TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie on Monday said that his office is cooperating with a subpoena from federal authorities investigating whether any laws were broken when lanes near a New Jersey bridge were apparently closed for political retribution.
The Republican governor also said in a radio interview as he took questions for the first time in more than three weeks that he may have heard about the traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee when they were going on last September, but that it didn't register with him as a major issue if he did.
He said that a news report several days after the lanes were reopened got his attention and that he asked staffers to look into it. The report indicated that the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did not authorize the closings.
"Nobody has said I knew about this before it happened, and I think that's the most important question," Christie said in the appearance on his "Ask the Governor" radio show on Townsquare Media Monday night.
It was the first time Christie took questions since a nearly two-hour news conference Jan. 9, the day after emails were made public showing that at least one of his top aides had a role in a traffic-blocking scheme near the George Washington Bridge. Since then, he has made public appearances but not opened himself to questions, except to schoolchildren in Camden.
Meanwhile Monday, Christie's campaign sought to exceed New Jersey's election spending cap to pay for lawyers dealing with subpoenas stemming from a political payback scandal.
A special legislative investigative committee said Monday it had begun receiving documents it requested in response to 20 subpoenas it issued last month. It's trying to unravel how high up Christie's chain of command a lane closing order went in September and whether the operation was meant to punish a Democratic adversary.
In a request to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, Christie's campaign organization asked for permission to raise more money and to spend it on lawyers handling subpoenas issued by both legislative investigators and the U.S. attorney's office.
The campaign has already spent all but $13,000 of the more than the $12.2 million limit for Christie's re-election. Without more money, the campaign said it would not be able to answer the subpoenas.
Neither subpoena suggests the campaign "has engaged in wrongdoing," the campaign's lawyers said in their request.
A hearing before the election commission was set for Feb. 11.
Subpoenaed information was due to lawmakers Monday and federal prosecutors on Wednesday, but the campaign said it has requested extensions.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-chairman of the joint legislative panel leading the investigation, told The Associated Press that some deadline extensions were granted. The requests of others who were asked to produce documents on a rolling basis were also being considered.
He and the other leader of the inquiry, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, both Democrats, said that none of the responsive documents would be made public Monday.
Ahead of Christie's "Ask the Governor" appearance, his administration released its plan for using a coming installment of federal relief money for Superstorm Sandy – at least giving him something else to talk about.
Christie will get the opportunity to address conservative activists next month at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C. Officials with the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual event, confirmed that the governor had accepted an invitation to speak at CPAC in March.
The conference will include speeches from several Republicans weighing presidential campaigns in 2016, including Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Christie was not invited to speak last year.
Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield, N.J. Associated Press reporter Ken Thomas contributed from Washington.