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. CapeCod

    "The Republican Governor"....

    Yesterday CNN reported the mayor of Charlotte NC was arrested by the FBI.

    CNN never reported he was a Democrat....!

    Nice job libs!

    March 28, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. sly

    Ho ho ho .... 'he resigned because he was tired'.

    And The Obese Crook says "I dont recall".

    Christie went on to say "I am not a crook".

    March 28, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Another rat leaves the Christie sinking ship! More will jump ship when someone makes a deal with the prosecuting attorney to provide testimony and evidence in exchange for immunity or a lighter sentence. Hope Gov Christie runs for president. His candidacy will be a major distraction and over shadow the primary debates.

    March 28, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. Joe

    Wasn't he born in a third world country-New Jersey

    March 28, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Big_D

    At least he is big enough to keep his cell mate warm.

    March 28, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rudy NYC
    Happy to oblige my friend.

    March 28, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  7. Name Uche Agonsi

    74-year old guy allowed to continue his job by this same Christie. Secondly, of all the Bridge traffic jam he was never aware of it until papers report. Where is this guy from. He needs a brain surgery.

    March 28, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. Bubba

    The real question is; how many bodies does the GOP think Christie can Effectively hide in the trunk of his car?
    Christie is already a challenge in terms of Southern Evangelic Voters, and every new scandal makes him more TOXIC.

    March 28, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. jellylee20202

    How do you know a lawyer is lying? Their lips are moving. They should be honored for the best fiction of the year.

    March 28, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. Marcus

    I guess they needed someone to sacrifice to make things look good.

    March 28, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  11. FrankinSD

    And so it inches ever closer to Governor Crispy Creme.

    March 28, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    This is stupid and childish.. How old are these people??? I mean, people love juicy messes, but this is not juicy AT ALL because no one cares besides the people who were stuck in traffic lol

    March 28, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  13. Bozo

    The report did find Gov Christie guilty. It definitely found his team involvement contributing directly to GWB traffic jam.
    As Gov Christie stated, "I am responsible", and so he is. So stopped trying to clear him, as he admitted he is responsible for the actions of his staff. His wrong doing is poor management of personnel and causing the traffic jam as he play hands off during the entire time and even now. What a BOZO.....

    March 28, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  14. becky white

    Could this man be more arrogant and more obnoxious? I investigated myself and found out I am perfect! So, you must believe it.

    March 28, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. republican

    A large part of being a successful President is making good choices about who you surround yourself with and who you give authority to – staff, advisors, etc. Obviously Christie is not a good judge of character and chooses poorly. He'll never be in the White House.

    March 28, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  16. jun bug

    you notice the statement "he did nothing wrong was the last three lines. You have to read all the way to the bottom to find out he did nothing wrong.

    March 28, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  17. Andrew

    Christie is dirty as they come and he is taking anyone down who dares to say it.

    March 28, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  18. Steve

    Don't you wish CNN, and other liberal media outlets, spent one-tenth the time on Benghazi, where Americans died due to political posturing, as they did on Christie's lane closure stupidity?

    March 28, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  19. Peace

    @ Jason Neace
    Is there any law which states Pres. Obama's style of leadership should be exactly the same like that one of Christie? By the way are you aware that Christie fired his people without even asking what happened? Is that what you call good leadership? It is either he knew what happened and there was no need for him to ask them again OR he is an incompetent leader not needed to be closer to Peoples House (White House).

    March 28, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  20. TRuTH

    Power corrupts. Christie's corruption erupts.

    March 28, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  21. dave

    Did Flight 370 hit the bridge!?!?!?!?!

    March 28, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    Uh-oh Tampa Tim ... there you go ruffling feathers. Yeah, I know. You post comments WAY too often. Shameful, isn't it?

    March 28, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. thetruth

    Looks like Christie finally found a fall guy.....

    March 28, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    The New Jersey taxpayers shouldn't have to flip this bill. They didn't order an independent review from the governor to conduct on himself.

    March 28, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rudy NYC
    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
    -------------------------------------------------
    I actually think tom l is okay. He is certainly innocuous enough.
    There are times however when he does take things a little too personally; and many times when he misunderstands and takes off in the wrong direction with his comments.
    We can all do that I guess...especially as it gets closer to Friday!

    March 28, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
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