Christie Defends Trump


By John Celock

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) used a marathon press conference Thursday to defend his support for Donald Trump and say he is not the billionaire’s “hostage” or mercenary.”

Christie, who has been under fire in New Jersey since his endorsement of Trump last Friday, used the almost two-hour long press conference to say that he plans to campaign for Trump but has not taken a formal role in the Republican presidential frontrunner’s campaign. Christie also defended his behavior while standing behind Trump at a press conference in Florida Tuesday night that has come under mass derision on the Internet.

“I don’t know what I was supposed to be doing,” Christie said. “I was standing there listening to them. It was not a rally. It was not the circumstance where I’d be jumping up and down screaming. I was not being held hostage.”

Christie – in what is likely a first for a New Jersey governor – stressed twice that he was not being held hostage by Trump on Tuesday night. Among the common jokes being circulated online since Tuesday was that Christie looked like a hostage or was having second thoughts about his backing for Trump during the event, held in place of a Super Tuesday rally. Christie also touched on his state of mind during the Trump event.

“I was not being held hostage,” Christie said. “I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t despondent.”

Christie dismissed the criticism of his Tuesday night demeanor as an “internet freak-out” and said it likely replaced criticism from Saturday when Trump was overheard to tell Christie to “go home” and pointed to a waiting plane. He questioned what people thought he should have been doing on Tuesday night.

“What are you suggesting I should do during a press conference? Clapping?” Christie said. “If I did that you’d be making fun of that. You never look good standing behind someone.”

Christie also explained the “go home” incident saying that Trump knew that Christie needed to get back to New Jersey to see his family. He said that was what Trump was trying to say during the event. He joked that Trump had told him to go home after a long meeting at the billionaire’s Palm Beach estate on Wednesday.

Christie responded to criticism about his out of state travel saying that he has been in New Jersey 19 days of the 22 since he ended his own presidential campaign last month. He also took issue with the criticism of his out of state travel, which included spending 72 percent of 2015 outside of New Jersey during his own campaign. He said many of those days that were being counted included visits to neighboring New York City and Philadelphia that were a few hours in length. He said he is being held to a different standard.

“If we counted out of state days as going to New York City than Jon Corzine was never in this state,” Christie said, referring to his Democratic predecessor. “That’s the little secret you kept for him but for me it is different.”

Corzine was known to spend many nights in New York during his governorship at the apartment of his then girlfriend, now wife.

Christie also said he would ignore the growing calls for his resignation for his out of state travel, including from several Republican state legislators, along with six Gannett newspapers in the state and the Star-Ledger, the state’s largest newspaper. He said that the Star-Ledger has been attacking him since he first ran for governor in 2009.

The Star-Ledger did endorse Christie for reelection in 2013, but the editorial was more a rebuke of Democratic nominee Barbara Buono than backing Christie.

Christie did not say if he had any plans to campaign further for Trump but would respond when asked. He noted that he would not be traveling to any states on Trump’s behalf in the next week. He said that he and his wife, Mary Pat, are planning to travel out of state next week to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. He did not say where they are vacationing too. He also joked that he plans to attend more New York Mets games in Queens this year, which will take him out of state.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) serves as New Jersey’s acting governor when he leaves the state.

He said that any additional travels will include the state police security detail that Christie says he has to travel with. He said the state will continue to pay the travel costs for the security detail for any out of state travel, as they do when they travel with him to the supermarket near his Mendham home.

Christie also defended his past differences with Trump, saying that many of the criticisms were in the heat of the presidential campaign and he was trying to say why he was a better choice for president than Trump. He noted that after the campaign he had to look at the remaining choices and he believes Trump is the best choice. He declined to share advice he gives Trump privately, noting the two have been friends for 14 years.

“I am not a mercenary for him,” Christie said.

Christie also defended Trump’s recent remarks over an endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, where Trump said he did not know about Duke. Trump has later blamed the remark over a malfunctioning earpiece and had disavowed Duke.

“I know Donald Trump and he’s not a bigot,” Christie said.

Christie also used the press conference on a series of state issues including his nomination of Superior Court Judge David Bauman earlier this week to the state Supreme Court and his lack of a permanent attorney general since June 2013.

Christie attacked Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) for refusing to take up Bauman’s nomination. Sweeney has long objected to several of Christie’s Supreme Court appointments saying that Christie is trying to change the partisan balance on the court, which historically has not had more than four members of one party on the bench. Sweeney said that Bauman would bring the court to having five Republicans.

Sweeney and Democrats have long said that Justice Jaynee LaVecchia is a Republican, though LaVecchia is a registered independent. They cite LaVecchia’s service as banking and insurance commissioner under former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) and as an attorney for former Gov. Tom Kean (R). Christie said he is willing to provide LaVecchia’s voter registration history to show that she has always been an independent.

Christie also laid blame with Sweeney on the attorney general situation, saying that the Senate has not acted timely in taking up his cabinet nominations. Earlier this week Christie tapped Robert Lougby to become acting attorney general when Acting Attorney General John Hoffman steps down later this month for a job at Rutgers University. Hoffman has served as acting attorney general since Jeffrey Chiesa stepped down in 2013 to become a U.S. senator.

The Senate did not take up Christie’s December 2013 nomination of his former chief of staff Kevin O’Dowd to be attorney general due to questions about the Bridgegate controversy. O’Dowd has not been implicated in Bridgegate, but withdrew his nomination in 2014 to take a job at a South Jersey hospital. O’Dowd’s former deputy, Bridget Kelly, faces trial for her alleged role in Bridgegate.

Christie said he did not know the timeline he would use to nominate a new attorney general.

“I will not put people out there and let people languish,” he said.