N.J. Republicans Call Bridgegate Panel ‘Witch Hunt’ While Going Along

Photograph by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after being sworn in for his second term on Jan. 21, 2014 at the War Memorial in Trenton, N.J.

To hear New Jersey’s Republicans tell it, the joint legislative panel investigating the “Bridgegate” scandal facing Gov. Chris Christie is a partisan witch hunt orchestrated by the Democratic majority.

Yet they voted unanimously today in favor of merging two panels investigating the matter into one.

The measure passed the Assembly 70-0 moments after the Senate approved it 38-0. Despite their support, Republicans just moments earlier said on the Assembly floor they fear the scope of the investigation will creep beyond its mission to probe September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.

“We want to raise these issues so the committee is prudent when they move ahead,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican from Westfield, said in an interview. “Any of the questions raised by the Republican members are fair. Who gets the documents when? What do you do with the U.S. attorney’s investigation? What is our access to council?

Christie, a 51-year-old Republican who is a rising star in his party, finds himself starting his second term in a different place than he’d anticipated. His 22-percentage point victory in November was the largest plurality won by a New Jersey governor in three decades, yet it’s being overshadowed by probes in the legislature and U.S. attorney’s office that are examining his administration’s ties to politically motivated traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge.

Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, a Democrat from Voorhees, denied the witch hunt accusations and said the panel was conducting a bipartisan review of who knew what and when.

“I want to keep this investigation fair so that we’re protecting the institution and we’re doing it in a way that people respect how we proceed,” Bramnick said.

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