World and Nation

Former aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie invokes Fifth

A former top aide to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey revealed Monday that she would not hand over documents in response to a subpoena from a legislative panel investigating the controversial closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge last fall, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The former aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, informed the panel, through a letter from her lawyer, Michael Critchley, that in addition to the Fifth, she was also invoking the Fourth Amendment in defense of her privacy.

The letter said that the panel’s request “directly overlaps with a parallel federal grand jury investigation.” It also contended that giving the committee “unfettered access” to her diaries, calendars and electronic devices could “potentially reveal highly personal confidential communications” unrelated to the bridge scandal.

New Jersey Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the Democratic leaders of the panel, issued a statement saying they had received the letter and that they “are reviewing it and considering our legal options with respect to enforcing the subpoena.”

Kelly looms as a pivotal figure in the scandal. She is the official who wrote an email in August saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” to another Christie ally, David Wildstein at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Wildstein responded, “Got it,” and together, they were intimately involved in the lane closings, which occurred over four days in September.

Christie — who repeated on Monday night his insistence that he did not know about the scheme beforehand — later fired Kelly, and also cut ties with her boss, Bill Stepien, who had been Christie’s campaign manager in 2009 and 2013.

Still, both Stepien and Kelly have now invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, as Wildstein did during a legislative hearing. With some 18 other subpoenas issued by the state Legislature — which is controlled by Democrats — also outstanding, it is possible that others may also follow suit.

Kelly’s announcement came several days after one of her subordinates, Christina Genovese Renna, the director of the state’s Intergovernmental Affairs, submitted her resignation. Renna, 32, resigned on Friday, the same day Wildstein’s lawyer said in a letter that “evidence exists” contradicting the governor’s account about when he learned of the lane closings.

In response to questions about the timing of her departure, Renna said in a statement released on Sunday that she had been considering leaving since shortly after the election.

Her lawyer, Henry E. Klingeman, suggested in an email on Monday that as the investigation by the committee, and a preliminary inquiry by federal prosecutors, moves forward, a decision by his client to leave would be more fraught.