The U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey dismissed media reports that it has launched a new criminal investigation into Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieEnergy secretary: 'We don't want to use past definitions of infrastructure' Christie: Biden lying about Georgia voting bill Experts take pro-vaccine message to right-wing skeptics MORE (R) as “a tremendous leap forward” in a statement provided Friday to MSNBC’s “The Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowOcasio-Cortez eyeing T over 10 years for infrastructure Tucker Carlson: Matt Gaetz sexual allegation interview 'one of weirdest' he's done MSNBC changes branding of live breaking news coverage to 'MSNBC Reports' MORE Show." 

At issue is an allegation that Christie’s office helped scuttle indictments against the governor’s allies and that a former county prosecutor who tried to blow the whistle was fired. An International Business Times report from Thursday claimed that prosecutors launched a formal investigation into the matter.


Ben Barlyn, the former county prosecutor who says he was fired for pushing back on the indictments, told the news organization that he met with members of the Attorney's office this week. He added that he spoke for more than an hour about his accusations and gave them what he referred to as "critical evidence."

But while the Attorney’s office didn’t confirm or deny that it spoke to Barlyn, it characterized such conversations as not necessarily indicative of a full investigation.

“We talk to people all of the time,” a spokesman told MSNBC.

“It doesn't mean we're investigating anybody. Any characterization that we are investigating the governor about this is just not true."

Barlyn also told the network that he “never characterized this as a full-blown investigation.”

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, emailed quotes from Maddow’s segment on Saturday to news organizations, in an effort to push back on various reports that had picked up on the IBT story, including one from The Hill. He said in an email that while the reports gave “the false appearance” of a new investigation, “new reports clearly debunk that allegation.”

Christie is reportedly considering a presidential bid in 2016, but he has been enmeshed in ethical controversy in the recent past. 

A small number of aides and appointees resigned or were fired by Christie after investigators found that they had acted to close lanes and halt traffic on the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York and New Jersey. There is widespread suspicion that the closures were an act of political retribution against a Garden State mayor who had declined to endorse the governor in his 2013 reelection bid.

A group of New Jersey lawmakers didn’t turn up evidence showing Christie had anything to do with the decision, but a federal investigation remains open.