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

Part V – 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, first off, I would love for you and others to believe that I interviewed hundreds, if not, thousands of people as U.S. Attorney. I did not. My aides interviewed hundreds, if not, thousands of people. It was the very rare occasion when the U.S. Attorney himself or herself goes into a room and interviews a witness. It probably happens about a dozen times in seven years. It’s a very rare occurrence.

…If you’ve worked with someone for five years and they’ve been a member of your political team and then governmental team, and you look at them and you say to them, “What do you know about this? Did you have any involvement in it? Did you have any knowledge of it?” And the look at you and they say, “No.” And you’ve never had any reason before to believe that they were anything but a truth teller, why wouldn’t you believe them?

I mean, I work on the basis of trust with people, and I assume over a period of time that most people are trustworthy unless proven otherwise. And so when we ask those questions and we got those answer, there was no reason at the time we asked the question for us to believe that they weren’t true. Based upon the conduct of that person, I think even if you look at some of the stories today written about Bridget Kelly, I don’t think you heard anybody in those stories talk about her in any way but very positive ways, given her history here in the state house, working for the legislature. So I had no reason to believe that she was telling me anything but the truth. And that’s why I used the phrase before that I was heartbroken because I trusted that I was being told the truth and I wasn’t and I wasn’t by somebody who I placed a significant amount of trust in. So did I miss it? We missed it. I mean, that’s why we’re here, right? We missed it.

But then what do you do when you find out you missed it? I found out a little before 9 a.m. yesterday morning. By 9 a.m. this morning, her position was terminated. And I think that’s swift appropriate action that people would expect from the chief executive of the state.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I understand what you’re saying. I can’t read anything else into it beyond – I know you’re inferring certain things from the email. I think that’s a reasonable inference but I don’t know. I don’t know the answer because remember when we asked the questions, we didn’t even know about the existence of the email. I found out for the first time at 8:50 a.m. yesterday. And you can only imagine as I was standing there in my bedroom with my iPad looking at that how incredibly sad and betrayed I felt. And so I don’t know what to say beyond that.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Listen, I have absolutely nothing to hide. And I’ve not given any instruction to any one yet but my instruction to everybody will be cooperate and answer questions. I have nothing to hide so any questions anybody wants to ask me they can ask from law enforcement. Anything they want to ask, they can ask. We have nothing to hide and this administration has nothing to hide.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Oh, absolutely not. Kevin’s confirmation hearing will go forward on Tuesday, and I expect he’ll be vigorously questioned like any candidate for attorney general should be, and I expect that he’ll get swift and certain confirmation because he deserves it.

Question:
Much of this as you saw from the emails – much of this discussion was taking place on private email accounts…[inaudible]? …Conducting government business on private email?

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I have not thought about that yet. There have been a lot of things I was thinking about. That wasn’t one of them. I’ll put it on my list to consider but I haven’t thought about it yet.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
We’ve been given no documents. I don’t know. But certainly none were offered to us to review. The first time we saw any documents was on the Bergen Record website yesterday morning.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I don’t believe Bridget has policy authority on any issue. Bridget’s job was to interact with the other governmental agencies and to have interaction with members of the legislature. And that was her job. So my understanding of her authority was that she had no authority on policy. Policy issues had to be run through the chief of staff’s office. And so no.

Again, I know there are certain suppositions in that question but my understanding of Bridget’s authority was not that it extends to policy.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
She had no prior approval. I mean, putting aside the supposition, she had no prior approval from the chief of staff, who was her direct report, and she had no prior approval from the governor. She did not seek it. We weren’t informed about it. And so if she acted in a manner which exceeded her authority, which it seems to be a possibility, you know, that’s what she did. But I had no knowledge of this and neither did the chief of staff.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
I spoke to Mike last night. David at that time was considering whether or not to resign, and he made the determination the next day meeting with the administration to resign. But I don’t believe from my conversation with Mike last night that that was the main topic of the dinner that night. The dinner was a social dinner, not a professional dinner.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
…From what I know, at this point, Mr. Baroni and Mr. Wildstein’s position is that the lanes were closed due to a traffic study and I’ve heard nothing from them that changes their position. I now see emails which indicate that there’s a political overtone to what went on. I don’t know what the situation is. I don’t know whether…this was some type of rogue political operation that morphed into a traffic study or a traffic study that morphed into an additional rogue political operation. I don’t know.

Well, listen, as best I can, but you know Mr. Wildstein is scheduled to testify at the legislature so, you know, it’s not like he’s available for interview…

As I said in response to a question over here, I’m not going to get into the middle of a legislative process with people that they’ve already noticed to be witnesses. I think that would be inappropriate. Let them do their job. Because if I did, I’d be accused of trying to play around with testimony, which I’m not going to get involved in.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Listen, if you think I’m suggesting any traffic studies any time soon, you’ve got to be kidding me. [Laughter] I don’t want a traffic study in front of my house…I think I’m out of the traffic study business for certain. Never really in it and definitely don’t want to be in it.

Here’s what we should do as a policy going forward. That should be left to the professional staff at the Port Authority and let the professional engineers and those folks deal with whether those things should be done or not done. I’m pretty confident in saying that that is the current position of this administration.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey):
Listen, I think they have every right to do what they’re doing given what was revealed yesterday. And so I’m certainly not going to question that. In terms of their right to conduct an investigation, I think given what was revealed yesterday, I was shocked by it. I assume they were too. And I have a good relationship with the incoming speaker and I’ll work with him in every way I possibly can to make sure that we put this matter to rest. So I certainly am not going to question their right or their ability to do that.

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