March 28th, 2014
01:30 PM ET
7 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. OUTTA HERE

    Almost in the White House – It's get worse every election – we REALLY NEED THE MESSIAH NOW MORE THAN EVER (whether it's first or second time)!!!!

    March 28, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. Econ301

    Is it anyone surprised that the Investigation that Christy Ordered found that Christy did no wrong?

    March 28, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. Marie MD

    "Taken advantage of?" No way you would let anyone do that.
    BTW another one bites the dust . . Port authority chairman resigns.

    March 28, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  4. Robert Rademacher

    He hires a group of lawyers to investagate him and they say he did nothing wrong. You have got to be kidding.. How did they allow certain reporters to ask preset questions. What a joke . I liked christe before this

    March 28, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I said, 'This can't possibly be true because who would do something like that?'

    Well, Chris Christie ... bottom line: the people you hired and gave untold power to within your "top notch" administration DID do something like that.

    And psst: heads up. shoulda ... coulda ... woulda ... doesn't play well nationally.

    March 28, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  6. cynic

    trash talking Christie..

    March 28, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. smith

    Did Rudy imply Tampa Tim was in a nursing home?(refer to previous post).lol

    March 28, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. salty dog

    Call off the investigation, he's innocent: his lawyer said so, that's exactly the way he is acting, ridiculous! The sad truth is that's all some needed to hear, they have had no contact with anyone involved, yet they know exactly what happened, how? No wonder Reagan is their hero, its all theatrics for them, the fifty some votes to repeal the ACA. simply shameless.

    March 28, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Rudy-You live in NYC where the cost of living is insane For the rest of us my numbers fit. You and others chose to live there and pay high prices for products. If you live in huge cities prices are going to be insane. My suggestion is to move where your pay equals your cost of living.
    -------------------------
    Your minimum wage theory has been debunked. I was not sufficiently clear. Prices are driven by greed, not wages, not demand, nothing but pure greed..

    Prices and costs have gone up all around the country, just like they have in NYC I know they have because I've read enough posts from red staters complaining about the high cost of gasoline. Everything is relative, including wages and costs.

    March 28, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  10. wingit

    Let it go folks let it go. Nobody outside NJ except the bottom feeders at CNN and MSNBC and delusional Democrats care about a traffic jam on a bridge.

    March 28, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. npr772013

    An investigation performed by lawyers hired by himself with taxpayer money...why didn't Nixon or Clinton think about that? That's like a person accused or murder hiring a lawyer to investigate independent of police and prosecutors and finding himself innocent...That is also like the Conservative Supreme Court being entrusted to resolve an issue between liberals en conservatives...

    March 28, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  12. markfromdover

    Don't ever rob a bank with this cat. He'd probably knock you over with his finger pointing when asked "who did it"!!

    March 28, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. mark

    OUTTA HERE: We already have the Messiah in the WH – his name is Barack Obama!!! Praise him and bow in glory to the messiah!!! Better him than a dead Jew!

    March 28, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. Hogan's Goat

    I thought Christie resigned already over this? Whatever. There's your next GOP presidential loser, beached and rotting and ready to roll over for Hillary. You can smell it from here.

    March 28, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    @Last Night in Paradise
    Focus on the Obama scandals and Obamacare this November
    ------------
    Well that is pretty much the plan, but you forgot courting any crazy conspiracy theory that come along.
    After the ObamaCare thing fails to work. Then all you have the crazy conspiracy theories.

    March 28, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. Citizen_123

    Another one bites the dust!

    March 28, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  17. rad666

    so the newest sacrificial lamb has been taken to slaughter..................

    March 28, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  18. Name

    Poor press. Kinda heavy,no?

    March 28, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  19. ken

    This guy is the best yet for the GOP? Scary.

    March 28, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. John

    Now he's trying to make it look like this 74 year old transit guy who wanted to retire but stayed for a while at Christie's request is the guilty on eand that is why he is retiring? How low can you go Mr. Chjristie?

    March 28, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  21. iceload

    So one day his aids go out and close a bridge for political retribution. They never did anything like this before or since and it's a complete shock to Christie. In other news, I'm selling that very same bridge.

    March 28, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Dominican mama 4 Obama

    And Tim has said that he works so he's not in a nursing home
    -----------------
    You and Fair are being deliberately obtuse.
    Rudy did not in any way imply that Tim was in a nursing home.
    He was pointing out that someone could indeed be posting here day and night BECAUSE they lived in a nursing home.
    Why is it tom l that you seek negative attention so very actively?
    ======================================================
    Thanks, babe. You're exactly right. There are loads of possibilities. Little tom also thinks that I'm mad at him. It's nice to see that his stereoscopes are still functioning and pointed in the same direction, down.

    March 28, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  23. Tampa Tim

    Fair is Fair
    Tampa Tim

    Tom l – Yeah, I was wondering how Fair is Fair, smith, smitty, just, Lizzie, hector, and yourself, can post all day every day. Are you one of the paid Fox bloggers we got to see in the bus at the first tea bagger rally?
    ---
    Rudy thinks you're in a nursing home, Tim... how do you feel about that?
    ---
    Rudy was merely trying to point out to Tom that there are other possibilities beyond the scope of Tom's reasoning skills.

    March 28, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. Big_D

    Looks like the GOP's candidate will be running his campaign from prison. This is so funny, the GOP is assuming they are walking away with the mid term but their candidates keep getting in trouble or arrested and the ACA just keeps getting better.

    March 28, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. Sid

    I could care less what happened with the bridge but his recent pot remarks just ended any chance of me supporting him...

    March 28, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
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