Rockefeller to hold off on Christie bridge hearings

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Thursday he would hold off on hearings into the George Washington Bridge scandal that has engulfed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

The chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said hearings at this point would look overly political. He also said he would let federal prosecutors take the lead, according to The Record

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"I don't put us out of the game entirely," Rockefeller said Thursday night. "I just don't think a hearing at this point — it would be seen as entirely political and my guess is we wouldn’t get many answers."

Christie fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, on Thursday after emails linked her to the closure of lanes on the state's George Washington Bridge last year, which appeared to be political retribution on a Democratic mayor in the area who declined to endorse the governor’s reelection bid.

Christie apologized for the incident during a press conference Thursday and said he had no prior knowledge of his staff’s involvement. 

Rockefeller, whose committee has jurisdiction over the Port Authority, had sent a letter inquiring into the incident when stories began to surface last month. 

The New Jersey state legislature and the Port Authority are already conducting reviews. The U.S. attorney in New Jersey said it was looking into the allegations. 

"The federal prosecutors are not gentle," Rockefeller said. "So I reside my faith in them and will be watching closely."

Rockefeller said the most important thing is to get to the truth. He maintained the Justice Department had more resources “for arriving at that substance and they'll use those resources to arrive at the substance."

Rockefeller sent a letter to the Port Authority in December requesting information about the lane closures. 

Rockefeller has said the closure demanded a “comprehensive investigation.” He questioned at the time why there was not a plan in place to correct what seemed to be an abuse of power. 

He said he has not received a reply from the Port Authority. 

"But I don't think they respond to anybody, do they?" he said. 

Christie, during his press conference Thursday, declined to weigh in on how federal prosecutors should proceed. 

“As a former U.S. attorney, when I was U.S. attorney, I hated when politicians stood behind podiums and told the Department of Justice what to do, and I am not going to do that after complaining to my colleagues about it for seven years when politicians would [do] it,” he said.

—This post was updated at 9 a.m.