BERNIE, N.J. — Christie’s real-estate empire has become a political lightning rod, as some lawmakers have been pressing the governor to release documents related to the deals he and his family made during his time in office.
Christie’s son and top adviser, Paul Manafort, was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
Manafort, a former campaign chairman, is facing up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A former Christie aide who has worked for the governor said his case is part of a broader effort by congressional Republicans to get him to reveal documents on his real-world connections to foreign officials.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Manafort said his indictment and the Mueller investigation were politically motivated attacks against him.
Manafort has denied the allegations and said his family has done nothing wrong.
“The allegations are without merit and have no basis in fact,” he said in the statement.
“We stand behind our decision to remain silent.”
Manafort, 57, was the chairman of the Trump campaign from March through August of 2016 and was a key figure in helping Trump win the White House.
He was indicted last week on charges he laundered money through offshore bank accounts, according to the New York attorney general’s office.
He denies any wrongdoing.
A source familiar with Manafort’s case said he had no prior criminal history and that he is a low-level political operative.
But a review of Manafort’s financial records and interviews with people close to him suggest that his ties to foreign governments and officials were not a secret and that they were widely known.
Manafort is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, the source said.
Manafort also is cooperating in other ways with special counsel James B. Comey’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump administration and Russian operatives.
Manafort was paid more than $10 million by the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation, according the Washington Post.
He and his wife, who is a prominent Christie donor, gave nearly $5 million to the Republican Governors Association in 2016.
He also contributed to the presidential campaigns of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the Republican National Committee, according a list of campaign donations obtained by the AP.
In January 2016, the day after Christie became governor, he flew to Washington, D.C., to attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
He then flew back to New Jersey to meet with lawmakers and to hold a press conference on the state of the country.
The day after his speech, the state legislature passed a law that banned lobbyists from lobbying for foreign governments or entities.
That law was amended a month later.
Manafort and Manafort’s attorney, James Feehery, have argued that Christie and his staff were trying to avoid the appearance of political favors by seeking to avoid paying the tax and disclosure obligations associated with his role as a registered lobbyist for a foreign government.
Feehera has also argued that the Christie administration violated the terms of the state’s ethics law.
He did not return a message seeking comment.
The investigation began after former FBI director James Comey made public comments in a memo that Trump had asked him to drop the bureau’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
That memo was subsequently used to justify Comey’s firing.
Christie was also investigated for failing to pay a $50,000 state pension check to his wife’s company and then not paying taxes on that money for more than a decade.
Christie and other Republicans have blamed Democrats for not being tough enough on Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by dozens of women, including numerous women who said he sexually assaulted them while he served as governor.
In recent months, lawmakers have pressed Christie to release information related to his dealings with foreign officials, including on deals he has with Russians and foreign entities.
But Christie’s office has resisted.
In February, Christie’s chief of staff, David Wildstein, resigned after his wife alleged he was too cozy with Manafort, who was then the campaign chairman.
Wildstein’s resignation came two weeks after Christie’s attorney issued a statement saying he did not have any reason to resign.
The Christie administration has also denied that the special counsel investigation was politically motivated.
Manafort’s office said it was not aware of any efforts by the Republican Party to interfere with Mueller and that it is confident that the facts in the Mueller case will be resolved before the end of the year.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said the governor was proud to have served in government and to have contributed to his family’s business.
“Christie’s career in government has been marked by significant public service and public service is a hallmark of a great governor,” Roberts said.
“His family and the Christie family have served our state well and we look forward to working with the Special Counsel and his team to determine the facts and determine the course of justice.”
Paul Manafort and his brother, Rick, who served as Christie’s campaign chairman in the 2016 election, also have