February 01, 2019

Governor Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie discusses getting fired from the Trump transition, why he thinks Jared Kushner is the one who pushed him out, and how he would have carried out President Trump’s agenda.

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He’s the republican politician booted from Trump’s team who is looking for a comeback. This week on Firing Line.

 SOT: “You see everybody.  I want the people at home to see this.“

 New Jersey governor Chris Christie ran for president

CHRISTIE SOT: When you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that

…but his campaign went nowhere.

SOT: “You’re both successful people.  Congratulations.  You know who’s not successful?  The middle class in this country”

 He then became the first big name Republican to endorse Donald Trump


 Landing a job leading the transition until he was fired days after the election

 His exit, Christie says,, left the president surrounded by riffraff 

 AUDIO BOOK (does not need to be in prompter): 

Steve really was a snake.” 

I knew Flynn was trouble from the first day I met him

Jared Kushner//was exacting a plot of revenge against me

 But could Christie REALLY have changed the course of history if he had stayed on?

 What does Chris Christie say now?

‘Firing Line with Margaret Hoover’ is made possible by… Corporate funding is provided by…


HOOVER: Governor Christie welcome to Firing Line. 


CHRISTIE: Happy to be here Margaret. 


HOOVER: Thank you for being here. You have been a federal prosecutor. A governor. A Republican presidential candidate. And distinguish yourself by being the first really prominent elected official to endorse Donald Trump in his campaign




HOOVER: And also were the first prominent Republican to be dismissed from his campaign as soon as he was elected–


CHRISTIE: Yes I was 


HOOVER: Is there ever a moment where you regret throwing in early for President Trump.




HOOVER: Because, remember nobody thought he was going to win.


CHRISTIE: No I thought he was going to win 


HOOVER: No, not then






CHRISTIE: I did. I thought he was going to win the nomination. I mean, I really did.


HOOVER: But it was February 26 of 2016.


CHRISTIE: yeah. yeah


HOOVER: Ted Cruz was in the race. Marco Rubio was in the race. Now I know you didn’t have love for them. 


CHRISTIE: No it’s not about having love for them it’s about I’m a politician. I understand politics I wanted to make sure Hillary Clinton was not going to be president United States. And I had concluded in my own mind. That I really believe Trump was going to win this nomination. 

And none of the other guys on that stage or women could win it. And so I had I felt like in my personal relationship with him I had an obligation to try to make him a better candidate and potentially a better president because I didn’t want Hillary to be the president. 


HOOVER: within a week of that endorsement. He stood up and had a press conference and the memes of your face in the background was about a dead man walking.


CHRISTIE: Well what it was was somebody who didn’t want to be standing up there. I mean that story of that of that video was I was to introduce him and leave the stage. And he said stay. So people felt like that looked like a hostage video or whatever. All I was thinking was I don’t want to be standing here because I know it’s can’t look good. 


HOOVER: So in your role in advising him in the campaign you ended up running the transition process 




HOOVER: And in running the transition process you put together what would have been the first– 30 binders worth of very precise instructions about what would happen in the first days of a transition to the presidency, from cabinet selections, to second tier cabinet selections, to executive orders, all of which was as you write thrown in the garbage. 

I’d like us to listen to your reflections of what happened to. 


CHRISTIE (AUDIOBOOK) Those who thought they would increase their own influence by ditching the carefully planned transition process and excluding people from the government who might actually persuade the president elect those selfish people had won. They put themselves ahead of the president elect and the country they were supposed to loyally serve. And we all know what happened next.


HOOVER: What happened next?


CHRISTIE: A chaotic beginning to the Trump presidency which underachieved what it could have achieved. a president who is being advised by at least in my view a group of people who were not qualified and ready to give him the advice he needed. And so you had a novice president who’s being advised by novice or dishonest advisers what makes me sad about all of it was the lost opportunity. And now with the Democrats controlling the House we may not have that opportunity again for a long time. 


HOOVER: You write about in the book. If they had followed your guidance and your instructions this alternative history that really would have led to a different presidency. I mean do you really believe that if they had followed your guidance the first six months of a Trump presidency would have been a different history in the American– in the American story?


CHRISTIE:  I do. Not entirely, because the president’s still you know has enormous influence over the presidency. I think 75 percent of the things would have been different. Because,you know, the old expression garbage in, garbage out, right? And so we were not putting good things in front of the president for him to consider to even give him the chance to make better decisions and so that’s the things- I do think it would have been entirely different. Mike Flynn wouldn’t have been the National Security Adviser Steve Bannon wouldn’t have been in the White House. I mean  


HOOVER: that’s if he listened to your recommendation. But those people are all part of his inner circle during the campaign. And those people who are in the campaign 


CHRISTIE: and by the way. So was I. 


HOOVER: Made the transition over.


CHRISTIE:  So was I. And then in the end Margaret he didn’t have those things put in front of him to meet with the people we were recommending. All things that he said during the campaign. We said OK you want to achieve this. Here’s how you do it. Here’s who you have to consult. Here are the pros. Here are the cons. Let’s go. And I didn’t expect the president to read it. But the people who are involved would have done it.


HOOVER: DId you try to convince Pres Trump not to hire retired Genl Michael Flynn as national security adviser or did you lose the chance to do that because you’d been fired.


CHRISTIE: No I was doing that from June forward when I first went into… um…National security briefings with the then candidate and Mike Flynn. We were the three people who got those security briefings and I knew from those briefings that Flynn was a train wreck and I told the candidate that from that moment I really believe it was one of the things that contributed to my firing 


HOOVER: But– because he was behind Flynn and so he didn’t listen to you? 


CHRISTIE: He didn’t listen to me and the family was very much behind Flynn. 




CHRISTIE: I don’t know 


HOOVER: Really even to this day you don’t, you can’t speculate?


CHRISTIE: I don’t know how they couldn’t see the things that I could see which was. He was so ill tempered that being in the White House and being the guy who’s going to synthesize State Department Defense Department and national intelligence information into digestible form for the president? This guy was the most ill suited person I’ve ever seen to do that. And by the time I got to that day after the election which was the last time Margaret I said to the president whatever you do. Don’t pick Mike Flynn his national security adviser. He said to me you just don’t like him. And I said You’re right I don’t like him I don’t like him because he’s going to get you in trouble.



HOOVER: here’s what you say in the book you say what you put together in those 30 binders was a day by day week by week compendium for how the Trump administration should get right to work all drawn out from the candidates positions and promises on the campaign trail. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised, to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. He promised a total and complete ban on all Muslims. He had promised to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton 




HOOVER: He promised to bring back waterboarding and torture. 




HOOVER: So how did your 30 binders account for those promises.


CHRISTIE: Um, we didn’t account for most of those because we didn’t think that. We could come up with a legal rationale for doing them


HOOVER: Many of the criticisms of the president were that he didn’t do the things he promised first. Right he his first legislative attempt was a major botch when he failed 


CHRISTIE: We can talk about that too


HOOVER: to repeal Obamacare.  


CHRISTIE: We suggested was that tax cuts go first. Infrastructure goes second.  Obamacare goes third 


HOOVER: So the wall was in infrastructure?


CHRISTIE: The wall was in infrastructure and so we suggested that you do it in that order. We thought one, the tax cuts was the single most important thing to get the economy going. And get people believing again in the fact that the country can have 3 or 4 percent growth. Then you need to do infrastructure. We believed you needed to do that because it could be a bipartisan thing we could get the wall done if you were going to do a huge highway and bridge and tunnel bill, then you could make a deal to get the wall put in there.

And then third we said Obamacare because we thought that would be the hardest one.


HOOVER: If you were chief of staff right now how would all this be different?


CHRISTIE: If I were it right now? 




CHRISTIE: You know it would only be different if the president wanted it to be different. And I 


HOOVER: You’re saying if he were different if he changed. 


CHRISTIE: Well not if he changed but if he delegated differently. I think that part of what has happened is that he’s been impatient and rightfully so because some of the people early on did not serve him well and results were going badly. When Paul Ryan tells you you have to do Obamacare first and Reince Priebus tells you that yes we’ll get the votes for it and then it doesn’t happen. You begin to– look what he did was draw back and say OK I’ll do these things mysel


HOOVER: One of the illustrations that really speaks loudly in the book to me at least when I read it it was, um, the way you describe Trump’s response to you that he listens to you. Why do you think he listens to you? Or do you think he listens to you?


CHRISTIE: I do. Not all the time. But I think I think he respects me. Part of it is that we’ve been friends so I don’t think he questions my motives nearly as much as he questions other people’s. 


HOOVER: So what happened to then hiring the best people. 


CHRISTIE: We had all these people going to be interviewed to for positions and the same four people were in those interviews all the time. Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and the president elect


HOOVER: who chose that those three would be in the room?.


CHRISTIE:  Well the president did and the president is responsible for that. But my point to you on the bigger issue was those people should have said to the president no thank you. I don’t need to be in the room for this or I’ll step out for this while I’m attending to all the stuff we threw in the garbage. That needs to be done.

HOOVER: So you have two daughters.




HOOVER: What did you tell your two daughters after the Access Hollywood tapes came out?


CHRISTIE: my my youngest daughter Bridget was 12. So we didn’t really talk about it. My older daughter who was 19. We did talk about it and what I said to her was that that’s the kind of stuff that’s just inexcusable for any man to do. Any way to talk about women or to or potentially put those words into action. And I said I’m not going to make any excuses for him. I said you know it’s just the wrong thing to do. Your father would  never do anything like that and you should never be with someone who would do something like that.


HOOVER: So one thing in the book surprised me that doesn’t come through is you don’t pass any judgment on the candidate for those words or many of the things that the Chris Christie I know would have had a hard time with.


CHRISTIE: I did have a hard time with it and he asked me to go on the Sunday morning shows for him that Sunday and I refused. And I said I’m not going to answer questions about this until you answer them. I think that’s passing judgment because I was not going to put my reputation out there to defend him if he was unwilling to go out and defend himself 


HOOVER: There’s a lot of talk about character and whether character is important in a presidency. Do you think it is? 




HOOVER: So, with the very serious and obvious character flaws of this president. Um… Do you still think it matters.


CHRISTIE: Oh sure I think it matters even more. 


HOOVER: Are you saying. The president has serious character failings that are hurting his presidency?


CHRISTIE: No what I’m saying is that the president displayed those mistakes he had made during the campaign and I think that’s put even greater focus on everything that he does and says in the White House. He doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.


HOOVER: Does he deserve it? 


CHRISTIE: Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt. No he hasn’t earned it he’s got to earn that from the American people gotta earn the benefit of the doubt.


HOOVER: I mean there’s there’s not just the treatment of women. There’s the lying. Right there’s the lying. We can say that its just hyperbole but it’s more than hyperbole its– 


CHRISTIE: Well there are times its more than hyperbole. And other times it’s hyperbole. But I’m not going to sit here and defend still.And I haven’t publicly defended that. I think he has to defend that for himself because the words come out of his mouth. But what I would say to you again is that on elections there are binary choices. 




CHRISTIE: He wasn’t my first choice for president Margaret I was, right. 


HOOVER: But he was your second. 


CHRISTIE: Well he he was because none of those other folks could win. I mean 


HOOVER: It’s better to have somebody who can win with awful character than Hillary Clinton? 


CHRISTIE: Who I believe has worse character 


HOOVER: She probably wouldn’t have the impulsiveness that we talk about the president having.


CHRISTIE: You know I think it’s all speculation, Margaret. When when someone like Hillary Clinton got power into her hands. I don’t know what she would have done with. We wouldn’t have gotten these tax cuts under Hillary Clinton, we would have gotten tax increases. We would not have gotten Supreme Court justices that were conservative. We would’ve gotten Supreme Court justices that were liberal. All those things matter. I think longer term much more much more than the Access Hollywood tape.


HOOVER: I wanna talk about Jared Kushner you talk about him in the book because frankly it comes down. He’s the one who fired you. Right? 


CHRISTIE: That’s what Steve Bannon told me yes 


HOOVER:   and you believe that. 




HOOVER: Right, and you believe that because there’s history between the two of you. 


CHRISTIE: Between me and his father not between me and him 


HOOVER: but you can understand why he takes it personally. 


CHRISTIE: Yes and no. Yes and no. 


HOOVER: I mean would you separate your experience if your father had been put in jail from the prosecutor who put him in jail. 


CHRISTIE: If my father was guilty I would. 


HOOVER: Yeah, yeah.


CHRISTIE:  I mean listen if I thought that my father had not done something and that he’d been wrongly accused and wrongly convicted that would be one thing. In this instance Mr. Kushner pled guilty.  


HOOVER: To illegal campaign contributions 


CHRISTIE: tax evasion and witness tampering. Significant crimes.


HOOVER: I was surprised that you didn’t give yourself more of a defense for prosecuting Charles Kushner in the book.


CHRISTIE:  I just think that it was so obvious he had to be prosecuted that– I mean if a guy hires a prostitute to seduce his brother in law and videotapes it and then sends the video taped to his sister to attempt to intimidate her from testifying before a grand jury do I really need any more justification than that. I mean it’s one of the most loathsome disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was U.S. attorney and I was U.S. attorney in New Jersey Margaret. So we had some loathsome and disgusting crime going on there. But I mean think about that. I just laid out the facts and any objective person looks at the facts knows confronted with those facts I had a moral and an ethical obligation to bring that prosecution.


HOOVER: So here are some of the things you say about Jared in the book. let’s take a listen.


CHRISTIE (AUDIOBOOK)  Jared never deviated from his pleasant demeanor though he always seemed able to get his licks in. It was another one of those moments when I wondered if Jared was suggesting I put my head in a noose. That’s right Jared piped in firing Flynn and the whole Russia thing. I couldn’t believe how naive all this sounded. Jared Kushner still apparently seething over events that occurred over a decade ago was exacting a plot of revenge against me. How is this loyal to Donald Trump.  


HOOVER: So Jared is also behind some of the most significant failings in early weeks of the Trump administration. He’s behind in supporting the firing of Comey. He’s behind the government shutdown. I mean Trump keeps him around because he’s a son in law presumably and he trusts him and he loves him. But what you’re saying is. If you would you should be able to separate.


CHRISTIE: What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t put him in the position in the first place. 


HOOVER: Do you think Jared is competent and up to the job.


CHRISTIE: It depends on what you define the job as but certainly


HOOVER:  Well he’s a major adviser to the president. 


CHRISTIE: Well I just think that I just think that in your mid thirties with a background of New York real estate that it makes it very difficult to do and especially if your portfolio is going to include Mideast peace and you know end the shutdown and criminal justice reform and reinventing government.


HOOVER: I’m taking that as a no.


CHRISTIE: Margaret if I draw the conclusions people say that that’s just me being bitter and I’m not bitter I’m really not. I could have a number of cabinet jobs in this administration, ambassadorships that all been offered to me and I’m not looking  for —


HOOVER: Which you right, were all offered and you weren’t interested in.




HOOVER: You only wanted one job. 


CHRISTIE: Well I wanted to be president and I told the president when I dropped out of the race and endorsed him and he asked me if I win what do you want to do. I said there’s only two jobs that I would have any interest in vice president and attorney general other than I’m not interested. 


HOOVER: But it it seems though that it was Jared that stymied those possibilities. 


CHRISTIE: That’s certainly the way it seems.


HOOVER: Let me ask about the Mueller investigation. You write that you have seen Mueller operate, that you respect him. That you don’t think this is a political vendetta that he is professional. A question that many people have about the Mueller investigation is they’re looking at a record of a man who has been in business for 40 plus years and then at the highest levels of executive branch government. Is there any way. With that degree of scrutiny .Trump gets away with not being prosecuted or indicted or held guilty in some fashion.


CHRISTIE: Well I agree with the underlying premise which is that special counsels are not the way to go because they feel like to justify their existence they must bring case

 I’ve said many times publicly I’ve said this to the president. Bob Muller is an honest guy. He’s got integrity. He’s very smart and he’s a killer. So if he’s going to find crimes he’s going to get him. Remember this is a guy Margaret who is U.S. Attorney in San Francisco fired by the Clinton administration and a year or two later calls Eric Holder who then was the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia to asked to be a murder prosecutor in the local side of the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. He could have been making seven figures in a private law firm anywhere he wanted to and he chose to do that. That tells you the seriousness with which this guy takes public service. I think he’s a credit. I don’t think this is a witch hunt. Now it doesn’t mean they’re going to find Russian collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. I don’t believe as I in write the book that it happened. But 


HOOVER: well, what you say in the book is you don’t think the Trump campaign was coordinated enough to have pulled off collusion with the Russians




HOOVER: At the highest level. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been bad actors within the campaign apparatus who were actually willfully working with foreign adversaries. 


CHRISTIE: Well, there could have been bad actors who were even unwittingly. Operating in a way that that was inappropriate. The problem with the disorganization 


HOOVER: The president could’ve been one of those?


CHRISTIE: I don’t think so 


HOOVER: unwittingly.


CHRISTIE: I really don’t think so. I mean I can’t guarantee you. Margaret, I was there every day and I’m not as I am not his keeper in this regard. But I don’t believe so.


HOOVER: What about his son or a son in law.


CHRISTIE: I don’t again I don’t believe so. But you know that’s what we have Bob Mueller. We’re not gonna have to guess. And one thing I know about Bob is he will do. And I think these cases are showing he does a completely thorough job. And he will do what he thinks is just in the circumstances. And I support it. And I’ve told the president there’s no way you can make this shorter. There’s lots of ways you can make it longer. And he’s making it longer every time he opens his mouth. 


HOOVER: You say that Donald Trump was constantly saddled with riffraff.

which reminded me of an earlier Firing Line where William F. Buckley hosted. 

Henry Kissinger on this program talking about the Nixon white house and some of the staffing challenges that the Nixon administration had. Let’s take a look.


KISSINGER: If you read for example the transcripts of the Pentagon papers you can read some blood curdling pronouncements. And none of the people who heard it said Yes Mr. President we’ll do it tomorrow morning or report it back to him the next day that they did. Even the slightest execution of them and. 


BUCKLEY: He just externalizing the frustration or two. 


KISSINGER: So when I became aware of the full extent. Of Watergate I called up Bryce Harlow who knew Nixon well and I said said Bryce What do you think happened here. And he said some fool into the Oval Oval Office and did what he was told.


HOOVER: The problem was some fool. The problem was some fool went into the Oval Office and did what Nixon told him to do. Is that  the problem the president has?-==-


CHRISTIE: Oh I don’t know. I mean in what context I mean I think. 


HOOVER: Trump tweets off a lot of things but you need people with maturity and discretion who know when to walk in and do what he says and know when to walk in and take a spin and then come back and figure out what you’re really going to do.


CHRISTIE: And I think for the most part even with the indictment I make in the book of a lot of the people around them. I think there have always been people who have been understanding of how to do that. How to do the part that Dr. Kissinger just talked about.


CHRISTIE: But listen the next two years and how it’s going to go is going to be determined by a lot of these choices that the president makes in terms of personnel 


HOOVER: Is it about the staffing or is it about the person 


CHRISTIE: it’s about both. 


HOOVER: Well that’s the point. 


CHRISTIE: But It’s about both


HOOVER: You’re saying that if Trump had better staff he’d be better. But how much of it is about Trump? 


CHRISTIE: No. It’s always some of it’s about Trump but I’ve never said it isn’t. I said he made bad choices.


HOOVER: What we’ve painted here is a picture of a president who has bad staffing, bad character, bad decision making make– has bad judgment.


CHRISTIE: Well no–


HOOVER: That still deserves to be president. 


CHRISTIE: He is the president United States. And I don’t want to come off as me saying here that I think he has bad character. I think he has made mistakes and everybody and we’ve elected–


HOOVER: Do you think he has good character?


CHRISTIE:  Well listen he’s always been very good very good on a number of issues that I care deeply about. 


HOOVER:  But that’s not enough that’s about policy issues that’s not his character


CHRISTIE: But that’s part of what drives policy issues his character my view.




CHRISTIE: Margaret, I believe he’s a good person. Does that mean he’s faultless. Absolutely not and his faults have been on display for the American people both during the campaign and after the campaign. But by the way so were Hillary Clinton and so 


HOOVER: Do you think she has bad character? 


CHRISTIE: Listen I think that she’s done a lot of very questionable things over the course of her career. I’m not going to say she has bad character but when I combine her failed judgments versus his. His policy prescriptions versus her. I pick him. And I think it’s a completely justifiable pick that a plurality of the American people joined me in in 2016. 


HOOVER: when you won re-election you won re-election

by double digits you outperformed Donald Trump with African-Americans you outperformed Donald Trump with women. You outperformed Donald Trump with us with independents you with Hispanics and with millennials. 






CHRISTIE: Yeah that’s why I thought I had a chance to be President.


HOOVER: That earlier Chris Christie was a model for a future Republican Party. A blue state Republican governor who had this way of working across the aisle and being pragmatic on it right. You outperformed Donald Trump in every single one of these categories. You cannot deny that. Trump has been bad for the GOP brand. 


CHRISTIE: This is what he’s been is limiting. He’s been limiting for it and limiting it is bad. I mean I believe in a different way of approaching these things and I campaigned that way. I didn’t win. 


HOOVER:  you have a lot to say about Jared in this book. How do you think Jared handled the shutdown?


CHRISTIE: Well I don’t know what he did in it. I only know what I read from acc– 


HOOVER: He was a chief negotiator. 


CHRISTIE: And if those accounts are right then he failed. The fact is. I believe the president should not have engaged in this brinkmanship. Unless you had a plan on how to get out. Before we hit the ground


HOOVER: Is that the President’s  or is that Jared’s fault? 


CHRISTIE: It’s both. And I think what happened with the shutdown was I think they all convinced themselves. That the Democrats were just going to give in. 


HOOVER: yeah. 


CHRISTIE: And and I I looked at the president straight in the eye five, six weeks ago and said they’ve been waiting two years for this. They’re not going to give in. 




CHRISTIE: If you want the wall funding that badly and you want to get it done then you’ve got to give them something that you normally wouldn’t be willing to give because they’re giving something that they’ve said publicly they’re not willing to give. That’s the way politics works.


HOOVER: The title the book is Let me finish. 




HOOVER: Because of the title it makes me think you’re not finished.


CHRISTIE: I’m not. 


HOOVER: Do you want the president to read this book. Do you think– 


CHRISTIE: I sent it to him. 


HOOVER: Do you think you have. That’s a yes. 




HOOVER: Do you think you got another shot or bite at the apple in this administration.


CHRISTIE: Well what I mean is that I talked to the chief of staff five weeks ago. 


HOOVER: But you turned it down.


CHRISTIE: I did. And I don’t know that there’s anything he can offer me that will make me want to be in this administration 


HOOVER: Where is the Trump presidency heading?


CHRISTIE:  it’s a good question. I think this. The president. Has a moment now. After the shutdown is over. To take attempt to re-evaluate and hit a reset button. And I think the American people would welcome him to do that. Compromise work with each other get something done. 


HOOVER: Not what he’s doing. 


CHRISTIE: Well I think he’s got some big choices to make. The one thing people have always underestimated about Donald Trump is his sense of self-preservation. 


HOOVER: What do you mean by that?


CHRISTIE: what I mean is that he he can gauge when he’s gone too far to the point where all my business life may be at risk my personal life may be at risk my political life may be at risk. So he’s going to he’s going to make an evaluation of whether or not any further mistakes, Like the shutdown, Would make it impossible for him to be re-elected. I think if he if he examines all this he’s going to know that he needs a bit of a reset. Both in terms of personnel and in terms of approach. If he does that he has a chance to be successful.


HOOVER: Well “let me finish” Is the new book and I hope that Chris Christie does get a chance to finish. 


CHRISTIE: I appreciate that Margaret. Thanks for having me on, it’s a great show. 


MARGARET: Thanks for being here


CHRISTIE: You got it

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