Transcript: Press conference Q&A with NJ Gov. Chris Christie on the politically-motivated GW bridge lane closures – Part II

Part II – Partial transcript of press conference Q&A with Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey) on the politically-motivated closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge that snarled traffic and slowed emergency response time in Fort Lee for four days in September 2013: 

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Well, listen, again, let me say this: Clearly, that’s the tone of those emails. But the thing that – the other part that shocks me is, as I’ve said to you all many times before, Mayor Sokolich was never on my radar screen. He was never mentioned to me as somebody whose endorsement we were even pursuing. In fact, I think he said on CNN last night he doesn’t recall ever being asked for his endorsement. So part of this is I never saw this as political retribution because I don’t think he did anything to us.

Now, we pursued lots of endorsements during the campaign from Democrats and we didn’t receive most of them. We received about 60 at the end of the day; we pursued hundreds.

So I never – I don’t have any recollection of at any time anybody in the campaign ever asking me to meet with Mayor Sokolich or call him, which was the typical course that was used when we were attempting to get an endorsement – to call or have a meeting or breakfast and I would then meet with the elected official and see if I could bring him over the line. I don’t remember ever meeting Mayor Sokolich in that – certainly I never did in that context. I’m sure I met him at some point at an event in Bergen county but I have to tell you until I saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a line-up.

And so part of this is the reason that the retribution idea never came into my head is because I never even knew that we were pursuing his endorsement, and no one ever came to me to get me to try to pursue the endorsement in anyway. So I never saw this as a serious effort.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Well, sure, of course! Of course, of course.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
…Well, listen, obviously, as I said earlier, I’m heartbroken about it and I’m incredibly disappointed. I don’t think I’ve gotten to the angry stage yet but I’m sure I’ll get there. But I’m just stunned. And what does it make me ask about me? It makes me ask about me, “What did I do wrong to have these folks think it was okay to lie to me?” And there’s a lot of soul-searching that goes around with this.

You know, when you’re a leader of an organization – and I’ve had this happen to me before where I’ve had folks not tell me the truth about something, not since I’ve been governor but in previous leadership positions – you always wonder about what you could do differently. And believe me, I haven’t had a lot of sleep the last two nights and I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching. I’m sick over this. I’ve worked for the last 12 years in public life developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk, one that I think is well-deserved. But, you know, when something like this happens, it’s appropriate for you to question yourself and certainly I am. I mean, I am soul-searching on this.

But what I also want the people of New Jersey to know is that this is the exception not the rule, and they’ve seen that over the last four years with the way I’ve worked and what I’ve done. So I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying, “Well, this one incident happened therefore the one incident defines the whole.” It does not.

Just like one employee who’s lied doesn’t determine the character of all the employees around you. And so I don’t want to over-react to that in that way either…But if you’re asking me over the last 48 hours or the last 36 hours if I’ve done some soul-searching, you bet I have.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Well, listen, all I know is I don’t know…That’s the first answer I’ll give you to the question. But what I’ll also say is, listen, Mayor [Steven] Fulop seems to be having a lot of disagreements with lots of people – with me, with the Senate President, and others. There’s going to be back and forths. There’s going to be meetings cancelled. There’s going to be public disagreements. But the fact of the matter is we’ve continued to work with Jersey City over the course of time since he’s been mayor. You know, in the last year, I think we’ve approved about $190 million in EDA financing for projects in Jersey City. The DEP Deputy Commissioner was just meeting yesterday with Mayor Fulop and his staff on blue acre issues to try to buy out properties that were affected by Sandy. So we continue to work with him. I don’t know about specific meetings or what’s going on. But certainly, you know, I will look into all of those things.

But the fact is that what Mayor Fulop knows is when we agree with him from a policy perspective, we’ll work with him. When we disagree with him, we’ll express those disagreements and sometimes that will mean friction. He’s suing the Port Authority at the moment. Okay? So there’s a lot of back and forth and to and fro that happen in these things. I’ll look into all this stuff, but in the end, have I at times been angry with Mayor Fulop and disagree with him? You bet I have. But I also spoke to him at swearing in at his invitation.

So political relationships in this state go up and down as you know…Sometimes strange bedfellows, sometimes expected ones, and they move. So I’m sure there’s been movement in those relationships over time but not anything I can explain as to the specific question.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Sure. Listen, most of you, I hope, are citizens of New Jersey…Yes, of course it does, and the fact that I came out here and said something that was untrue, I mean, unwittingly but I said something that was untrue. I think what you all have seen about me over the last four years in my dealings with you is that I deal with you directly, and I say exactly what I think. And I think over time I have developed a reputation for telling you all the truth as I see it. There can be disagreements but the truth as I see it. So yeah. Would I include the press corps, of course I would because most if not – many, if not, most of you are residents in the state and you rely upon the state government to be honest and trustworthy as well, and in this instance, my government fell short and I take responsibility for that and that’s why I’m apologizing.

Question:
What did your staff say to you about why they lied to you? [Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I have not had any conversation with Bridget Kelly since the email came out, and so she was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied because it was so obvious that she had and I’m, quite frankly, not interested in the explanation at the moment…

[David] Samson put out a statement yesterday that he had no knowledge of this. I interviewed him yesterday. He was one of my interviews. I’m convinced that he had absolutely no knowledge of this, that this was executed at the operational level and never brought to the attention of the [Port Authority] board of commissioners until Chairman [Patrick] Foye wrote his email or Executive Director Foye wrote his email to the board of commissioners. So I sat and met for two hours yesterday with Mr. Samson and again, I’m confident that he had no knowledge of this based upon our conversations and his review of his information. So I think, you know, as he said yesterday he’s angered by this and upset about it and I know that he’s going to cooperate with the OIG investigation that’s ongoing and lead a discussion at the Port Authority about what could be done in the future to stop such conducts.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
No, I haven’t because I know who I am. I’m not that person. And listen, it’s easy for people to be characterized in public life based upon their personality and I have a very direct, blunt personality. And I understand why some people would then characterize that, especially people who don’t know like you, as bullying but it’s not that and I know that about myself. And no I haven’t asked that question…I’m more focused on why the truth wasn’t told to me.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I just did. Well, I just did. I said I’m sorry for that and I would have never made that joke if I knew the facts that have come forward to me today.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Because I thought it was absurd and that we had nothing to do with it. That’s why. And obviously, the emails’ evidence of the kind of callous indifference to the result of that and that’s what I’ve apologized for and I do apologize for it…And I certainly intend to apologize to the mayor today. I’m going to try to get a meeting with him this afternoon.

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