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Former Homeland Security chief hired to represent bridge honcho in New Jersey probe

Mel Evans / AP file

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walks with Port Authority Chairman David Samson at Newark Liberty International Airport, in Newark, N.J., Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.

The chairman of the Port Authority New York and New Jersey — now entangled in two scandals involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — has hired a former Department of Homeland Security chief to represent him in an ever-growing probe into September closures of the George Washington Bridge, which was recently exposed as a political vendetta.

Former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff will advise and represent Port Authority chairman David Samson, New Jersey's Bergen Record reported Sunday. 

Sampson was one of 17 people subpoenaed Friday to turn over documents that investigators hope will reveal the facts about lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that were carried out by two Christie executives at the Port Authority in September. 

The two Port Authority officials who ordered the closures have resigned, but Samson said last week he would not step down. Christie maintains that he didn't know the closures were motivated by a political payback scheme that hatched in his office. 

Chertoff, who Samson has referred to as a friend, confirmed to the Bergen Record on Sunday that he would represent the Port Authority chairman. 

The two worked together when Chertoff's consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, was hired for at least $1.2 million to review the Port Authority's security measures between 2011 and 2012. 

Chertoff would not say whether or not the Port Authority would be responsible for paying Samson's legal expenses but told the Bergen Record in an email that "we will address whatever legal rights Mr. Samson may have in due course."

Chertoff, now an attorney at the D.C. law firm Covington & Burling LLP, served as the director of Homeland Security under George W. Bush after a two year stint as a federal judge and spending four years as the top federal law-enforcement official in New Jersey.

Samson counseled Christie during his first gubernatorial election campaign and was elected as the Port Authority's chairman in 2011. He has not responded to requests for comment.

Strong speculation persists that Samson was one of the officials involved in the lane closure scheme. The Bergen Record reported that documents indicated he appeared to be worried that further details about the bridge backup would leak.

Meanwhile, on Saturday the Mayor of Hoboken, N.J., Dawn Zimmer, revealed to MSNBC that two Christie cabinet members pressured her to support a redevelopment plan in return for Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Samson's law firm, Wolff & Samson represented the company responsible for the redevelopment. 

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