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Testimony postponed for Port Authority official in 'Bridgegate' probe

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Attorney for New Jersey has requested that a top transportation official postpone his testimony to a state panel probing a traffic snarl apparently orchestrated by supporters of Republican Governor Chris Christie, lawmakers said.

Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was due to appear June 3 before a legislative panel investigating lane closures leading to the George Washington Bridge, the busiest span in the country.

State lawmakers agreed to postpone the testimony.

The request by the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, was a sign that a separate federal probe into the case is pushing ahead.

The lane closures over four days last September caused massive delays for commuters trying to get from New Jersey to New York City, and kicked off a wider political scandal dogging Christie as he mulls a 2016 White House bid.

Fishman, who is investigating the shutdown to determine whether a federal law was broken, sent a letter on Wednesday asking the state panel to hold off on Foye's testimony, a legislative spokesman said.

Fishman did not explain the postponement request which follows moves by the federal probe to call witnesses.

Foye, an appointee to the Port Authority by New York, personally ordered the lanes be reopened on the fourth day of traffic chaos, lashing out at Port Authority officials from New Jersey about how the secretive shutdowns were allowed to occur.

"I believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates Federal Law and the laws of both states," Foye said in an email released in a trove of subpoenaed documents.

The lane closures were apparently political retribution carried out by two former members of Christie's inner circle to punish the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for failing to support his re-election bid.

Christie, who has denied any knowledge of the scheme, severed ties with both individuals and hired his own law firm to investigate.

In a review released in March, attorneys said no other member of Christie's staff was involved in the so-called "Bridgegate" scheme.

State lawmakers have called those findings incomplete and vowed to determine how the apparent abuse of power was allowed to occur.

(Editing by Andrew Hay)

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