FBI joins Christie scandal probe

STATE — The FBI is looking into the scandal surrounding Gov. Chris Christie’s involvement in holding Hurricane Sandy recovery funds hostage to approval of a Hoboken development and the George Washington Bridge shutdown.

Three government bodies — the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI and a state legislative committee — are investigating the matter sparked by the emergence of emails between former Christie deputy Bridget Anne Kelly and disgraced political operative David Wildstein, who resigned a job at the Port Authority.

Christie spent the weekend meeting big-money Republican donors in Florida despite growing trouble at home, where investigators are expanding their probe based on allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who said that politics influenced the distribution of Sandy relief funds.

Federal agents questioned Dan Bryan, Zimmer’s chief of staff, Juan Melli, her communications director, and at least three other witnesses who Zimmer said could confirm that she had the conversation last May with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. who made the alleged threat.

David Mello, a member of the Hoboken City Council, told NBC News that Zimmer told him about the Guadagno conversation last summer, either in late July or early August as they were walking home after an event. “I distinctly remember (Zimmer) saying that the lieutenant governor said, ‘If this came out, she would deny it,’” said Mello.

“I thought it was absurd and outrageous,” said Mello, adding that he pressed Zimmer whether she would speak out publicly about what she said took place. “She told me, ‘It was a done deal that [Christie] was going to be re-elected” and she did not want to jeopardize further funding for the city, he said.

Mello, a Zimmer ally who said he strongly opposed Christie’s re-election, said he is arranging through the Hoboken city counsel to provide his account to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Guadagno flatly denied a mayor’s allegation that Christie’s administration withheld hurricane relief money because the mayor would not support a real estate project important to the governor.

Zimmer supplied personal diary entries that she says support her account and said that she met for several hours Sunday with the U.S. attorney’s office, which is already looking into whether the Christie ordered lanes closed at the George Washington Bridge last September to punish a political adversary.

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