The New Jersey General Assembly voted Thursday to open a special investigation into Gov. Chris Christie's handling of the bridge-closure scandal, setting up a committee that immediately issued 20 subpoenas.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chairman of the investigative committee, wouldn't disclose who got the subpoenas, saying they would only be announced after all 20 persons were served.
"This is the next logical step in our investigation into this threat to public safety and abuse of government power," the Democrat said. "We have many unanswered questions about what happened here, who was involved and why. I am confident these subpoenas will shed more light on this situation and I look forward to cooperation from all parties."
The Assembly voted 75-0 to establish the committee and grant it subpoena powers as well as the ability to hire a special counsel — in this case, former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the government's prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"This is a tragic day for the state of New Jersey," said Majority Leader Louis Greenwald during the full Assembly floor debate.
The bridge scandal, and another federal investigation into a Hurricane Sandy marketing program that featured the Republican governor's family during an election year, have put Mr. Christie under a microscope.
Emails indicate that a deputy chief of staff for Mr. Christie ordered four days of lane closures that caused traffic jams in Fort Lee and on the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and Manhattan.
The closures were seemingly politically motivated as payback against Fort Lee's mayor.
Mr. Christie fired that official and ousted a top political aide last week, but denied he ordered the lane closures.
Last year, the Assembly's transportation committee conducted an investigation. But with the beginning of the new year, the Legislature convened a new session and decided to transfer the investigation to a special committee.
Mr. Christie has promised to cooperate with all investigations, and is conducting his own internal review.
During Thursday's legislative maneuvers, Republicans said they agreed with Democrats on the need to conduct the investigation, though they questioned the cost of hiring the special counsel and argued for a final deadline for the investigation to be completed.
Democrats, who control the chamber, rejected both of those, saying they didn't want their quest for the truth to be bound by finances or time.
"When we run to the end of that road and we find what is the root of this abuse of power and how deep it went, we will be done," Mr. Greenwald said.
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