Bob Jordan and Michael Symons, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
TRENTON, N.J. - The head of the New Jersey committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal said it's too early to speculate about Gov. Chris Christie's impeachment or resignation, despite the claim by a former aide that Christie hasn't been truthful in his public comments.
"One word: premature. There's a lot of talk about that. People are asking the hypotheticals. We don't have enough facts to even get to that conversation," said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the head of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, on Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation. "We need to get all the facts on the table. We need to make decisions about who knew what when. And when that's done, maybe it might be appropriate at that time to have that conversation. But clearly we're way ahead of that right now."
The investigative panel has set a Monday deadline to receive information from 20 subpoenas but Wisniewski, a Democrat from Middlesex, who is co-chair with Sen. Loretta Weinberg, said the subpoena material won't be released publicly immediately.
The committee must first evaluate the information and see what next steps are needed, such as additional subpoenas and demands for testimony, Wisniewski said.
It's "too early to say" when the incoming information will become public record, Wisniewski said.
Wisniewski said at this point there are no plans to call on Christie to testify.
Christie continues to deny involvement or participation in the plot to rearrange bridge access lanes despite Friday's accusation by Alan Zegas, the attorney for David Wildstein, who through Christie gained a patronage job with a $150,000 salary at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Zegas in a letter to the Port Authority said Christie had knowledge of the lane closures, "contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference," he wrote.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani downplayed the idea that the Zegas letter is a turning point in the multiple investigations, with federal prosecutors also involved, and he said, "so far there's no evidence to suggest (Christie) is not telling the truth.''
"I think the (New York Times, which reported the letter first) kind of acknowledged that when they kind of pulled back on the story. They first played it as 'big bombshell evidence.' Here's what it is: It's an offer from a guy who says he has evidence, hasn't given the evidence yet. However, you have to take that in context. This is a lawyer who's writing for a man who wants somebody else to pay his legal bills, and he can't get them paid unless the governor is responsible,'' said Giuliani, who also appeared on the program.
"And he's a guy that's seeking immunity. You factor all those things in - well, first of all, it's not evidence. It's the suggestion, the tantalizing suggestion, that there may be evidence. And then you've got at least two big credibility issues with it. So my advice to everyone would be instead of overplaying it as a bombshell, which the Times did and then had to back off, I would say put this in context.
"This is a long investigation. It's going to take a while. There's going to be stuff like this that just jumps out and everybody's going to exaggerate, they're going to have to back off. The governor has denied it. So far there's no evidence to suggest that he's not telling the truth. I think the governor knows the consequences. If he's lying, it's a really bad situation. If he's not lying, then something very unfair is being done to him," Giuliani added.
Wisniewski also appeared on Meet the Press on NBC where he said it was "a curious choice of words" in the Zegas letter to say that "evidence exists."
"As opposed to saying, 'I have evidence,' or 'I have an e-mail,' " Wisniewski said. "Maybe he knows somebody else who has information. Maybe it's a conversation he had. Maybe this is something else that is not within the scope of the subpoena that the committee issued. It raises questions about what does he have and why doesn't the committee have it."
The comments from Wisniewski came hours before kickoff at the first Super Bowl to be played in New Jersey - an event at one time expected to be a shining moment Christie, but now transformed into a central point of ridicule for the state's beleaguered governor.
Christie was booed by a large crowd in Times Square on Saturday when introduced for a ceremonial hand-off of the Super Bowl to Arizona, which hosts next year's game.
The Democratic National Committee piled on Sunday with a Web ad the organization said highlighted "the fall from grace of one of the GOP's much-hyped prospects - Governor Chris Christie."
The ad is a recap of the decline of Christie's political standing since his landslide gubernatorial re-election victory over Democrat Barbara Buono in November.
"Christie's Super Bowl weekend got off to a rocky start when new revelations called into question the story the governor has been peddling to the press and the public for months,'' the DNC said.
This weekend Christie fought back hard against Wildstein, calling his former aide a liar in an e-mail sent out to supporters by the governor's office.
Legal analysts called it an alarming change of strategy for Christie. The attack came seven weeks after a Christie spokesman praised Wildstein upon the announcement that Wildstein was quitting his Port Authority job under fire.
"This is a total panic move. This is what defense counsel does to destroy the credibility of a witness at the criminal trial,'' said New York attorney Eric Dixon. "To me the attention they are giving him and the rapidity and strength of the reaction signal desperation, fear that Wildstein is either credible or likely to be believed, and a concern that this scandal is approaching a point of being beyond salvage. I am shocked.
"When you are in the right, when you are comfortable with your facts, you can be quiet and composed. The official reaction is anything but calm,'' Dixon added.