March 28th, 2014
01:30 PM ET
9 years 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:

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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. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Paul Cooper

    If the Left's many felons have taught us anything, it's never count a pol out until they've been dead and in the ground for at least six weeks. Ted Kennedy got away with killing a woman. Robert Byrd recruited for the Klan and still became their "Conscience of the Senate". Harry Reid has been caught lying, cheating AND stealing so many times it barely makes the news anymore. Hillary Clinton has been caught lying about anything and everything, and she's now their number-one pick for 2016. And Bill Clinton perjured himself before a federal grand jury but remains their hero and "the first Black president".
    Gee....when you put it that way it kinda takes the lustre out of it...
    I am certain, however, that some of our "local historians" can draw a similar picture for the folks on the Right.
    So, what exactly is your point?
    It is more than evident to anyone is not partisan hack that the same thing can be said for people on BOTH sides of the aisle.
    The only difference is that I don't see Dems holding themselves up to everyone as the paragons of morality, christianity and patriotism, at least not to the degree that Republicans do.

    March 28, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. budwhite451

    he hires a good looking blond and blames it all on her

    March 28, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. Zwei Stein

    If Christie runs, a lot of Republicans, Democrats and Independents will vote for him. This so-called scandal is just minor political stuff. And BTW...any candidate who turns down contributions from the corporations (Supreme Court declared 'people') will get my vote.

    March 28, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. Byron

    So how many people believe him because he is a Republican? And how many people think he is guilty because he is a Republican? And how many made their conclusions of guilt or innocence based on this before any investigation ever started?

    How warped is that?

    March 28, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. Common Sense

    again, and for the final time....the governor has been all of you who are disappointed and believe justice was not done, here me please.......GROW UP... try to show some semblance of tolerance for truth.......I mean really, if all you got over there is Leland Yee, and Patrick Cannon, and the president (all of them criminals), the Senate changes hands in November, and the white house switches parties in 2016..............GROW UP

    March 28, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. Zwei Stein

    Does everyone's comment have to "await moderation" prior to being posted? I'm glad they aren't "pre-screened" cough, cough, as well.

    March 28, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. hellsyeahs

    Throw him under the bus. Real presidential. Christie is toast. It's obvious he planned the whole thing. OBVIOUS.

    March 28, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  8. Where's CNN?

    The California State Senate just suspended three of its Democrat senators today. One, an "anti-gun advocate," was arrested by the FBI for trafficking guns. Where's that article, CNN?

    March 28, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. budwhite451

    What about the Hoboken mayor portrayed as confused in report commissioned by Christie's office

    March 28, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. dirksterdude

    What I thought was interesting about that wonderful report Christie had commissioned to clear himself of wrongdoing is that a Fox News contributor also found it hilarious. It feels an awful lot like the rats jumping a drowning ship with the Port Authority person quitting.

    March 28, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. jack2

    A WAVE OF CORRUPTION arrests and probes is roiling Dems, including arrests of now-former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, left, and Calif. state Sen. Leland Yee just this week, posing a potential image problem in an election year.

    March 28, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. Chris

    Another Obama.... Doesn't know anything.

    March 28, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. budwhite451

    How about an deep independent study on Christie by CNN, no holds barred

    March 28, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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