The U.S. Attorney in New Jersey has convened a grand jury to investigate the involvement of Governor Chris Christie’s office in the George Washington Bridge scandal, ABC News has learned.
Twenty-three jurors convened in a federal courthouse in Newark today to hear testimony from a key staff member, Christie press secretary Mike Drewniak, whose lawyer, Anthony Iacullo, said Drewniak was not a target of the investigation.
“We’re here to answer questions and that’s what Michael did today,” Iacullo said.
The convening of the grand jury is evidence that the U.S. Attorney’s investigation has progressed beyond an inquiry and moved to the criminal phase.
The grand jury, which will meet for up to the next 18 months, has the power to indict, subpoena and interview witnesses without their attorney’s present.
This marks for the first time confirmation that what started out as a preliminary inquiry into the governor’s office has now become a criminal investigation into the activities that led to gridlock traffic across the bridge from Manhattan in Fort Lee.
Drewniak was inside the courthouse for more than two hours.
Iacullo, who spoke exclusively with ABC News, said, “I’m not going to get into the specifics as to what would be discussed in the grand jury. I would say though that Mike is a witness and we have been assured that he continues to be a witness throughout these proceedings and Mike has continued to cooperate as requested by the government into this inquiry.”
He declined to comment about anything regarding whether Christie had personal knowledge or direct role in the shutdown of the lanes.