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. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC


    @Rudy-You live in NYC where the cost of living is insane For the rest of us my numbers fit. You and others chose to live there and pay high prices for products. If you live in huge cities prices are going to be insane. My suggestion is to move where your pay equals your cost of living.
    Your minimum wage theory has been debunked. I was not sufficiently clear. Prices are driven by greed, not wages, not demand, nothing but pure greed..

    Prices and costs have gone up all around the country, just like they have in NYC I know they have because I've read enough posts from red staters complaining about the high cost of gasoline. Everything is relative, including wages and costs.
    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?

    March 28, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. JustASec

    Killing off the witnesses is a common New Jersey Mob approach to cleaning up a crime sight.

    March 28, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. mbl

    Christie has forgotten one of the great old truths...Don't tell a lie if it sounds like a lie and don't tell the truth if it sounds like a lie. Commissioning your own attorneys to investigate you means that nobody will believe the result, even if it is true. Christie has just set himself up for a political lifetime of public doubt by doing it this way. It isn't as bad as Chappaquiddick was for Teddy Kennedy, but in both cases the public will never quite believe him...ever.

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

    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?
    Thanks, babe. You're exactly right. There are loads of possibilities. 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.

    So, I'm just tired of Tampa and his inane comments. It grates on me. I'm not seeking negative attention. I'm pointing out what appears to be obvious to me. 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? How is that any different? Because you agree with him? Do you think that Fair or smith or I only get our opinions from those sources? Of course you don't. That's why I have respect for you and I actually believe that respect is reciprocated. Tampa is mindless. He has no thought behind what he says. You have kids so I would think it would resonate with you about making a claim about someone else to try and throw you off. He is never not on here.

    And little rudy, I don't think you're mad at me and I really don't care if you are. I just think you have no idea what you're talking about on many of your posts (just like you probably think I don't know what I'm talking about on many of my posts). Let's talk David Stockman any time you want.

    March 28, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  5. airjackie

    it is to funny to what a liar lie. 1 million to legal friends to say they did it not me. A soap opera story to distract the truth. David Samson deeply involved but not mentioned. Wow Samson resigns why? Samson has been milking the State of Jersey for himself and his law firm/clients and got exposed. Why a press conference and TV interview? See if the acting of Mafia Soprano Christie still works and to tell Diane Sawyer what a great family man with Christian values the Governor is. Oh and Sheldon Alderson watches 7 news so to be sure he saw the interview. Now it's time to go to Vegas and see if Christie can fool old money banks Alderson out of some of his billions. Let the games begin.

    March 28, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. 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.

    March 28, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. Sid

    You would think, from the comments, that this is the first time subordinates exercised the trust and power delegated to them to punish their own counterpart political foes. The idea was ill-conceived and backfired. When a successful politician gets revenge it is subtle and untraceable.I believe Christie because if he had done this everybody in his office would have been talking about it.

    March 28, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    Did Rudy imply Tampa Tim was in a nursing home?(refer to previous post).lol
    You know good and darn well he didn't rabble-rouser you!! LOL!

    March 28, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. mary

    I don't believe him.
    People need to wake up.. When the super rich openly say they are going to spend millions and millions to get "their" party in the white house and in control of the house and Senate.. Which is the GOP..
    It doesn't take a genius to understand this is not good for "the people" of this country..
    Just what they are managing now with the GOP in the house. To STOP unemployment, cut and destroy every safety net.. GEt rid of health care for the average American.. To rid the country of rules and regulations so the big business can do anything they please to our environment, our food and our lives.. Rid us of a min wage.. rid us of any rights to bargain for fair or ethical treatment in the work place. Rid us of public school and on and on..
    you CAN"T be crazy enough to be on board with destroying yourselves at the hands of the rich. That would be crazy..
    They have proven they want a country where the rich rule and you comply..
    America must always be a place where the people decide for themselves how they want to live..
    Not ruled by a few who only serve themselves.

    March 28, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. Mike

    I see CNN is on the Christie search and destroy mission again. I don't see any mention of the Democratic Charlotte Mayor who resigned, the Democratic Politician selling guns in California or the 2 others. What is the DNC paying CNN?

    March 28, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    I don't believe you Mr. Christie. You will never be President.

    March 28, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. tom l

    And, Tim, since you said it's another of my inane theories, why don't you give me another inane conspiracy theory that I have subscribed to. I'm not a conspiracy theorist and you know that. I have never made any conspiracy theories. That must be another one of your comeback lines that you got in the playbook to dodge and deflect.

    March 28, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. 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. .

    March 28, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  14. Joeseph Eclaire

    He's throwing them all to the dogs.
    Doubtful he'll have a chance in 2016.

    He's hiding behind the famous Reagan plausible denial.

    March 28, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. bobo

    Christie didn't know... period. Now let's get back to things that matter....
    Russia invades Crimea, Ukraine soon... then Estonia, then Poland? Iran is STILL pursuing a nuclear weapon..... we have the lowest job participation in 35 years... where is the Summer of Recovery? Obama Lied to get Obamacare passed.... This is the worst President and Administration we EVER had!
    Please vote Republican.... pick the new ones... not the old cronies. There are new better ideas out there!

    March 28, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  16. 1776usa2016

    That Christie sure can dance.


    March 28, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  17. roger

    This is for the people that are calling "foul" because Christie was investigated by someone he hired. I do believe Obama did this on every scandal he has had. IRS, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, etc.. It's okay I guess for him to do it because he's our first Black President and we have to give him a break but let some White guy Republican try it and it's got all the Liberal Democrats wailing.. Poor babies.

    March 28, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  18. Smitty

    How about spending this much effort on the IRS, Ben Ghazi, fast and furious, oooh that's right the BIGGEST LIAR OF THE YEAR gets a pass, even lied about the POPE, unbelievable.

    March 28, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. jjjlmn

    What I like about Christie's interview with Diane Sawyer on Thursday was that his son, home for break, asked him if he had anything to do with the bridge closing. How's that for a ringing endorsement? Your own son doesn't know if you were a part of it.

    March 28, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  20. Joeseph Eclaire

    He's throwing them all under the bus. I doubt he stands a chance in 2016.
    He's from the school of Reagan Plausible denial.

    March 28, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  21. djjimi

    Under the bus. Career. Over... and out.

    March 28, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  22. jdean

    What a joke this clown is. He refers to a paid investigation by him as an exoneration. He must really think the people of nj are idiots.

    March 28, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  23. joe

    If all they wanted was a whitewash, they could have gone to Home Depot and saved the taxpayers of New Jersey a million dollars.

    March 28, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    Gov. Christie thinks you and I are idiots. He's wrong about me.

    March 28, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. GOP = Greed Over People

    "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"

    If the bottom feeder is running for President, you better care, the woman that died could have been your wife, daughter or mother.

    What is to keep this vindictive fat failure from shutting down all the bridges to blue Manhattan or blowing up the blue state of California and let it slip into the sea, if the citizens do not support him AND he has the nuke codes?

    March 28, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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