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. Rudy NYC

    smith wrote:

    @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.
    -------------------------
    I never made any assumption that prices and costs will freeze, or whatever, with min. wage increase. You did so, implicitly. You had argued that wage increases caused price increases in gas and cigarettes. ... which would mean that prices and costs should not go up if wages are held constant. Increased wage = higher costs. Constant wage = constant costs. That was YOUR argument.

    I demonstrated that the price of gas and cigarettes has increased significantly since 2009 without a wage increase. I debunked your theory. By the way, the proposed increased would take place over a few years. I don't know where you get your information from, but it is pretty lousy.

    March 28, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  2. sww

    He had his lawyers conduct an internal review to see what was going on. there are still at least 2 other investigations. EVERYONE needs to get a life if the most inportant thing they have to is discuss a lane closure in New Jersey. CNN should get back to finding that missing airplane!

    March 28, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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. :)
    -------------------------------------------------
    LOL!!
    Good one tom l, good one babe!!!

    March 28, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. thinkergal

    Christie has no credibility left–not that he had much before all of this. Best he keep his fat face off the map for a while.

    March 28, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Apollo

    Governor Gridlock, so much better than Crispy Cream.
    Stick a fork in him he's done.
    Makes me wonder if even he believes his PRBS after he spews it enough.

    March 28, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. Harry101

    I think it's great that CNN is so focused on Christe and never a article about the two Democrate's on one each coast that find themself's in hot water. NOt even worth bring up for CNN I'm sure the DNC is very greatful.

    March 28, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. pizone

    Democratic California State Senator and Gun Control Advocate Leland Yee was arrested for TRAFFICKING ILLEGAL FIREARMS this week, among other charges, but for some reason CNN does not think that is newsworthy. No, a big traffic jam is much more important.
    That "Vindictive fat failure" is not going to nuke California if elected, you psycho. Take the tinfoil hat off and open your eyes. The current administration is much more underhanded and vindictive in dealing with political "enemies" than anything we have seen since the Clintons had people "silenced.". Have you not watched Eric Holder in action?

    March 28, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. Dar

    Please go back and only watch Fox News Cable to listen to all the LIES that Fox News tell.

    March 28, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. Bob slightly right

    A traffic jam?

    March 28, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. bill birch

    New California Democrat state senator anti-gun activist Leeland Yee indicted on federal charges of gun running by the FBI. Yee, known for his vehement opposition for personal ownership of legal guns, was Iindicted Wednesday for running illegal fully automatic weapons as well as rocket launchers out of the Philippines. Lee, also amidst a corruption scandel, was to run for state secretary now facing suspension by California lawmakers. Lee faces up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary if convicted. Atty general Eric Holder could not be reached for comment
    This nrws brought to you not by this outlet but does have bridgegate as a top story.
    Ignorance is bliss as gop remain in the cross hairs sidestepping any news deleterious to dems.

    March 28, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. Bob Ramos

    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.
    ----------------------------------------
    It is standard that why someone does not want to comment on a subject, he/she says, "I do not recall". And the "advance knowledge" aspect is very telling. The lane closures lasted four full days and the news was all over NJ and NY. A person would have had to be stone cold dead not to have known as to what was happening. Since Christie did know while the closures were ongoing, he could have opened them with a phone call but did not on purpose.

    March 28, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  12. CNNTheMadeUpTruth

    How is this still headline news on CNN? Did they not see the memo and press release of the recent FBI investigations into several dems that were brought up on corruption charges? One charge even includes a dem who was anti-gun who was caught in gun smuggling scheme. Really amazing. CNN – Please go out of business or return the you real news reporting from the '90's. It's time to clean house at this news organization because all they do is cherry pick stories that favor dems.

    March 28, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  13. rick

    In the Eyes of Moderate Republicans and all Democrats, Chris Christie will never be more than a Used Car salesman,
    Working for Uncles Koch mad tea party used car lot over on crazy street and do nothing boulevard ,
    "where they sell car so low they are almost giving them away."

    March 28, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. Hogan's Goat

    The Big Fail here is that Christie has been presenting himself as a candidate willing to reach across party lines, and now we find that his administration laughed with innocent delight as thousands of parents were stuck in traffic on the way to school, because those parents were mainly Democrats.
    Sorry Teabaggers, but ba da bing, ba da boom, your bipartisan hero turns out to be a Joisey Mook after all. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    March 28, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. ion pandele

    I hate when smart people are commenting in the same clichees. As far as I know it wasn't the governor who paid the lawyer, it was public money. Second, that lawyer can lie, but he knows his career is finished. Especially when is under democratic magnifier. I don't like this heavy governer because of his duplicity, but it's time to accept he is innocent, look at the highest level how people in government are lying with serious things, not just a bridge jam. I just published a book Twenty Angels, sorry for reminding that, I want just to show even poor immigrants like me are not idiots, we teach and take care of the kids, even we are not Americans, we clean the toilets, we do artistic paintingscand even poetry. And we just don't waste the time sending clichees, we want facts.

    March 28, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. Iab

    I was watching the news conf. by Christie. I had to stop, could not stand it anymore. He constantly put ppl down, insulted the ppl asking questions, interrupted, cut reporters off when their questions were getting too deep/substance, even called them names. He is arrogant, behaves like a thug/gangster, very disrespectful of others. I see him as a very insecure human being. Is this the type person we want to run our counties, cities, states, our country? In my opinion like the Mafia years ago there were so many layers b/w the one who gave the orders it was almost impossible to convict the one giving the orders. The FBI is quietly going on about their investigation, it may take a while but believe me they will tap Christie on the shoulder one day tell him he is under arrest, read him his rights as they hand cuff him. The American PPl are not stupid and I do not believe the citizen of NJ and NY are stupid either. It is my opinion Christie needs an evaluation by a well know independent phycologist. THIS MAN IS SCARY. He NEVER looks at himself, always blames others for his action/behavior. He respects no one. I hope those he has THROWN UNDER THE BUS come forth, tell the truth. Could they have been paid off, threatened, or to scared to testify even under oath? Please someone what is going on in our country?

    March 28, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  17. Truth Fairy

    Crisco is a heavy weight Republican who shares his truefiness unlike Pinocchio; If Crisco tells the troof, pounds are shed. Will never happen.

    March 28, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  18. Thinker

    Christy is being dishonest. If he had owned up to it right away, the story would be dead in the water. Says a lot about him and the type of president he could make. another 'w'.

    March 28, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  19. MICK

    Crispy is a RINO.. RAND PAUL 2016!!!!

    March 28, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    Hey, tom I. Share some of those happy faces with me ... please?

    I'm still pondering why I can't get mine to post from a few articles past.

    It's driving me batty.

    March 28, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. MaryM

    Sorry Krispy, you are toast . Or should I say Bacon!!

    March 28, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  22. Tim

    Christie's B$ reminds me of the denial of Larry Craig and the foot tappin' in the airport restroom. Never underestimate the power of that kind of denial.

    March 28, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  23. Sharky

    I got a speeding ticket but my lawyer found my denial had a" ring of truth" to it so I'm OK. Right?

    March 28, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  24. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @Pizone
    The current administration is much more underhanded and vindictive in dealing with political "enemies" than anything we have seen since the Clintons had people "silenced."

    And you get your facts from where? Faux "News"? Some right wing, internet Kook? Why bother posting garbage like this?

    March 28, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Bob Ramos

    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.
    --------------
    It is standard that why someone does not want to comment on a subject, he/she says, "I do not recall". And the "advance knowledge" aspect is very telling. The lane closures lasted four full days and the news was all over NJ and NY. A person would have had to be stone cold dead not to have known as to what was happening. Since Christie did know while the closures were ongoing, he could have opened them with a phone call but did not on purpose.
    ======================================================================
    To say it was all over the news is an understatement. Christie had even attended 9/11 ceremonies during the shutdowns. He had flown in a helicopter to Manhattan, instead of trying to drive across the river. He knew.

    But, even if it is never proven that he knew, it would prove that the man is an incompetent failure at governning.

    March 28, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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