Kendall Coffey: Subpoenas Just the Beginning

Kendall Coffey

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Kendall Coffey was on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton discussing the ongoing investigation into the “BridgeGate” controversy and the recent subpoenas issued to members of Christie’s staff. Check out the video above for the full interview, and see below for the transcript.


Al Sharpton: Now Kendall, you have been involved in investigations. Take us on the inside of a big investigation like this. What are they looking for and how do they deal with this?

Kendall Coffey: Well, as you were saying, Reverend, time for some subpoenas in New Jersey, and that’s a bunch of them right at the beginning. Certainly, they’re trying to get personal emails as much as any government emails and trying to capture text messages, which as you know don’t stick around forever. With everything that is out there, there’s got to be a concern that what can be the most important evidence in an investigation, email, text messages, those things don’t necessarily change the way sometimes a witness’s testimony can evolve. That’s why they’re starting out very aggressively, very expansively with those things. They obviously have identified a number of people they think have some connection to what they believe is decision making, but this does not mean that these 20 subpoenas are the end of it. It could be just the beginning.

Al Sharpton: What are the possible criminal exposure that is faced here by those involved and the governor? Because clearly the assembly and the senate investigates on one level, but what are the possible criminal charges, if any, that you think could possibly come from some of this?

Kendall Coffey: Well, we certainly begin by acknowledging the fact that somebody gets a subpoena, even that something is said about something doesn’t mean anybody is guilty. What I think from the information we gathered so far, the indications are clear that New Jersey has a law when power, the power that is entrusted to a public servant is misued deliberately. It’s a crime; it’s a felony of official misconduct. And I think that while there are federal charges that could be considered if the feds want to get creative, the core criminality if there has been a crime is going to be under the New Jersey state laws for misuse of power for an unauthorized reason when it’s done intentionally. And that, Reverend, gets us into a lot of complicated issues in terms of who would be the decision-makers with respect to a state criminal investigation. Isn’t that attorney general of New Jersey ultimately in charge? And who appoints that attorney general?


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Al Sharpton: So let’s follow that for one second. If you have the attorney general in charge and clearly the attorney general may have a conflict here because of the governor’s potential involvement, then what happens? A special prosecutor? And who appoints that? The governor?

Kendall Coffey: Well, a special prosecutor could be appointed. New Jersey law permits it, and that is a decision which would involve the concurrent action of the attorney general with the approval of the governor. Now, the feds may have jurisdiction here, but looking at this as a former prosecutor, it doesn’t seem like there is a clear example of federal crime that would be easy to put together. The most logical charges could be under state law, and that would take us into a complicated thicket in terms of figuring out who could independently handle that kind of investigation.

Al Sharpton: Let me ask you this, Kendall. If in face you went over on the stateside, you were prosecuted, and you started to deal with official misconduct, could you charge or look at charging someone with the misuse of government power or state power if in fact they didn’t have the power and was operating on behalf of someone that did? Because clearly come people that are in this could not have ordered people in the port authority to do anything. They had to do with the inference that they were operating for someone who did have the power.

Kendall Coffey: Well, Reverend, the specifics of the official misconduct laws refer to a public servant, somebody who is working for the government. But you know what they say is a prosecutor’s best friend: the laws of conspiracy. And so prosecutors looking at this case would not only consider those who had public power, public authority, but those acting, if there are such other people, in conspiracy with them.