Federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark on Friday met privately with the chief lawyer for New Jersey lawmakers investigating the George Washington Bridge traffic jams and requested that the panel not take any steps that might interfere with its criminal probe, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The meeting, coming the same day that former Port Authority official David Wildstein’s lawyer released a letter that said his client has “evidence” that might contradict Christie’s public account, was the latest indication that U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s office is aggressively investigating the so-called Bridgegate affair.
At the meeting, federal prosecutors asked that the special New Jersey legislative committee give them a heads up about any witnesses they might seek to call, said the sources, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity. The prosecutors want time to raise any objections that public testimony might compromise their own investigation.
The sources described the meeting as amicable and the legislators’ special counsel, Reid Schar, agreed to keep prosecutors informed — without making any firm commitments not to call specific witnesses.
In a statement released Saturday, Schar, the special counsel of the New Jersey “super committee” investigating the bridge lane closures, said he is confident that the Legislature’s inquiry can proceed without impacting the criminal investigation.
“Based on the meeting, I am comfortable that the committee’s investigation may continue,” he said. “As we proceed we will be mindful of the need to avoid taking steps that could inappropriately impede any investigation the U.S. Attorney’s Office may be conducting.”
Schar’s statement was released by Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Senator Loretta Weinberg, the co-chairs of the committee.
Wisniewski has repeatedly said he expects the legislature’s probe to hinge on the production of documents. But getting that material may take longer than expected. Although the committee’s subpoenas called for emails and other documents to be returned by the close of business on Monday, Feb. 4, the sources said that lawyers for numerous key principals- – including Christie’s campaign committee and the New Jersey Republican Party — have been granted extensions of up to three weeks.
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Robert Luskin, a lawyer for the campaign committee, confirmed he has written the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission letter seeking an “advisory opinion” on whether campaign funds can be used to retrieve the numerous documents and emails called for in the legislature’s subpoena. Until he hears back, Luskin said the documents in question will be “preserved.” But any expenditure of outside funds to retrieve the documents could be construed as an “illegal campaign contribution,” he said.