By Victoria Cavaliere NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Thursday he hired a law firm to help his office as federal prosecutors probe whether U.S. law was broken when one of his aides ordered an apparent politically motivated traffic jam. A star of the Republican party, Christie for the past week has been dealing with a scandal since officials released e-mails showing a top aide calling for lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in evident retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey. Randy Mastro will lead the outside legal team. Christie, widely considered a top contender for the White House in 2016, said last week he would cooperate with the federal probe of the unexpected shutdown over four days in September of three local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey and New York City.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has proposed a $350 million, 20-year plan for the state to protect Detroit retiree pensions and the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, local newspapers reported on Thursday. Snyder's proposal would use tobacco settlement funds or bonds to finance the outlay to Detroit and would not use cash from the state's general fund, the Detroit News reported. The governor, a Republican, met with legislators on Wednesday, his spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel said, but she would not comment on details of the meeting. Republican legislators have played down the possibility of a direct bailout to Detroit, which is struggling under more than $18 billion in debt and is the largest U.S. city ever to be declared bankrupt.
U.S. Republican Representative Buck McKeon of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Thursday he would not seek a 12th term this year. Due to term limits on committee chairmanships, McKeon could not have led the armed services panel in the next Congress. McKeon, 75, who campaigned strongly against military spending cuts, became chairman of the armed services committee in 2011 after Republicans reclaimed a majority in the House. His district covers parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties and is home to Edwards Air Force Base, other military facilities and several major defense contractors.
By Noah Barkin BERLIN (Reuters) - Relations between Germany and the United States are worse now than during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a decade ago, a leading ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, in a sign of mounting anger in Berlin over American spying tactics. Philipp Missfelder, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in parliament, said Berlin should bar U.S. access to a database of international financial transactions unless Washington promises to stop spying in Germany. "2003 is generally seen as a lowpoint in German-American relations," Missfelder said, referring to the clash over former U.S. President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. Indeed it's probably bigger because this issue is preoccupying people longer and more intensively than the invasion of Iraq." The comments, among the strongest from a senior German figure since leaks of a massive U.S. spying program first emerged last year, come a day before U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to unveil reforms of the NSA.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will meet with representatives of colleges, universities and philanthropic groups at the White House on Thursday to talk about steps to get more low-income students to attend college. The event is part of Obama's pledge to try to narrow the gap between rich and poor, a politically popular theme that is expected to dominate his State of the Union address on January 28. Obama has been unable to get some of his major initiatives approved by a sharply divided Congress and has pledged to maximize use of his powers of persuasion to advance his goals. White House officials worked with educational leaders on the project, aimed at getting them to take concrete steps to help students prepare for and get good advice on getting into college.