March 28th, 2014
01:30 PM ET
9 months ago

Highlights from Chris Christie's news conference

Trenton, New Jersey (CNN) – Chris Christie did something Friday that he had not done in more than two months – hold a news conference.

The Republican governor of New Jersey's appearance in front of reporters at the statehouse in Trenton was his first since January 9, when he answered questions for nearly two hours about the George Washington Bridge controversy, which was starting to make national headlines.

Here are the latest developments from one hour and three minute long news conference:

3:34 p.m. ET: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie concluded his news conference by saying to reporters that "it's such a joy and relief to be finally able to come back and interact with you in the kind and gentle way we always have. I'd love to say I missed you, but I didn't. But I'm looking forward to having you all back on a regular basis."

3:19 p.m. ET: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday he will talk to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo about splitting the single Port Authority for the two states into separate entities for each.

3:09 p.m. ET:  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday he decided to fire former top aide Bridget Kelly because she lied to him about the controversial George Washington Bridge lane closings, and he had little confidence he would get the truth by meeting with her or keeping her on his staff any longer

3:02 p.m. ET: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday the internal investigation his office commissioned on the controversial George Washington Bridge lane closings indicated there was indeed a traffic study involved. But the review of the matter indicated a "nefarious or inappropriate" motive for the study by former Port Authority executive David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to the governor.

2:58 p.m. ET: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that David Samson, who is resigning as head of the Port Authority, talked about stepping down a year ago because he was 74 years old and "tired." But he stayed on at Christie's request through last year's re-election and subsequent transition.

There have been questions about business links between Samson's powerful law firm and the Port Authority, prompting some news organizations to call for his resignation.

"He called me this afternoon," Christie said in Trenton. "It's effective immediately."

On the bridge scandal and Samson, Christie said he asked him in January whether he knew anything about it, and "he said he did not."

2:52 p.m. ET: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday an internal investigation his office commissioned on the controversial George Washington bridge closings was "limited in small part by some of the access that they had and didn't have to certain people." But he added the document exonerating him of any wrongdoing was exhaustive and thorough and he knew it was going to be criticized "no matter what."

2:48 p.m. ET:  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday his office immediately moved in January to fire Bridget Kelly, the one close aide involved in the controversial George Washington Bridge lane closings as a first step to set a "different tone" in his administration, adding that "anyone who thought something like this would be pleasing or acceptable to me doesn't know me in the first place."

2:41 p.m. ET:  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday he doesn't care about lower poll ratings now in the aftermath of the controversy over the George Washington Bridge lane closures, saying that if he were to run for office in the future, "the poll I'll care about" would be the one two days before the election. The Republican governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential contender said he's confident that if he does run for the White House, the scandal won't matter to voters.

"The fact of the matter is that I had nothing to do with this, as I said from the beginning, and this report has supported exactly what I said. And in the long sweep of things, any voters, if they consider this issue at all, in considering my candidacy – if there ever is one at all – I’ve got a feeling it’ll be a small element of it, if any element at all," said Christie

2:32 p.m. ET: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie began his first news conference since January 9 by saying Friday that the chairman of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority, David Samson, has resigned in the aftermath of a report on the controversial closing of traffic lanes on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge last September.

 News conference follows release of internal review

Friday's question-and-answer session comes one day after the release of an internal review by a team of lawyers hired by Christie's office into last September's sudden closing of access lanes to the nation's busiest bridge that caused massive traffic jams in Fort Lee over several days.

Christie's administration is facing both federal and state investigations over suggestions top associates deliberately closed the lanes to punish the Democratic mayor of that town for not endorsing the governor's 2013 re-election.

The review blamed two top aides and backed up the governor's denials that he knew anything about the gridlock until after it occurred. Christie has said he knew nothing about any political mischief by members of his administration. But the controversy has clouded Christie's political future as he seriously considers a bid for the White House in 2016.

Christie and his lawyers stood by their review as an independent investigation, even though critics had their doubts.

A key entry in the report released Randy Mastro, who led the internal investigation, found that a senior appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the time, David Wildstein, apparently told a top official in the governor's office that he informed Christie at a public event about the now-infamous lane closures as they were occurring.

But the report said Christie "does not recall" any conversation with Wildstein and it all wouldn't have "registered" anyway because the governor "knew nothing about this decision in advance" to close traffic lanes.

Although the review introduced new details and magnified allegations against key players - like Wildstein and former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly - it did not offer any clarity on why the lanes were closed beyond "some ulterior motive to target (Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich)."
Still, Christie's team said some things are now better understood.

"We are confident that, based on our thorough review, we have a clear understanding of what happened here, even if the participants' precise motives remain to be determined," the review said.

The scandal, under investigation by a state legislative committee and the U.S. Attorney's office over concern Christie appointees abused their authority, has called into question the governor's forceful governing style.

The report examined the claim that Christie had created a "culture" of bullying adversaries and found it "unsubstantiated."

Christie said on Wednesday night that the saga, which has engulfed a number of key officials he appointed since taking office in 2009, has not altered his thinking about a possible White House run.

Christie: Iowans "love me"

And on Thursday, Christie said in an interview for ABC's "World News" that he couldn't believe it when he first heard about the traffic jam allegations and that he felt "taken advantage of" by his aides.

"I said, 'This can't possibly be true because who would do something like that?' Sometimes people do inexplicably stupid things," Christie said, adding that "none of it made any sense to me and to some extent still does not."

While this is the first news conference Christie's held since early January, he has answered questions from listeners to his "Ask the Governor" radio appearances, and he's held a bunch of town halls over the past two months as well.

Wildstein, Kelly, and a number of others have been subpoenaed as part of the state legislative investigation. Wildstein has refused to testify before legislative investigators. Kelly is fighting her subpoena in court.

Investigators conducting the internal review were not able to speak with Wildstein, Kelly or other prominent figures in the scandal.

The review also found that Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien and Port Authority Executive Director Bill Baroni, another Christie appointee, knew of the plan to close the lanes in advance, but there was no evidence uncovered that the two men knew why.

The review alleged Kelly and Wildstein covered up the motive by telling members of the Christie administration that the gridlock was part of a traffic study, a claim that Democrats have questioned.

Lawyers for Wildstein and Kelly could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kevin Marino, the attorney for Stepien, said the internal review "only confirms" that Stepien, who managed Christie's two successful gubernatorial campaigns, "had no involvement whatsoever in the planning, execution or concealment of the lane closures."

CNN's Steve Kastenbaum, CNN Investigative Correspondent Chris Frates, CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser, and CNN's Tom Cohen and John Crawley contributed to this report


Filed under: 2016 • Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (238 Responses)
  1. salty dog

    Is this a joke? They were unable to talk to prominent figures in the scandal, did they say scandal? I thought this was a witch hunt.

    March 28, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Should be fun listening to him work out of this one. Who will he throw under the bus next?

    March 28, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    But the report said Christie "does not recall" any conversation with Wildstein and it all wouldn't have "registered" anyway because the governor "knew nothing about this decision in advance" to close traffic lanes.
    -------------------------
    Someone tells you that your staff is illegally shutting down lanes of the GWB, and it doesn't "register"? Come on, man.

    March 28, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Tampa Tim

    I wonder if a reporter will get to ask how a person in Tampa got the information about the GWB lane shut down from local newspapers and media, and the governor in Trenton was completely unaware.

    March 28, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  5. D.L. Kisting

    Plain and simple, Democrats were intent on "framing" him.

    March 28, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. roger

    My condolences to all the Democrats and Liberals who tried their best to hang an innocent man. I'm sure you'll keep digging and if you can't find anything you'll make up something to try to tarnish his image.

    March 28, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  7. Jet

    Maybe he's going to pull a Bud Dwyer?

    March 28, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. NotYoDaddy

    Really?

    Why does he continue to enable this witch hunt?

    Tell them to suck eggs Christie!!

    March 28, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  9. Tampa Tim

    Roger – Thanks for the premature condolences. Even the crap that his attorneys released yesterday, have created more doubt about Krispy's involvement. But, I am sure you will follow a Fox News and Issa in their attempt to find that oat in their pile of horse manure, that links the president to their made up conspiracies.

    March 28, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  10. Jersey Shore

    I don't believe a word that comes out of CC mouth.

    March 28, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  11. Norma jean

    Insight to "roger".....where have you been since this thing started?????? Something major happened and we still don't know why or how.......Plus the only person with the ability to start it is systimatically avoiding the truth!!!!!Wake up!!!!!!

    March 28, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  12. Jerz guy

    Seriously? If this is the best liberal writers can do to smear Christie, they are going to be in trouble. Best Gov. NJ has had in decades.

    How many of the dozens of white house scandals have been talked about for more than 2 days? They will try to keep this lame story alive for another 2 years.

    Wake up people.

    March 28, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. Silence DoGood

    @roger
    My condolences to all the Democrats and Liberals who tried their best to hang an innocent man. I'm sure you'll keep digging and if you can't find anything you'll make up something to try to tarnish his image.
    ---------–
    But I will just bet you have fan posters of Issa and Starr on your wall right?

    March 28, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. tom l

    Tim, why is it that when someone has an opinion that differs from you that you always think it comes from Fox or Rush or Hannity or the Koch brothers?

    I know that you are told what to post so maybe you're projecting. The very fact that they are HERE on CNN should be an indication that they listen to more than one opinion and have more than one source for their news. Most people that actually have opinions of their own (especially those who post on here that don't agree with you) don't have marching orders like you do on here.

    March 28, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  15. Jme

    I am no fan of CC but democrats pull the same type of destroy tactics in every election. Hillary has an unbelievable amount of baggage but who should be feared????? CC.

    March 28, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    ""We are confident that, based on our thorough review, we have a clear understanding of what happened here, even if the participants' precise motives remain to be determined,""

    Right..."we have a clear understanding" OF WHAT? What and who planned it and when? When did they meet? Where are their communications? What do the phone records and emails show? This is a load of malarkey and a superficial attempt to get out in front of DOJ and the NJ legislature with an quasi-official looking "investigation" conducted by outside attorneys with loyalty only to Christ Christie, the man who hired them for their "crisis management" expertise (as proudly advertised on their website) and gave them a contract for $650/hour. This isn't a report on investigations by an internal review board or governmental agency with responsibilities for such things. It is nothing but ADVOCACY.

    March 28, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. steinborn

    He did it.

    March 28, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. ug

    And this is news huh! how about Benghazi...IRS scandal...High unemployment...Osamacare...the list goes on butt he trash cnn media freaks carry the water for Osama...

    March 28, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "backed up the governor's denials that he knew anything about the gridlock until after it occurred. "

    No it didn't. It provided ZERO concrete evidence that Christie "doesn't recall" being informed of it by Wildstein. It merely accepts Christie's "I don't recall" as true and reiterates it amidst a sea of other fluffy rationalizations and assumptions. That is not "backed up." Moreover, Christie's statements that he DOESN'T recall being told about the lane closures and traffic problems, but that DOES recall that the conversation "had nothing to do with getting back at some mayor" makes the whole thing sound ridiculous. This report is nothing more than Christie's attorneys selling his excuses and advocating his narrative to the MSM before the other side does so the real investigations' conclusions have an uphill battle in some idiots' minds.

    March 28, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  20. BluntNRude

    The internal investigation was a complete waste of time & money. The Feds and State Dems. are going to continue their quest regardless of any evidence one way or another and Democratic media outlets like MSNBC will continue to stoke this as part of their mission to plow the road for their 2016 Presidential candidate.

    The key to making it go away would be Christie making a firm statement that he will not be running in 2016 and the entire smear machine would be off chasing someone else.

    March 28, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. Silence DoGood

    @tom l
    Tim, why is it that when someone has an opinion that differs from you that you always think it comes from Fox or Rush or Hannity or the Koch brothers?

    ----------
    So many conservative posters here will parrot a lie or rumor started by one of those guys. Example Rush started a "Hillary is too sick to run for office rumor" which he later backpedaled on and claimed it a joke. BUT I still see conservative commenters here repeating it in literal of veiled fashion. Rush said it and it gets repeated. Plain and simple. Dude we can see you!

    March 28, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  22. amber

    Christie is a crook.

    Why isn't his office being audited by both the IRS and state authorities? There is more than enough account fraud evidence.

    March 28, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  23. openlate247

    Are we really still talking about this?

    March 28, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. Rocky

    Why not just use Hillary's "What difference does it make?!" excuse and leave it at that. Seemed to work for Killary.

    March 28, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  25. I am not a hate filled Republican

    "By a team of lawyers"...they're HIS lawyers, so what would you expect the outcome to be.

    March 28, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
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