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

Part IV – 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 never called him personally, no, but Baroni’s position continue to be that there was a traffic study and he had a disagreement with Pat Foye about that. So, you know, they had a disagreement. That was pretty clear. And I think that Bill Baroni isn’t going to change his mind because Pat Foye already expressed those concerns in earlier written documents…

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I had no conversations with Bill Stepien.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
No, no, listen. I had earlier conversations with Bill Stepien where as I expressed to you at the time that Bill told me he knew absolutely nothing about this. So, you know, and certainly the emails yesterday and any emails involving Bill Stepien were all well after the fact. But that’s not the basis upon which I made decision on Bill.

My decision on Bill was made based on the fact on the tone, the tenor, and the conduct that was evidence in those emails, I lost confidence in his judgment and that’s why I made the decision as to Bill.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I have no idea what the decision-making process would even look like at this point. As I’ve said many times before, I know that everybody in the political media and in the political chattering class want to start the 2016 race, and universities can’t help themselves but do polls that are meaningless three years away from an election, and you guys can’t help but put them on the air and talk about them.

My job is to be governor of New Jersey. And I’ll say what I said before, I am enormously flattered that folks would talk about me in my party as someone who they think could be a candidate for President. But I am absolutely in nowhere near beginning that consideration process. I haven’t even been sworn in for my second term yet. I’ve got work to do here and that’s my focus. My focus is on the people of New Jersey and the job that they gave me. And so all those considerations are, you know, the kind of hysteria that goes around this because everybody in that world gets preoccupied with that job. I am not preoccupied with that job. I’m preoccupied with this one and as you can tell, I have plenty to do. So it’s not like I’ve got some spare time to spend.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I’m sad. I’m sad. That’s the predominant emotion I feel right now is sadness. Sadness that I was betrayed by a member of my staff, sadness that I had people who I had entrusted with important jobs who acted completely inappropriately. Sad that that’s led the people of New Jersey to have less confidence in the people I’ve selected.

The emotion that I’ve been displaying in private is sad.

And as I said earlier, I think, in answer to your question I don’t know what the stages of grief are in exact order but I know anger gets there at some point. I’m sure I’ll have that too. But the fact is right now, I’m sad.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Well, let me just clear something up, okay, about my childhood friend David Wildstein. It is true that I met David in 1977 in high school. He’s a year older than me. David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school. I had a high school – a three-year high school that had 1,800 students in a three-year high school in the late 70s, early 1980. I knew who David Wildstein was. I met David on the Tom Keane for Governor campaign in 1977. He was a youth volunteer and so was I. Really after that time, I completely lost touch with David. We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time. And then we re-acquainted years later in, I think, 2000 when he was helping Bob Franks with his Senate campaign against Jon Corzine. So we went 23 years without seeing each other. And in the years we did see each other, we passed in the hallways. So I want to clear that up.

It doesn’t make a difference except that I think some of stories we read impute like an emotional relationship and closeness between me and David that doesn’t exist. I know David and, you know, I knew that Bill Baroni wanted to hire David to come to the Port Authority and I gave my permission for him to do but that was Bill’s hire. He asked for permission. I gave my permission for him to hire David.

But let’s be clear about the relationship, okay? And how do I feel about David now. Listen, what I read yesterday makes me angry. That’s the one bit of anger I felt. That language and that callous indifference in those emails from David yesterday are just over-the-top and outrageous and should never ever have been written or uttered by somebody with a position of responsibility like that and those sentiments…

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I said I haven’t spoken to them since I discovered the emails. But I spoke to them beforehand. And Bridget clearly did not tell me the truth. And Bill, you know, what he told me at the time is not contradicted by the emails but the emails and the color and character of the emails have led me to conclude that I don’t have confidence in his judgment any longer and that’s why I asked him to move on and he has.

So you know at this point, there are legislative hearings that are going to come and all the rest and I don’t want to get myself in the middle of that. Chairman [John] Wisniewski said pretty clearly yesterday that he intends to ask Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien to testify. And I don’t – my gut sense is that it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to get in the middle of that because then there would be all kinds of other allegations about those conversations. So I think the smarter thing for me to do is to ask for those two folks who I’ve made determinations regarding their future to move on from there and to talk to other folks who are still in my employ.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I believe that I’ve spoken to everyone who was mentioned in the emails except for Charlie McKenna who was away at a family funeral. And I am confident based upon my conversations with them that they had no prior knowledge nor involved with this situation.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Yeah, well, that’s your characterization, not mine. But there was nobody on my staff who had any knowledge of this issue until the issue was already done.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
It’s awful. Now, I’ve also seen conflicting reports about what the cause of death was but it doesn’t matter. It’s awful to hear.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Listen, all I can do is apologize for the conduct of people who worked for me. I can’t do anything else. I can’t reverse time. If I could, believe me I would. But I just apologize. I think that’s all you can do and there’s really nothing else you can do.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
We clearly are going to do town halls in the second term. We suspended town halls during our campaign because of our concern that folks may raise the issue of in the midst of the campaign blurring the line between what would be a town hall event and what would be a campaign event. So during the campaign, we made the determination we weren’t going to do town hall meetings as the campaign heated up to avoid that concern. And I certainly had no plans to do it during the transition…but we certainly intend to do town hall meetings in the second term and try to do hopefully as many as we did in the first term. I enjoy the town hall setting, the process.

And the fact is I think – I don’t believe I’ve lost the trust of the people of New Jersey. I think people in New Jersey are looking to see when mistakes are made, how their leaders are going to react. And I believe that when they see me take the actions I’m taking today that they’ll say, “Mistakes were made. Governor had nothing to do with that but is taking responsibility for it and he made the decisions that need to be made and has promised us he’ll continue to make those decisions if necessary going forward.”

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Listen, that’s between David and his attorney. He’s represented by counsel now. I mean, I’d love to hear the whole story for my own purposes but I can’t advise him what to do. Someone who’s represented by counsel is going to make his own judgment.

…I just did. I said I’d like to hear the story. But I don’t want to be in the position of instructing someone to do something because they’re represented by counsel. He and his lawyer will determine what they believe is in their best interest. Certainly, you know, hearing the story would be good for everybody.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, listen, up to this point in time until the emails were released yesterday, it was Sen. Baroni’s testimony that Mr. Wildstein initiated it at his approval, with his approval. Now, you know, I don’t know given some of the emails that I saw yesterday. But clearly, Mr. Wildstein played a major role in it whether it was his idea and initiation as Sen. Baroni testified, I guess time will tell. But clearly, there was knowledge of this action, whatever it was, prior to the beginning of it with Bridget Kelly and that was something that I said in direct answer to Angie’s question a few weeks ago was not the case. That’s what we were told after repeated questioning of all the people around here, and I was lied to. And for that, she’s been terminated.

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