March 28th, 2014
01:30 PM ET
8 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. charles116

    Only in his fantasy world was he cleared of anything.
    And when Riley decides to "sing", the walking fart machine is finished.

    March 28, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    Tom l – I know you are super sensitive, but you are clueless as usual. In your mind, the truth will always be hidden behind your inane theories.

    March 28, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    don't you love how the Republicans bring in there buddy To cover their own asses

    March 28, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  4. Anton

    Have his pant's caught on fire yet?

    Or did he already have them fire proofed?

    March 28, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  5. Brad-Ashe

    Let's see...Christie investigates himself with taxpayer money and finds himself innocent. SURPRISE!! I'll wait for the results of the outside investigations thank you.

    March 28, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  6. Last Night in Paradise

    Has Christie done something wrong? This guy is straight up as they get. smh

    March 28, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. Last Night in Paradise

    Focus on the Obama scandals and Obamacare this November

    March 28, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. James

    One could only wish that the major media outlets cared as much about the outright lies & deceit of the obama administration as they do about Gov. Christie. The failure of major media outlets to adequately cover the IRS, Benghazi, fast & furious, the obamacare debacle, etc. leaves many Americans ignorant of what this administration is doing to the country.

    March 28, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. greenaxe

    The only time you will hear George Washington and Chris Christie mentioned in the same sentence.

    March 28, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. tstorm92

    What a crack up! Christie hires Christie's lawyer to go out and prove he had nothing to do with the bridge back up and then suprisingly announces that his lawyer, after spending $1 million dollars of New Jersey tax payers money, finds that Christie had nothing to do with it! Really? What a surprise! Dude, you're toast... just step down already...

    March 28, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. peter

    There are no foxes in the hen house said the fox to the farmer.

    March 28, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Bacala

    Can you imagine if this was IRS being cleared. Or better yet Benghazi.

    March 28, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. rockbass

    The dems aren't happy about who did the investigation because of bias. Eric Holder appointed an Obama donor to investigate the irs scandal. Hypocrites much?

    March 28, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. adam

    roger: Christie's lawyers did an investigation that showed he was not guilty and had no involvement in the scandal. There couldn't possibly be any ulterior motive, right. Question, would you buy this conclusion if it were a Democrat who was being investigated?

    March 28, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Suede e

    This is a 5 month old story. Where are the stories on the 6 corrupt democrats who have been investigated by the FBI and are being arrested??? Like that hypocrite Leland Yee from CA who was selling automatic weapons while trying to take away our 2nd Amendment rights.

    March 28, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. John Q

    Only a Republican would call this a witch hunt as key members of Christies inner circle keep resigning
    Watching you make excuses for his behavior is hilarious, because it has to be the Dems fault
    Then again you GOP folks think Palin is smart, makes sense

    March 28, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. Rebecca

    Chris Christie well knows the way of corruption and misuse of power. He believes that it will always be so. I believe that our country is ready for a cleanup.

    March 28, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  18. Try reading...

    I don't know if he is guilty or not but this "investigation" changes nothing. I will wait for the Federal and State investigations.

    March 28, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  19. Peace

    I think and hope GOP are thinking as well. You can't promote this man Christie in his efforts to run for President, while his scandal is very far away to be resolved. The people who have declared him innocent, haven't closed down everything. Other investigations are still going on. We all know that he is dying hard to become President, but the bridgegate string which has been tied on, still pulls him behind.

    March 28, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  20. ron

    Somewhere Richard Nixon is standing above Governor Christie and smiling. He must be thinking with satisfaction..."Ah yes, that's my boy."

    March 28, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  21. rockbass

    @anonymous, when a lib does it, it Is o.k. with you tho.
    Are you blind to the crooked investigations by our current administration.
    Should he have plead the 5th like lois lerner?
    Give me a break. If you hate dishonesty, you can't support the Obama administration. PERIOD

    March 28, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  22. Tommy in Wilton

    Pork Chop's in big trouble~

    March 28, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. 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?

    March 28, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  24. Joe

    He was in charge he is responsible for the trouble .....BENGHAZI !!!.......BENGHAZI !!!.......BENGHAZI !!!.......BENGHAZI !!!.......BENGHAZI !!!.......SENATE HEARINGS!!!!......SENATE HEARINGS!!!!......SENATE HEARINGS!!!!......SENATE HEARINGS!!!!.....

    March 28, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. Jason Neace

    Chrstie has done something that Obama has not, TAKE responsibility and fire those that are involved. Obama will not fire anyone, not any of his corrupt cronies, Holder, Pelosi, Reid.

    March 28, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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