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. Big_D

    Swing low, sweet chariot, coming forth to carry Christie's political future home.

    March 28, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Big_D

    The GOP can always run Romney again. He knows 47% of the people will never vote for him already.

    March 28, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. Name

    I hope you're having a nice Friday! 🙂 and for the record, I think all of your comments are genuine and come from the heart. I have great respect for you and we just disagree on a lot of political positions (but I bet we agree on many as well). 🙂 by the way, I know what you mean with the non-posting comments. Nothing more frustrating than having a gem not make it on here!

    March 28, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    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
    What I'd like to know is: "WHERE'S THE BEEF CNN?!".
    It is Friday...where's the Red Meat?!
    You got poor tom l out there by himself trying to start some stuff because YOU cnn have fallen down on your solemn duty to get us all at each other's throats on Friday.
    Shame on you cnn!
    And shame on you for eating my friend Lynda's smiiley faces too!
    Girl, I'm tired!

    March 28, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  5. CCC

    As a head of the state of NJ Gov Christie is responsible for the actions of his subordinates. He hand picked these people and must be held accountable for their actions regardless if he was aware or not.

    March 28, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. JPM

    Democrats need to face facts. The BS scandal that they produced to try to detract from Obama's failures did not work. They are done in November.

    March 28, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. paouser70


    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 |
    'HIS" lawyers – plus the fact you seem to think this is all about a a simple lane closure....... are you really as dumb as this post makes you appear?

    March 28, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. Big_D

    Makes you wonder what coke head republican will get busted next. I am convinced the GOP is the result of Cocaine abuse. Look at how they act!

    March 28, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  9. smith

    @Rudy-The increases you refer to in your state and city have to do with local and state taxes. If not for them the prices would be on par with min. wage, like where I live. You have debunked nothing.

    March 28, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. Bozo

    What we know...GWB had traffic jams...It was all over the news...Oh! that's right Gov Christie doesn't know how to read. So he is not a current event type of Gov. That's what you have here, if you buy his story he had nothing to do with it, even though it was all over the news.. How could he missed such a big event...Oh the event was not bigger than him. ..BOZO...

    March 28, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. republiderp

    Next week, Jerry Sandusky ' s lawyers release their internal review proclaiming his innocence.

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

    A liberal Democrat and control advocate is caught smuggling with a Chinese crime lord in California and the media doesn't blink an eye.

    A couple people close a bridge lane for an hour and everyone losses their minds.

    March 28, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. david saint

    lol i love repubs and teabillies..anytime one of their people gets caught red handed, oh its a liberal conspiracy! But when theres no proof of anything with the IRS, or Benghazi, oh its a cover up lol..demented doesnt quite cover it.

    March 28, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. tbone

    Christie = big fat liar

    March 28, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. Hogan's Goat

    "I hate when smart people are commenting in the same clichees. " Sounds like you just hate smart people. Learn to spell cliche since you seem to be one.
    Sorry, but any chance this bozo had of coming across as a good presidential candidate is gone. Either he can't run his staff or he CAN run his staff and knew all about this; either way, he's toast. With a LOT of butter and jam.

    March 28, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. The REAL Truth...

    @bobo – Please vote Republican.... pick the new ones... not the old cronies. There are new better ideas out there!
    booboo – meet the new GOP.. same as the old GOP only younger, more extreme right, nuttier and much closer to fascism.
    No... what we need are some REAL moderates that can negotiate.. since most Americans are moderates.

    March 28, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  17. Bill, Bloominton IL

    and Bozo the same could be said for Obama who didnt know about the guns going to the cartels when every news service carried the story.

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

    Christie: "He's resigning but I'm not." Today's big letdown.

    March 28, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  19. smith

    @Rudy-Btw, In the past min wage increase of .75 to 1.25 took place over 2 to 3 yrs. A 3.00-4.00 increase would need to take more time. Never said they wanted to increase it all at once, I said it needed to be done in a period of time.

    March 28, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. Independent_Joe

    Stepien, Baroni, Sampson, Wildstein & Kelly will eventually let the public know what happened and why. The mere fact that they won't talk to the Governor's lawyer writing a report tells anyone with some common sense that some bad behavior is being hidden. Why wouldn't those who claim to have done nothing wrong not talk? The public gets that Christie doesn't pass the smile test. It's a shame as he was the only moderate Republican that had a chance with independent voters in 2016. The Tea Party tools can't win a general election.

    March 28, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. steve

    what is rotten in new jersey?

    March 28, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |


    March 28, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    What I'd like to know is: "WHERE'S THE BEEF CNN?!".
    It is Friday...where's the Red Meat?!
    You got poor tom l out there by himself trying to start some stuff because YOU cnn have fallen down on your solemn duty to get us all at each other's throats on Friday.
    Shame on you cnn!
    And shame on you for eating my friend Lynda's smiiley faces too!
    Girl, I'm tired!

    Oh. Just Oh.

    I'm laughing, DM4O. Laughing out loud.

    Thanks girlfriend! It's been a rough week, and as always, you come through for me.

    Have a great weekend everyone.

    ( smiley face )

    March 28, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. DFundela

    So, a Republican is accused of closing a bridge and CNN puts it on the front page. Democratic California state Sen. Leland Yee is involved a tangled web of allegations including claims that the gun control-pushing lawmaker tried to connect an undercover agent with an international arms dealer and CNN says nothing on the front page??
    Biased much CNN?
    We need to know ALL of this kind of event. Try being a NEWS site, not a political site.

    March 28, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  25. Pajama Boy

    Let's talk healthcare!

    March 28, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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