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Scandals Put Christie, Governor’s Office Under Unprecedented Pressure

Compounding Christie’s difficulty as he tries to juggle his national duties as chairman of the Republican Governors Association with upcoming fundraising trips to Texas, Utah, Illinois, Georgia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts is the allegation against Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who fills in as governor when Christie is out of state.

Guadagno may soon be facing subpoenas of her own based on Zimmer’s allegation -- which Guadagno has denied -- that she passed on a direct message from Christie threatening to withhold Sandy aid from Hoboken unless Zimmer pushed through a high-rise development proposed by the Rockefeller Group and represented by the law firm of David Samson, Christie’s appointee as Port Authority chairman.

Ironically, Christie’s first trip as Republican Governors Association chairman took him out of state to Florida the weekend that Zimmer’s charge hit the national airwaves on MSNBC and CNN. Republican Gov. Rick Scott had already cancelled a planned public appearance with Christie because of the Bridgegate scandal, and the governor spent the weekend avoiding the national media at a series of closed fundraisers.

A Slow Response

With Christie away, it took almost three days for the Christie administration to put together a press conference by Guadagno and a public response by other administration officials to the Zimmer allegations -- a critical delay that ceded the airwaves to Zimmer and Democratic legislative leaders to chip away at the governor’s credibility.

Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable also denied Zimmer’s allegation that he pressured her to support the Rockefeller Group development, but Constable is now under fire for failing to tell a legislative committee under direct questioning that the Christie administration had fired one of its major Sandy reconstruction contractors.

The subpoenas issued by the Assembly Select Committee on Investigations on January 16, which demand the return of all relevant materials by February 3, are broad in scope, calling not only for documents relating to Bridgegate and its coverup, but also to any abuses of power or coverups of abuses of power by the Christie administration, its reelection campaign, and the Port Authority.

Whether the Christie administration will comply fully with such a broad request from the Legislature or claim some level of executive privilege -- whether outright or through extensive redaction of emails, texts and other documents -- may very well be the next legal battleground.

The governor has twice pledged to comply “with the U.S. Attorney inquiry and other appropriate inquiries and requests for information,” leaving legislators to question whether he regards their investigation as “appropriate.”

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