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Special counsel hired in Gov. Christie bridge probe

Bloomberg News

TRENTON -- New Jersey lawmakers investigating the Fort Lee traffic jam apparently orchestrated as political payback from Gov. Chris Christie's office have hired as special counsel one of the prosecutors who won the corruption conviction of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Assembly leaders announced Wednesday that Reid Schar, a former assistant U.S. attorney, will aid the Assembly's investigation of the decision to close George Washington Bridge access lanes in September.

Schar was part of a team of prosecutors who pursued Blagojevich, fundraiser Antoin Rezko and others accused of trying to profit from their political connections.

Democrats who control the legislature are investigating the four-day traffic jam that paralyzed Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, refused to endorse Christie in the November election.

Lawmakers are seeking documents and holding hearings to discern whether Christie or other members of his administration had knowledge of the lane closures and whether they tried to cover it up. The governor maintains that he was "blindsided" by the revelations.

"This started out as an investigation into Port Authority operations and finances and now has led us into the governor's office," said Assemb. John Wisniewski, the Democrat leading the probe.

Last week, Christie fired a deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, 41, saying she had lied to him about whether anyone on his team was involved.

The inquiries have taken a toll on Christie's public-approval ratings. Fifty-five percent of New Jersey voters approve of the job he is doing, down from 68 percent in July, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

But 66 percent of the voters who have heard or read something about the lane closures say they believe Christie did not personally order the traffic jams.

With AP

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