By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Republicans on the Bridgegate committee seized the initiative this morning and released their own report excoriating the committee process and particularly its co-chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
Calling him a “power hungry politician” trying to “take down Gov. Chris Christie and in so doing become the next Democrat gubernatorial candidate.” An accusation Wisniewski dismisses.
“This committee and its predecessor transportation followed the facts where ever they took us. Unfortunately for this administration, the facts took us right into the governor’s office,” said Wisniewski.
The point of today’s hearing was to vote on the committee’s interim report, written by its counsel Reid Schar of Chicago.
Republicans have complained for months they don’t have access to Schar.
“Chairman, Wisniewski in particular has been amazingly partisan about this, fair, has not included us at all. At the first meeting told the four of us that we could not speak to our counsel. We could not interaction, we could not have a legal memorandum,” said Sen. Kevin O’Toole.
“This was written by the counsel to the committee based upon all of the documents every single member of this committee has access to,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
“We were repeatedly finding out information about what this committee was doing by watching Rachel Maddow or MSNBC,” said Assemblyman Micheal Patrick Carroll.
Wisniewski tried to confine debate to the report written by counsel.
“That is the only item of business that we will consider today and the other items of business will be out of order,” Wisniewski said.
“Chaiman, since when are you in the business of telling members what they can and cannot say,” said O’Toole. “This is not North Korea, John, this is America. You’re now telling me, one of the four members who sat through every minute, every minute of every committee I have been here. Now I have my moment to say something and you’re trying to gavel me down.”
The majority report is more timeline than revelation.
It does increase from one to 12 the number of texts now deleted between the governor and his chief of staff Regina Egea during a sensitive hearing.
“Two people independently deleting 12 text messages?” asked Wisniewski.
The minority statement accuses Democrats on the committee of having conflicts of interest as it regards the Port Authority and their private legal practices.
That brought out the top Democratic leaders for quick rebuttal.
“As the appointing authority for the Senate, none of my members had a conflict,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
If today was about dueling reports, the future meeting of this committee depends on what happens with the U.S. Attorney’s investigation of the bridge scandal. If there are indictments, there will be trials, and if there are trials, that could shut down things here for much of next year.