The latest twist in the Bridgegate saga gives Port Authority Chairman David Samson a temporary reprieve: Shortly before news outlets learned on Monday afternoon that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan had demanded documents from Samson, the subpoena was withdrawn. No reason was given, but the New York office said that New Jersey’s U.S. attorney, who is already investigating the lane closures, “may” ask Samson for similar documents in the future. According to the Bergen Record, “some observers said it would have been unusual for a second U.S. Attorney’s Office to conduct an investigation that overlapped with one already under way.”
Samson was appointed to lead the Port Authority after heading Governor Chris Christie’s transition team, and his name has also come up in various Bridgegate investigations due to his law firm, Wolff & Samson. The firm happens to represent the real-estate developer whose plan Hoboken’s mayor claims she was being pressured to accept, lest the Christie administration withhold Sandy aid. The Wall Street Journal reports that Manhattan federal prosecutors were “specifically interested in any conflicts between Mr. Samson’s private business interests and his actions as chairman.”
That doesn’t seem very surprising in light of Tuesday’s front-page New York Times report on how the Port Authority had been “turned into a de facto political operation for Governor Christie” long before the George Washington Bridge incident. “The authority became a means to reward friends (or hire them) and punish adversaries, and a bank to be used when Mr. Christie sought to avoid raising taxes,” says the Times. “Major policy initiatives, such as instituting a large toll and fare increase in 2011, were treated like political campaigns to burnish the governor’s image.”
Plus, the report alleges that Port Authority officials awarded World Trade Center wreckage to twenty New Jersey mayors whose endorsements Christie was trying to win. It’s good Samson doesn’t have to deal with a subpoena on Tuesday, because it sounds like he’s going to have his hands full.