Democratic lawmaker seeks GOP Christie impeachment hearings




TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A ranking Democrat on Thursday called for lawmakers to consider impeachment proceedings against Republican Gov. Chris Christie based on what was revealed during the recently completed George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial in which two of his former aides were convicted.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said there was "considerable testimony" during the trial that Christie knew about the bridge conspiracy, in which, prosecutors say, three allies closed lanes near the bridge to create traffic headaches in Fort Lee to retaliate against its Democratic mayor for not endorsing him for re-election. The bridge, one of the world's busiest, connects Fort Lee and New York City.

In a statement, Weinberg, who co-chaired a legislative committee that probed the lane-closing scandal in 2014, called on Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to consider the impeachment.

"The allegations of federal prosecutors and statements of witnesses who testified under oath cannot go unanswered and impeaching Chris Christie would bar him from further public service in this State," Weinberg wrote.

Weinberg's request comes as Christie, who failed in a presidential bid this year, is deeply involved with Republican President-elect Donald Trump as the chair of his White House transition team.

Prieto responded in a statement that the Assembly is "weighing all potential legislative activity." He said it was disappointing Weinberg made her request in a press release.

Impeachment proceedings would begin in the Assembly, before being voted on in the Senate.

A jury convicted Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, Christie's appointee to a top executive position at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, last week. Kelly and Baroni had denied the charges against them, saying that the government twisted federal law to turn their actions into crimes and that people with more power and influence were involved but weren't prosecuted.

Christie has denied any knowledge of the lane closures until weeks or months after they occurred in September 2013. And a Christie spokesman said Weinberg's call for impeachment proceedings was "ridiculous."

"It is shocking that someone who sat in the front row of the courtroom every day could get it so wrong," spokesman Brian Murray said by email.

But Kelly, Baroni and a third former Christie ally, who testified against them, said under oath that Christie knew about the plan to close lanes either in advance or during the four days it was in progress. Kelly also testified she told Christie of the Fort Lee mayor's concerns about political retribution during the week of the closures.

Christie is facing a criminal misconduct complaint filed last month by a resident who said that the governor "knowingly refrained from ordering that his subordinates take all necessary action to re-open local access lanes" and that residents were "deprived the benefit and enjoyment of their community."

Last month a judge ruled the case can move forward, and a hearing is scheduled for this month.
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