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

Part III – 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):
I read that. I didn’t read that that way at all and that was a reference to a traffic study that candidly I know nothing about. And I recognize that the email said something about the gov supported it or endorsed it. Because I don’t know anything about it, I have to believe that was like the governor’s office generically that reference. As I stand here today, I don’t know anything about a traffic study in Springfield.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Oh God no. Absolutely not. No. No that’s just not the way it operates. We built relationships over four years with folks, trying to be helpful to every town we can be helpful with appropriately. So no, nothing like that was ever done.

Question:
[Inaudible] Are you soul-searching on the hiring practices…?

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Sure, there was a mistake. I mean, soul-searching is complete on that part of it. It was a mistake…Listen, the fact is that mistakes were made and I’m responsible for those mistakes. And I obviously try every chance I can to hire the very best people and I think the history of this administration shows that we have hired outstanding people with great ethical standards who’ve done their jobs extraordinarily well. In a government of 65,000 people, there are going to be times when mistakes are made. Mistakes were made and I remediated those mistakes today by the actions that I’ve taken. So I’m in a constant state of trying to figure out who are the best people for individual jobs, who will make me proud to have put them there. And so that’s always been going on. That’s nothing new now. But you know, there are times when people you put in those positions make mistakes, they disappoint you, you lose your confidence in them, or they lie to you, and when you find that out, the test of leadership is what do you do? I found this out at 8:50 a.m. yesterday. By 9 a.m. this morning, Bridget Kelly was fired. By 7 p.m. yesterday evening, Bill Stepien was asked to leave my organization. That’s pretty swift action for a day’s work. And that’s exactly the way I’ll continue to conduct myself if there’s any other information surrounding this that comes up or anything different that comes up over the course of the next four years.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I can differentiate between people who have served me well and they haven’t. And of course, there’s always going to be some – after something like this where you’ve been lied to – there’s going to be some crisis in confidence, okay? There always will be. I mean, anybody who tells you differently is not telling you the truth. If they say to you, you know, this happened to you and you’re not going to second guess yourself at all, well then you’re just stupid. Of course, I’ve second guessed myself and gone through my head on some of this stuff. And in the future, I’ll try to be even more careful.

But here’s what I know about human beings. I’ve hired a lot of them in my time as U.S. Attorney, as Governor, and as a hiring attorney in a private practice law firm. Sometimes despite the best background checks, despite the best interviews, despite your best instincts, sometimes people are a mistake hire, sometimes they start off as a good hire and because of circumstances that happen in their life, they change. You can’t prevent everything.

But the test of leadership is when you find it out, what do you do? And I’m sadden to have to do this. It’s difficult personally to do, but it’s my job and I’ve taken an oath and I’m going to execute my job.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
A few things. First off, to my knowledge – and I think the mayor said this last night – I have no knowledge of him being asked for an endorsement. He may have been but he certainly was never asked by me. But he, I think, said last night on television that he doesn’t recall ever being asked for an endorsement. That’s why this made no sense to me because why would you execute a vendetta against somebody who you didn’t even give a chance to say no to? Put aside the fact that you shouldn’t do that at all. But then if you never asked him for an endorsement, why are you mad at him that he didn’t give one? I mean, none of it made any sense to me. So that’s the first point.

Question:
[Inaudible] So you don’t know what prompted the…?

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I don’t. I don’t. And again, I don’t know whether this was a traffic study that then warped into a political vendetta or a political vendetta that warped into a traffic study. I mean, I’ve seen in front of the legislature statistics and other things about the traffic study, so I know there’s information there. I don’t know what it is. And so, we’ll find out over time, maybe. But that’s really in the minds of the people who were doing it and that’s what I’ve based my decision on at the time. It was the testimony that people gave.

Lastly…listen, I don’t know exactly what you’re referencing but I think that you’re talking about Foye memo that was leaked. Is that what you’re talking about? No.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
…I asked Gen. Samson about that yesterday, he said has absolutely no idea what Wildstein was referring to and that the only communication that he had at that time was his concern that he expressed to fellow commissioners about internal Port authority documents being leaked and that that’s just not appropriate for folks to be leaking internal documents. But he has no recollection from what he told me yesterday of any conversation like that with Wildstein or Baroni that reflects the gist of what you said in the email.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Certainly not that I’m aware of or out of the norm. I mean, let’s remember something too. This is a bi-state agency with significant tension all the time. Now, there’s no tension between Gov. Cuomo and I. We get along quite well and when issues rise to our level, we’ve always been able to resolve it. But there is tension – and always has been – between New York and New Jersey on the allocation of resources at the Port Authority. And so let me be clear – there are some battles over there that go on that have happened in every administration over the course of my memory. But you can’t connect that – that’s kind of the ongoing nature of the tension of that agency and I think of most bi-state agencies, although I think in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey because the resources are greater, the demands are greater, it’s even more.

So no, nothing I know of that’s specific to that but I do want to make clear to people that, you know, there is tension that goes on between the employees of these agencies. Not every one of those issues of tension, thank goodness, are raised to my level or Gov. Cuomo’s level. But the good news for the people of New York and New Jersey is that when those issues have been raised in the last three years to my level and Gov. Cuomo’s level, we have always between the two of us amicably resolved it and be able to move on. Sometimes that’s the role governors have to play in that agency.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I don’t know what makes a legitimate traffic study. It’s not my area of expertise. And so I wouldn’t have a nose for that. Just wouldn’t. I don’t know what makes for a legitimate traffic study. I’ve been told that sometimes it’s done live, sometimes it’s done by computer model. I’ve heard that in the professionals who’ve testified before the Port Authority. But you’d have to go to them to ask them what a legitimate traffic study is. I probably wouldn’t know a traffic study if I tripped over it.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Not true. Not true. I’ve denied that story before. That’s an old story and Gov. Cuomo has denied it as well. It’s just not true.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Listen, I have no idea but clearly you know there’s a difference of opinion between Sen. Baroni and Pat Foye about the existence of the traffic study. And there seems to me to be evidence that Sen. Baroni showed of statistics and maps and other things about a traffic study.

Now, this could go back to the nuances of what really constitutes a traffic study or not. They maybe arguing some specifics and nuances that I’m not familiar with but I certainly would not accuse Pat Foye of perjuring himself. I don’t. I’m not. I’m just telling you what I was told and what we saw before the legislature but you know, I certainly wouldn’t accuse Pat Foye of perjuring himself in any way.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Listen, guess what, after reading everything yesterday, I don’t know. But what I’m telling you is that that’s what I’ve been told. He seemed to display evidence for that at the time, but that’s not because of the tone and tenor of these emails and text messages that’s now – you know, all this stuff is something that I’m not going to warranty because I don’t know given some of this back and forth that went on.

Sen. Baroni is a very respected guy. He served in this building for a long time. I’ve known him for a long time. When he made his testimony, I would have no reason to believe that he wasn’t telling the truth.

But obviously, from reading these emails yesterday, there was other stuff going on that I hadn’t been informed about.

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