March 28th, 2014
01:30 PM ET
6 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. john

    Hey Christie, Nobody buys your canned "investigation." Why would any subordinate engineer a dirty trick without the knowledge of his (her) boss, there would be no quid pro quo? We all know you OK'd what happened before it happened.

    March 28, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. notahistorianbut

    Christie throws any/everyone else under the bus; hires lawyers to prepare a report telling everyone what Christie wants people to believe; wants to believe that he's still got presidential aspirations – with potential and then can't understand why so few are ready to give him a pass. I will wait for the DOJ to get done with their investigation before making a decision of whether to consider him or not. I had liked Christie, especially after Sandy – not so much anymore. As he's stating he gave (something along the lines – can't remember the direct quote), enormous freedom? to his staff; then claimed utter ignorance. If the buck stops with the President – it also stops with the Governor. Whoever's in charge is ultimately responsible and claiming ignorance of activities going on within/from his immediate office is nothing I want near the White House.

    March 28, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. smith

    @Rudy-Prices have gone up, but not like NYC and in other major cities. A pack of cigs here is 4.25, a gallon of gas is 3.35, and the min. wage is 7.25. Your assumption is false that product prices and basic cost of living will freeze and stay the same with a min wage. increase of $3 to $4. It needs to be done over a period of years on the federal level or increased by the state. Greed is the driving force and you can`t stop it.

    March 28, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    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.
    ------------------------
    I think you mean that nobody within the conservative media bubble cares about Bridgegate. They don't want to cast Christie into too negative of a light, because he might be their best shot in 2016.

    Once the top donors pick their man, though, Chris had better hope that it's him. The truth just might make it to the right wing once the Christie character assassination begins. Besides, I know that most of the base wrote Christie off following Sandy.

    March 28, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. veep

    straight up dishonest.

    You Republicans gonna stand by this?

    March 28, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  6. Dar

    It was never a traffic study Chis Christy. Come on now

    March 28, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. Brian in TX

    All I will say in regards to this matter is that if it would have been a Democratic administration that did this the Governor would have been impeached by now.

    March 28, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. veep

    I hope all you good Christians are mulling over whether to back a sociopath.

    go on, I dare you.

    March 28, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  9. Burbank

    I don't believe him for a "New Jersey minute". There is no reason an aide would just act on their own like that. He knew about it,probably told her to do it verbally so it couldn't be proved in court if he got caught, and it matches his reputation for being a bully. Liar! Liar! Pants on fire! Nothing but still another corrupt politician. Not the sort of person that would make a good President, has a very underdeveloped conscience. What does that mean for the rest of us after he gets what he wants? (elected Prez)

    March 28, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. cbp

    Once again we have a political figure who tried to stop a story and deny involvement only to have the media and others digging into the story. Wouldn't it be refreshing to have someone admit their errors first.

    March 28, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. tom l

    @don in albuquerque

    tom I

    Kinda like the worthless, mindless, garbage you put out with nearly every post? Sheer theatre of the absurd.
    =====

    See now that's funny. :) But at least my mindless garbage is original and comes from MY own thoughts and opinions. What's truly ironic is that you and I agree on many social issues, I bet. But unfortunately you're too caught up in the D vs. R thing to recognize that. Am I mindless and garbage filled when I say that I have no issue about gays being married? Or how about being pro choice? Is that mindless? How about feeling that convicted felons should be able to vote again which I agree with? More mindless drivel? And, if Obama wasn't president, you would probably agree with me on drone attacks killing innocent civilians overseas and the NSA over reach, too. All of these are probably issues that we agree on, but I guess I'm just spewing some more mindless garbage, right?

    March 28, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Fair posted on page 5:

    But... but... but out government says there's minimal inflation (< 2.5% annually) and can therefore justify 1% increases in Social Security COLAS. Yes, yes, I know... that doesn't include the dreaded volatile food and energy sector... but seniors don't eat much and tend to dress in layers anyways, right?
    -----------------------------
    That's a big swing and a miss, Fair. What were you aiming at? I think you missed your own point.

    March 28, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. smith

    @DM4O-I know I know, but Rudy could have thought of a better theory regarding Tampa Tim. lol.

    March 28, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. calamity jane

    I think it's remarkable that the governor can hire and pay his own investigator to find him innocent of wrongdoing! It makes that finding very solid and beyond reproach. Isn't that just the way a Republican handles their little problems? Pay someone to make it disappear. Then continue to accuse others of integrity issues.

    March 28, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. tom l

    DMFO, come on now, admit it. :) Remember the song "Things that make you go hmmmmm"? :) In the back of your mind you're thinking, welllllll....maaaaaybeee. :)

    Thanks for the nice comment you made earlier. :)

    March 28, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    My question is this, DMFO: why don't you say that Tampa is seeking negative attention when he makes comments about conservatives on here being paid to post? Why is it that when he says things about conservatives only listening to Hannity or Rush or the Koch brothers that's ok for you?
    -------------------------------------------------
    tom l I think that most of us have said at one point or another that so and so must be a paid blogger...its' the b.s talking.
    There is a difference in saying that, however, and stating that you know it to be a fact.
    The comments about people getting their talking points from Fox, Hannitty and other folks that I don't watch are also part of the repartee around here. Some say Fox, others respond with MSNBC, and so on.
    It just isn't that serious babe.
    Tim and Fair were having a pretty good back and forth about the CBO report and you jumped in with something completely unnecessary and out of left field IMO, so I called you on it.
    I'm not pretending to be part of this thread's po-po department, nor am I saying that my hands are clean. I have admitted to indulging and enjoying the occassional roll in the mud (wink!) but I generally do it in response to something not to agitate unnecessarily.
    That's all I've got to say about that...

    March 28, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. river

    So, let me get this straight, Republicans think that Obama has to be this all knowing leader, who knows exactly what every one of his aides are doing at all times . . . hence, the Benghazi "scandal" was his fault, and the IRS "scandal" was his fault. Like Chris Christie was working the cones on the bridge lane closures, Obama was on the phone with a branch office of the IRS telling them to rake conservative groups over the coals. Yet, when the shoe is on the other foot, all we get from the star of the Republican Party is "I wasn't involved, it wasn't my fault, there was nothing I could have done different, voters won't care." Rest assured, Mr. Christie, Voters are going to care. At BEST, this episode shows that you hire incompetent and corrupt people. That is a recipe for disaster when you are trying to lead a political party that is as intellectually dishonest as the Republicans have become in the last 15 years.

    March 28, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  18. loops808

    Let's compare to Obama. Obama's administration hand picks an attorney who is an Obama and DNC donor–no mention of this most media outlets. How many conferences does Obama have on any scandal? How long does he answer questions? What kind of fu-fu questions does the media ask Obama? I would love to see Obama pull a Chris Christie style news conference and answer REAL, tough, and legitimate questions–something he or the media has been willing to do.

    March 28, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. garymac

    If any of you Christie supporters need another box of tissues, let me know...of Christie

    March 28, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  20. ChrisM

    One MILLION dollars the taxpayers of New Jersey paid for that pos report from Chrisies's attorneys . Those attorneys must really think the people of New Jersey are freaking ignorant

    March 28, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. johnbiggscr

    'Joe – Funny Christie got a democrat to do the investigation. Do you think Obama would hire a republican to investigate the IRS or any of his other scandals? H&ll no! He just keeps doing all he can do to impede investigations.'

    Christie got his attorney to do the investigation. His political viewpoint had nothing to do with anything.

    March 28, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. The REAL Truth...

    @Hilary Is Out! – He's innocent and the liberals hate that. Not one fact has even suggested that Christie knew anything and the D's are unforgiving. That's good because Chritie will smash the D's in 2016. .
    --------------------------–
    As an independent, I could care less whether he's innocent or not. He's toast for 2016, and his REAL downfall won't be bridgegate but misuse of Federal funds. Only a m0r0n would believe that spending taxpayer dollars to hire ones own lawyers to conclude ones innocence (in spite of the contradictions in the release) would stick. And only a bigger one would be gullible and naive enough to believe it. Even if he WAS unaware of the closure, what does it say about his skills when the right rails on the POTUS for not knowing what is happening half the world away, and the Gov doesn't even know what's happening in HIS OWN OFFICE !!

    March 28, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  23. Vijay

    Christie is an epitome of failure, bullying, inept and selfish politician... Christie is long done....

    March 28, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  24. Kevin

    Did y'all hear about how he was cleared for Bridgegate? Apparently, the attorney that Chris Christie personally hired to investigate says Christie didn't do anything wrong. Clearly, this is proof that Christie did nothing wrong. In other news, I'm not posting this on the internet. And you can be assured that I'm not, because a guy I hired to say that exact thing agrees with me.

    March 28, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  25. JHC

    David Samson said (cough) in a statement. “The timing (cough, cough) is now right (cough)."

    March 28, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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