prosecutors. That hinges on which probe is deemed more important — one that could lead to short jail terms for a few key players, or one that could lead to the impeachment of a sitting governor.
For now, though, there is no reason the committee and federal prosecutors cannot cooperate. The ground rule should be that federal prosecutors get the first bite at each witness so that the criminal probe is protected. At that point, the committee should feel free to grant immunity to witnesses and compel their public testimony.
4:19 PM PT: HTML Help Request! Does anyone know how to center graphic captions directly under graphics? For example, in both graphics in this post, the captions have drifted into the text stream. I'm trying to learn how to better layout story boards for cartoons, and this DKOS 4 version of HTML 5 code is challenging my skills.
4:48 PM PT: Carly Rothman, of the Star-Ledger hosts a question and answer session with Assemblyman John Wisneiwski (D-Middlesesex, NJ) Bridgegate, Port Authority: Assemblyman John Wisniewski answers your questions
JustaDude78 asks if it is found that Randy Mastro's report is fabricated could Christie be forced to pay for it. Wisniewski responds that if it is found to have been produced for political purposes it should be paid for with political funds.
One more example of the many questions and answers.
citizen17: If O'Toole is involved in the bridge scandal, should he still be on the legislative committee investigating the Bridgegate? Can the committee take steps to remove him?
Wisniewski said he was "troubled" by O'Toole's continued service on the legislative committee, but noted that committee members were appointed by the legislature's presiding officers $mdash; in O'Toole's case, Sen. Tom Kean Jr.
"I don't get to make the decision on who gets to serve on the committee. I have to work with him as a committee member. My hope is that he will be forthcoming with the committee about what he knew and when," Wisniewski said.
He reminded the editorial board that O'Toole could be called to testify before the committee.
5:20 PM PT: Anna Shane sent me this link along with over a half dozen others which I just wrote up in a previous post on the U.S. Attorney of NYC reactivation a political corruption probe shut down "premature" by Gov. Cuomo. Samson appears to be mentioned as a potential target in both investigations. This article appears to be a PDF so I can not give you a few paragraphs as teases. It looks well worth you time to read.
6:55 PM PT: Improved title with rubyr's suggestion. Thanks Rubyr.