Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is using his personal attorney, formerly his administration’s attorney general, to block the release of correspondence between his office and the company formerly managed by White House adviser Jared Kushner.
The nonprofit MapLight reports that Jeff Chiesa issued a letter by the former governor last week that declared all requests involving his office’s records would be handled by Chiesa to deny requests for the correspondence.
Kushner Companies, a real estate firm now managed by Kushner’s brother, benefited under Christie’s administration, during which it was the recipient of a $33 million tax credit for the development of One Journal Square Project, a planned skyscraper in Jersey City.
Despite the fact that Chiesa’s firm says it had “identified a limited number of responsive documents” between Christie’s office and the Kushner Companies, Christie’s attorney said the documents were privileged and would not be released.
Experts in New Jersey’s open records law told the news outlet that Christie’s use of his personal lawyer to shield the release of documents from his administration was “disturbing.”
“That decision is being made by his personal lawyer who owes an obligation to him personally, and not by someone who has sworn an oath of office to look after the public interest. That is a very disturbing aspect of what’s happened here,” said Flavio Komuves, a partner in the Zazzali Fagella law firm.
Christie’s letter states that all documents and records from his office will be considered privileged and confidential until a request is made to Chiesa, who will judge the request’s validity.
The former New Jersey governor was a top member of President Trump‘s transition team last year and was considered to be a top contender to lead Trump’s Justice Department before being reportedly forced out of the transition by Kushner, who is also President Trump’s son-in-law.
Kushner reportedly holds a grudge against Christie over the 2005 conviction of his father, Charles Kushner, on charges of tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions when Christie was a U.S. attorney.
BY JOHN BOWDEN – 05/25/18