Chris Christie urges Republicans to drop election lies, conspiracies: ‘This has to stop’

Debate over the future of the Republican party is underway ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has some advice for the GOP. He says it's time to stop focusing on grievances and believing in conspiracy theories - strategies employed by former President Donald Trump. Christie joins Judy Woodruff with more on that, and his new book, "Republican Rescue."

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Debate over the future of the Republican Party is under way ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

    And while both parties are formulating their midterm strategies, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has some advice for his party. He says it's time to do away with tactics like focusing on grievances and believing in conspiracy theories, strategies that helped to propel former President Donald Trump to the top of Republican Party leadership.

    Governor Christie's new book is called "Republican Rescue."

    And I spoke with him a short time ago.

    Governor Christie, thank you very much for joining us.

    The book is a prescription for the Republican Party, as you put it, to recapture its glory and win elections again. But this is a moment when the Republican Party looks to be doing well. Analysts are saying it is probably going to pick up the House of Representatives next November, pick up seats in the Senate. President Biden's poll numbers are down.

    So why, at this moment, are you trying to save the Republican Party?

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ):

    We lost the House of Representatives, the United States Senate and the White House in a two-year span, from 2018 to 2020.

    It is the only time that has ever happened in our party's history, except for the first time, which was 1930 to 1932 under Herbert Hoover. And then the Democrats took the White House for 28 of the next 36 years.

    We're still a year away from this election in 2022. And we have to make sure we are laying out a smart, positive vision for the future. We have got to not be dwelling on the past. We have got to move forward and lay out an alternative vision to what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are doing in Washington on behalf of the Democrats.

    And that is not going to change in the next year. And we're not going to win those seats by magic. We better have an alternative to put out there, because if you run the last election in the next one, you're bound to lose.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You do argue — in fact, your central point is that Republicans need to let go of this allegiance to former President Trump's argument that he lost the 2020 campaign because there was a lot of fraud and that it was unfair and that he should shall president.

    You say the party needs to move on. But, when you look at the polls right now, what is it, 60 percent of Republicans today believe former President Trump. They say they agree that he should have — be in the White House.

    How do you persuade tens of millions of Republicans that former President Trump is wrong?

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie:

    I think that you lay out the facts. And that is what we do in the book.

    We lay out the facts. And the facts do not support that allegation. And that is why over 60 courts have rejected the argument over the course of time since the election.

    But here's the bigger issue, Judy, is that no political party wins campaigns by talking about yesterday. You have to talk about tomorrow. If Donald Trump wants to talk about those future issues and critiquing the Biden administration and laying out a thoughtful plan for what we do next, he will be a very powerful voice in the debate going forward.

    But if we continue to look backwards, that is not what we need to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One question out there, Governor, is, why is Chris Christie the right person to be making this argument? Because, after all, you were one of the first people to endorse former President Trump. You stuck with him through, what, the 2016 "Access Hollywood" scandal.

    You were with him even after he was impeached in early 2020. You helped him in the debates. And yet you are saying you are the person to argue that he's making the wrong argument?

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie:

    Exactly the right person, Judy.

    Look, Trump voters are not going to listen to this argument from someone who was a never-Trumper, who never thought that Donald Trump did anything well. I think Donald Trump did a lot of good things for this country on taxes and affordability, on the regulatory state, on conservative justices and judges to our courts, and on trade.

    And so I think there is a lot of good things to talk about. And I think we need to give the president, the former president credit, in addition, for Operation Warp Speed. But I think when someone who has been a biggest supporter of President Trump as I have been says, look, this has to stop, this grievance politics and looking backwards has to stop, and we have to move forward as a party, so that we can help our country, I think someone like me has even more credibility saying it than someone who never thought that Donald Trump did anything good.

    I don't buy that. I believe he did a lot good for this country. But what he is doing right now, the argument that is being made is not good for our party. And, as a result, that is not good for the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So I hear you saying you think done all Trump was a good president when he was in office. Do you think the country would be better off if he had been reelected?

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie:

    Well, I voted for him, Judy. I think his policies are much better, Judy, for this country than the policies that are being pursued by Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democratic Congress.

    And that is why I supported Donald Trump in 2020 and why I supported him 2016 over Hillary Clinton. Let's face it, he wasn't my first choice for president in 2016. I was. But that didn't work out. And I thought he was a better choice than Hillary Clinton. That's why I voted for him and helped him. And I felt like he was a better choice than Joe Biden. And that's why I voted for him and helped him.

    But after the election, when he said the election was stolen and presented no evidence to support that, and continued that argument, that's not something that's good for the country at all. And it's certainly not something that's good for the Republican Party.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I know other interviewers have asked you this, Governor Christie, but the question is, are you trying to have it both ways?

    On the one hand, you are saying, the country, the Republican Party needs to move away from former President Trump and his claims that he won the election. On the other hand, you're saying you would — you could support him for reelection if he runs again in 2024, if you're not running.

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie:

    Oh, look, Judy, what I said was I won't say and then can't say who I would vote in 2024, because I don't know who the opponent would be.

    I said this the other night. I couldn't vote for Bernie Sanders under any circumstances. I couldn't vote for Elizabeth Warren under any circumstances. We don't know who those last two people are going to be in 2024. And I can't make any decision today, not knowing who both those choices will be.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But my question is, you have left it open that you would — you could vote for former President Trump if he's the nominee in 2024?

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie:

    I have, of course, left it open, because, one, as I said to you before, I think there were very positive things that happened during the Trump years from a policy perspective.

    But, two, Judy, this is not a vote in a vacuum. And you present the question as if it's a vote in a vacuum. There is never a vote in America in a vacuum. You have to evaluate who the choices are before you both in a primary and in a general election.

    And if the choice were Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, I'm not voting for Bernie Sanders under any circumstances.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, if it were former President Trump vs. Joe Biden?

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie:

    If it were former President — not — the way Joe Biden has performed, I couldn't vote for Joe Biden, the failure in Afghanistan, 6 percent inflation, failures on crime, all these things that have happened so far, and huge, enormous spending.

    We could go through a whole list, Judy. I don't think that's really productive. But the fact of the matter is that elections are choices. And, in 2024, I will make whatever choice is available to me, and I will choose. But I'm certainly not going to predict that in 2021.

    And that's just a trap that people like to give you and play politics with it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor Chris Christie, thank you very much.

    The book is "Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden."

    Governor, thank you very much.

  • Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie:

    Thanks for having me, Judy. Appreciate it.

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