Full transcript: N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s Jan. 9 news conference on George Washington Bridge scandal
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) held a news conference Jan. 9 to address revelations that a senior aide and two top political appointees forced days of traffic jams in September as apparent political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.
GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Good morning.
I come out here to this office where I've been many times before and I've come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey. I apologize to the people of Fort Lee and I apologize to the members of the state legislature.
I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.
There's no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for the appropriate role of government and for the people that were trusted to serve.
Two pieces to what I want to talk about today. The first is I believe that all of the people who were affected by this conduct deserve this apology and that's why I'm giving it to them. I also need to apologize to them for my failure as the governor of this state to understand the true nature of this problem sooner than I did. But I believe I have an understanding now of the true nature of the problem and I've taken the following action as a result.
This morning I've terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly, effective immediately. I've terminated her employment because she lied to me. I brought my senior staff together I think about four weeks ago tomorrow. And I put to all of them one simple challenge: If there is any information that you know about the decision to close these lanes in Fort Lee, you have one hour to tell either my chief of staff, Kevin O'Dowd, or my chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.
And I told them that in an hour I was going to go out in a press conference. And if no one gave me other information to the contrary that I was going to say that no one on my staff was involved in this matter.
Over the course of the next hour, Kevin and Charlie interviewed each member of my senior staff, came back and reported to me that they all reported that there was no information other than what we already knew that had been testified to by Senator Baroni regarding this incident. I then questioned Kevin O'Dowd and Charlie McKenna directly, since they are the only two who report directly to me, and they assured me that they had no information that would change my ability to be able to say that no one, in response in Angie's (sp) question, on my staff was involved in this matter.
That was obviously a lie. And the emails that I saw for the first time yesterday morning, when they broken in I believe the Bergen Record story, proved that that was a lie. There's no justification for that behavior. There's no justification for ever lying to a governor or a person in authority in this government. And as a result, I've terminated Bridget's employment immediately this morning.
Secondly, I have and will continue to, started yesterday, to once again now have personal one-on-one discussions myself with the remaining members of my senior staff to determine if there's any other information that I do not know and need to know in order to take appropriate action.
I'm not completed with those interviews yet, but when I am, if there is additional information that needs to be disclosed, I will do so. If there's additional actions that need to be taken with my senior staff, I will do so.
I will tell you, though, it's been written a lot over the last couple of days about what a tight-knit staff I have and how closely everyone works together, and that is true. And ever since the time I was U.S. attorney, I've engendered the sense and feeling among the people closest to me that we're a family, and we work together and we tell each other truth, we support each other when we need to be supported, and we admonish each other when we need to be admonished. I am heartbroken that someone who I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the last five years betrayed my trust.
I would never have come out here four or five weeks ago and made a joke about these lane closures if I had ever had an inkling that anyone on my staff would have been so stupid but to be involved and then so deceitful as to just -- just to not disclose the information of their involvement to me when directly asked by their superior. And those questions were not asked, by the way, just once; they were asked repeatedly.
So I take this action today because it's my job. I am responsible for what happened. I am sad to report to the people of New Jersey that we fell short.
We fell short of the expectations that we've created over the last four years for the type of excellence in government that they should expect from this office.
But I have repeatedly said to them that while I promise them the best governor's office I could give them, I could never promise them a perfect governor's office. And so when I find those imperfections, those mistakes, those lies, my obligation as the chief executive of this state is to act. And as to Bridget Kelly, I've acted today.
Secondly, I was disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude of callous indifference that was displayed in the emails by my former campaign manager, Bill Stepien. And reading that, it made me lose my confidence in Bill's judgment. And you cannot have someone at the top of your political operation who you do not have confidence in. As a result, I've instructed Bill Stepien to not place his name in nomination for state party chairman, and he will not be considered for state party chairman, and I've instructed him to withdraw his consultancy with the Republican Governors Association. If I cannot trust someone's judgment, I cannot ask others to do so, and I would not place him at the head of my political operation because of the lack of judgment that was shown in the emails that were revealed yesterday.
That has also been communicated to Mr. Stepien last night. There's no doubt that Bill has been one of my closest advisers over the last five years. And so for that too I am sad today to have to take this action. But I also know that I have a job to do. And it's the job that I've asked the people of New Jersey to entrust me with. And I can never allow personal feelings or long-standing relationships to get in the way of doing my job the way it's appropriate to do it.
But I don't want any of you to confuse what I'm saying this morning. Ultimately I am responsible for what happens under my watch -- the good and the bad. And when mistakes are made, then I have to own up to them and take the action that I believe is necessary in order to remediate them. As I mentioned to you earlier, I spent all day yesterday digging into talking to folks and getting to the bottom of things. I know there was much discussion yesterday about what was I doing.
Well, let me tell you, everybody, I was blindsided yesterday morning. I was done with my workout yesterday morning and got a call from my communications director at about 8:50, 8:55, informing me of this story that had just broken on the Bergen Record website. That was the first time I knew about this. That was the first time I had seen any of the documents that were revealed yesterday.
And so before I came out and spoke to all of you, I wanted to do the best I could to try to get to the bottom on some of this so that when I came out I could answer questions as best I can and take appropriate action if action was necessary.
There was no doubt from reading those emails yesterday, in my mind, that action was necessary. And then I wanted to make sure that I spoke to those people who advise me to make sure if there was any other information they were aware of, that I had it before I acted.
I'm going to continue this process. I couldn't get it all done yesterday. And as I said, if there's more information that I uncover, I'll act accordingly in terms of releasing it to the public and taking whatever action may be necessary, if any is, for any other issues. And also, we'll react to any information that's incoming from anyplace else, given that there's an OIG investigation and a legislative investigation.
Later today I'm going to be going to Fort Lee, asked to meet with the mayor to apologize to him personally, face to face, and also to apologize to the people of Fort Lee in their town. I think they need to see me do that personally, and I intend to do that later on today. People of those communities for four days were impacted in a completely callous and indifferent way, and I'm going to go and apologize for that.
Let me conclude with this. This is not the tone that I've set over the last four years in this building. It's not the environment I've worked so hard to achieve. We saw just a few months ago, and I've seen over the course of the last four years, Republicans and Democrats working together, not without argument -- government's never without argument -- but ultimately coming to resolution on so many different issues in a bipartisan way and running a campaign that was in fact a bipartisan campaign.
And so I am extraordinarily disappointed by this, but this is the exception, it is not the rule, of what's happened over the last four years in this administration.
I've considered it over the last four years to be my job to be the governor of every New Jerseyan -- Republican, Democrat, independent or unaffiliated -- and I've worked with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, ones that I agree with and ones that I disagree with. The political overtones that were exhibited in those documents released yesterday and the conduct by those people is not acceptable.
But people, I think, all across this state understand that human beings are not perfect and mistakes are made. And I believe what they expect of me as the chief executive of this state is when that information comes into my possession, that I consider it and then act as swiftly as possible to remediate whatever ill occurred. That's what I've done today. Actions have consequences, and I'm living up to that right now.
And I'll say one last thing, just so we're really clear. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or it execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here. Regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover, this was handled in a callous and indifferent way, and it is not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years and not the way it will conduct itself over the next four.
I will do everything within my power to assure the people of New Jersey that. And I thank them for their willingness to consider my apology on behalf of this government. In the end, I have 65,000 people working for me every day. And I cannot know what each one of them is doing at every minute. But that doesn't matter; I'm ultimately responsible for what they do. And that's why I took this action.
Q: Governor, beyond the apology and the terminations that you've announced, what other steps -- concrete steps do you plan to take to demonstrate to the people of New Jersey and the people of the country that you want to change the perception of what has happened here? And will that include working cooperatively with these investigations that are now moving forward because in the past you had some rather nasty words for the people who were heading them up?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, well -- and I apologized for that this morning, David, because I was being led to believe by folks around me that there was no basis to this. And so -- you know, and let's be -- let's be fair, there have been times when there have been investigations around here that have led to nothing and have had no basis. But I was wrong.
And so now, having been proven wrong, of course we'll work cooperatively with the investigations. And you know, I'm going through an examination, as I mentioned to you, right now. That's what I'm doing. I'm going through an examination and talking to the individual people who work for me, not only to discover if there's any other information that we need to find, but also to ask them: How did this happen? How did -- you know, how did this, you know, occur to us?
I think -- you know, listen. As I said before, we -- I've had a tight-knit group of people who I trust implicitly. I have no reason to believe they weren't telling me the truth. It is heartbreaking to me that I wasn't told the truth. I'm a very loyal guy, and I expect loyalty in return. And lying to me is not an exhibition of loyalty.
And so, you know, I'm going to look into this personally. This is my responsibility, David (sp). And so what steps we'll take after that, if there are concrete steps beyond what I've done today, then we'll certainly announce them and talk about them. If -- you know, if not, then, you know, I'll just say, listen, I think we've gotten to the bottom of this, and we're going to move forward with the new team, and -- you know, I have a new team coming in as well who I'm trying to integrate now also in the next two weeks. So there'll be a lot of action going on around here.
Q: Your critics say this reveals that you are a political bully, that your style is payback. Are you? And does this compromise your ability to serve?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I'm not. Hey, listen, Kelly (sp). Politics ain't bean bag, OK? And everybody in the country who engages in politics knows that. On the other hand, that's very, very different than saying that, you know, someone's a bully. I have very heated discussions and arguments with people in my own party and on the other side of the aisle. I feel passionately about issues. And I don't hide my emotions from people. I am not a focus-group tested, blow- dried candidate or governor.
Now, that has always made some people, as you know, uneasy. Some people like that style, some people don't. And I've always -- I think you asked me the question day after the election, are you willing to change your style in order to appeal to a broader audience?
And I think I said no because I am who I am. But I am not a bully.
And what I will tell you is that the folks who have worked with me over a long period of time would, I believe, tell you that I'm tough, but I've shown over the last four years in the tone that we've set here that I'm willing to compromise, that I'm willing to work with others. And the campaign showed, with all of the folks who came from the other side of the aisle to support us, that if we weren't willing to have relationships with those folks, it would have never happened that way.
So I don't believe that, Kelly (sp), and I don't believe the body of work in the last four years displays that.
Now, in this instance, the language used and the conduct displayed in those emails is unacceptable to me, and I will not tolerate it. But the best I can do is when I see stuff like that, to end it. And I know that won't satisfy everybody, but I'm not in the business of satisfying everybody. I'm in the business of trying to satisfy the people who elected me governor.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Michael. Michael.
Q: Governor, you say that you're going to individually interview all the members of the governor's office.
GOV. CHRISTIE: The senior staff, yeah.
Q: What about the campaign? Are you going to -- are you going to personally interview --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, many --
Q: How confident are you that this doesn't rise above Bill Stepien in the campaign?
GOV. CHRISTIE: There was no one above Bill Stepien in the campaign. He was the campaign manager. So there was no one above Bill Stepien in the campaign.
Q: But there were plenty of other officials, some of them quite close to you.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, but, Michael, their role in the campaign was not the day-to-day operation of the campaign. Bill Palatucci was the chairman of the campaign, and he was essentially involved with fundraising. That was Bill's main task. Mike DuHaime was the general consultant. He dealt with TV ads and mail pieces. So the day-to-day operation of the campaign --
Q: You're sure that they didn't know about?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yes, I've spoken to both of them. They were two of my discussions yesterday.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Angie (sp)? Angie (sp)?
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Guys, we don't work that way.
Q: How confident are you that this tactic -- this bullying tactic, this revenge/retribution tactic -- did not go beyond -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, Angie (sp), I'm not going to -- I'm smart enough now after this experience not to go out there and certify that unequivocally, OK? I don't have any evidence before me as we speak that it went beyond this incident, but I -- but I can't tell you that I know that for sure as to every aspect of everything, because now I have to be much more circumspect about that.
Prior to yesterday, I believed that if I looked someone in the eye who I worked with and trusted and asked them that I would get an honest answer. Maybe that was naive, but that's what I believed. So now I'm going and digging in and asking more questions. But I can't make a warranty on that, Angie (sp). I don't believe so but I can't make a warranty on that, and I won't, because when I did that four weeks ago I wound up being wrong.
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Do you have a follow up?
Q: But you can tell us that you do not authorize this kind of retribution.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, absolutely not. No. And I knew nothing about this. And until it started to be reported in the papers about the closure, but even then I was told this was a traffic study. Senator Barnoni testified that it was a traffic study. There still may have been a traffic study that now has political overtones to it as well. I don't know the answer to that, Angie (sp).
We're going to find out, but I don't know, because Senator Barnoi presented all types of information that day to the legislature -- statistics and maps and otherwise -- that seemed evidence of a traffic study, so why would I believe that anybody would not be telling the truth about that? I said that I think at the time, but --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I'm not finished yet, guys. But the fact is that regardless of all that, you know, it's clear now that in the minds of some people, there were political overtones or political side deals on this.
And that's unacceptable. So whether there was a traffic study or not, I don't know. It appeared that there was one based on what I saw in the testimony, but regardless of whether there was or there wasn't, there clearly were also political overtones that were evidenced in that -- in those emails and other messages that were never, ever brought to my attention until yesterday.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: Can you understand why people would have a hard time believing that you didn't know about this thing? Considering your management style and the closeness of your staff, if you didn't know about it, what does that say about your ability to lead?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I am -- there's this -- there's this, you know, kind of reputation out there of me being a micromanager. I'm not. I mean, I think if you talk to my staff, what they would tell you is that I delegate enormous authority to my staff and enormous authority to my Cabinet. And I tell them, come to me with the policy decisions that need to be made, with some high-level personnel decisions that need to be made. But I do not manage in that kind of micro way, first.
Second, there's no way that anybody would think that I know about everything that's going on, not only in ever agency of government at all times, but also every independent authority that New Jersey either has on its own or by state -- both with New York, with Pennsylvania and with Delaware. So what I can tell you is if people find that hard to believe, I don't know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this -- of the planning, the execution or anything about it -- and that I first found out about it after it was over.
And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study. And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday that was brought to my attention or anybody else's attention.
And so I understand why people would ask that question, and I understand your question completely. But what I also want to tell the people is that even with all that being said, it's still my responsibility. I didn't know about it, but it's my responsibility because I'm the governor. So I'm taking that responsibility and taking actions appropriate with executing the responsibility in accord with what the information is today.
Q: Governor, the U.S. attorney in New Jersey has said he's opening an investigation to determine whether a federal law was violated here. You were the U.S. attorney in New Jersey at one time. Would you, as a U.S. attorney -- would you think that there's anything to be investigated -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: As I've said many times, when I was U.S. attorney, I hated when politicians stood behind a podium and said this is what the U.S. attorney should or shouldn't do, and I'm not going to engage in that kind of conduct at all.
Q: Are there any other -- are there any other cases -- have you asked from your staff if there are any other cases of political retribution conducted during your campaign to other mayors -- (in New Jersey ?)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, again, let me say this: Clearly, that's the tone of those emails. But the thing that -- the other part of this that just shocks me is as I've said to you all many times before, Mayor Sokolich was never on my radar screen. He was never mentioned to me as somebody whose endorsement we were even pursuing. And in fact, I think he said on CNN last night that he doesn't recall ever being asked for his endorsement. So part of this is I never saw this as political retribution because I didn't think he did anything to us.
Now, we pursued lots of endorsements during the campaign from Democrats, and we didn't receive most of them. We received about 60 at the end of the day.
We pursued hundreds.
And so I never -- I don't have any recollection of at any time, anybody in the campaign ever asking me to meet with Mayor Sokolich or call him, which was the typical course that was used when we were attempting to get an endorsement. The staff would work with the elected official first, and then, when they thought, using the vernacular, the ball was on the tee, they would call me in to make a phone call or have a meeting or a breakfast, and I would then meet with the elected official and see if I could bring it over the line.
I don't remember ever meeting Mayor Sokolich in that -- certainly I never did in that context. I don't ever -- I'm sure I met him at some point in an event in Bergen County, but I have to tell you, until I saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn't have been able to pick him out of a lineup. And so part of this is -- the reason that the retribution idea never came into my head is because I never even knew that we were pursuing his endorsement, and no one ever came to me to get me to try to pursue the endorsement in any way, so I never saw it as a serious effort.
Q: (Inaudible) -- now that you know it did happen?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, sure. Of course -- of course -- of course. John (sp)? John (sp)?
Q: You say you're going to continue to ask these questions of your staff. I want to know what kind of questions you might be asking of yourself. These aren't just any of the 65,000 employees, these are people -- five or six people as close to you as you can get -- people you trust -- (inaudible) -- to your birthday party, and they either --
GOV. CHRISTIE: What was that last piece?
Q: Went to a birthday party.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, went to a birthday party of mine?
Q: One of your staff -- (one of the ?) staffers you fired this morning.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah. A few of them were there.
Q: So, I'm just asking, what do you ask yourself about -- they either thought this is what the boss wanted, or they -- as a group, they were willing to go rogue and do this and then try to cover it up -- (inaudible) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, obviously -- I said earlier, John (sp), I'm heartbroken about it, and I'm incredibly disappointed. I don't think I've gotten to the angry stage yet, but I'm sure I'll get there.
But I'm just stunned.
And what does it make me ask about me? It makes me ask about me what did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me? And there's a lot of soul-searching that goes around with this. You know, when you're a leader of an organization -- and I've had this happen to me before, where I've had folks not tell me the truth about something -- not since I've been governor but in previous leadership positions -- you always wonder about what you could do differently. And believe me, John (sp), I haven't had a lot of sleep the last two nights, and I've been doing a lot of soul-searching. I'm sick over this. I've worked for the last 12 years in public life developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk, one that I think is well-deserved. But, you know, when something like this happens, it's appropriate for you to question yourself, and certainly I am. And I am soul-searching on this.
But what I also want the people of New Jersey to know is that this is the exception, not the rule. And they've seen that over the last four years with the way I've worked and what I've done. So I don't want to fall into the trap of saying, well, this one incident happened, therefore the one incident defines the whole -- it does not, just like one employee who's lied doesn't determine the character of all the other employees around you. And so I don't want to overreact to that in that way either, John (sp). But if you're asking me over the last 48 hours or last 36 hours I've done some soul-searching, you bet I have.
Q: Governor --
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Brian (sp), Brian (sp).
Q: Governor, the mayor of Jersey City is quoted as saying that today he declined to endorse you and said he would vote Democrat, and as many as 10 appointments between state officials and Jersey City officials were cancelled suddenly, all at once.
How do you explain that in the context of what you now know about what some of your staff did?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, all I know is -- I don't know, Brian (sp), is the first answer I'll give you to the question. But what I'll also say is, listen, Mayor Fulop seems to be having a lot of disagreements with lots of people -- with me, with the Senate president and others. There's going to be back and forth. There's going to be meetings cancelled. There's going to be public disagreements.
But the fact of the matter is we've continued to work with Jersey City over the course of time since he's been mayor. You know, in the last year I think we've approved about $190 million in EDA financing for projects in Jersey City. The DEP, deputy commissioner, was just meeting yesterday with Mayor Fulop and his staff on Blue Acres issues, to try to buy out properties that were affected by Sandy.
So we continue to work with him. I don't know about specific meetings or what's going on, but certainly, you know, I will look into all those things. But the fact is that what Mayor Fulop knows is, when we agree with him from a policy perspective we'll work with him. When we disagree with him, we'll express those disagreements. And sometimes that'll mean friction.
He's suing the Port Authority at the moment, OK? So there's lots of back and forth and to and fro that happens in these things. I look into all this stuff. But in the end, have I at times been angry with Mayor Fulop and disagreed with him? You bet I have. But I also spoke at his swearing in, at his invitation.
So political relationships in this state go up and down, as you know, Brian (sp). Sometimes strange bedfellows, sometimes expected ones. And they move. So I'm sure there's been movement in those relationships over time, but not anything that I can explain as to this specific question.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Bob (sp).
Q: Yeah, I heard that you actually -- when your staff read the Bergen Record and learned something in terms of situational awareness, does the universal apology to the state of New Jersey include the press corps?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, sure.
I mean, listen, you're -- most of you, I hope, are citizens of New Jersey. So you would be --
Q: There are some exceptions -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I know there are. I know -- we don't need to point them out. But I -- but yes, of course it does. And -- because the fact is I came out here and said something that was untrue, I mean, unwittingly, but I said something that was untrue.
I think what you all have seen about me over the last four years in my dealings with you is that I deal with you directly, and I say exactly what I think. And I think over time I have developed the reputation for telling you all the truth, as I see it -- there could be disagreements, but the truth as I see it.
And so yeah, I mean, would I include the press corps? Of course I would, because most if not -- many if not most of you are residents of the state, and you rely upon this state government to be honest and trustworthy as well. And in this instance, my government fell short, and I take responsibility for that, and that's why I'm apologizing.
Beth. (Cross talk.) Beth.
Q: I'm wondering what your staff said to you about why they lied to you. Why would they do that? What was their explanation? And what about Mr. Samson? What role did he play in this?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I have -- I have not had any conversation with Bridget Kelly since the email came out. And so she was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied because it was so obvious that she had. And I'm, quite frankly, not interested in the explanation at the moment.
GOV. CHRISTIE: I'm not done. She had a second part of the question.
I think General Samson put out a statement yesterday that he had no knowledge of this. I interviewed him yesterday. He was one of my interviews. I am convinced that he had absolutely no knowledge of this, that this was executed at the operational level and never brought to the attention of the Board of Commissioners until Chairman Foye wrote his email -- or Executive Director Foye wrote his email to the Board of Commissioners.
And so I sat and met for two hours yesterday with Mr. Sampson -- General Sampson -- and again, I'm confident that he had no knowledge of this, based upon our conversations and his review of his information. So I think, you know, as he said yesterday, he is angered by this and upset about it, and I know that he's going to lead -- cooperate with the OIG investigation that's ongoing and lead a discussion at the Port Authority about what could be done in the future to stop such conduct.
Q: Governor -- PAGE 25 01/09/2002 .STX
Port Authority about what could be done in the future to stop such conduct.
Q: Governor -- PAGE 25 CHRISTIE-PRESS-CONF
GOV. CHRISTIE: 01/09/2002 .STX Charlie.
Q: Governor, you mentioned earlier that -- (off mic) -- asking the question is what did I -- (off mic) -- lie to me, but are you also asking the question, what did I say or how did I conduct myself in the office to behave in a way that would lend these folks to think it was OK to carry out such a scheme like this? (Off mic) -- that suspicions that (you fostered ?) -- (off mic) -- through your administration or your campaign that allowed people to think it was OK to intimidate or retaliate against people?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, Charlie, listen, I haven't, because I know who I am. And I'm not that person.
And listen, it's easy for people to be characterized in public life based upon their personality, and I have a very direct, blunt personality. And I understand why some people would then characterize that, especially people who don't like you, as bullying, but it's not that. And I know that about myself, and, no, I haven't asked that question, Charlie. I'm more focused on why the truth wasn't told to me. .ETX
x x x Commissioners. And so I sat and met for two hours yesterday with Mr. Sampson -- General Sampson -- and again, I'm confident that he had no knowledge of this, based upon our conversations and his review of his information. So I think, you know, as he said yesterday, he is angered by this and upset about it, and I know that he's going to lead -- cooperate with the OIG investigation that's ongoing and lead a discussion at thP
Q: You said you -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Pardon, I --
Q: (Off mic) -- apologize to the (road men ?) there. Are you going to also apologize for the joke you made -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I just did.
Q: -- at all?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, I just did. I said I'm sorry for that, and I would have never made that joke if I knew the facts that have come forward to me today.
Q: What prompted you to joke about it in the --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Because I thought it was absurd and I thought that we had nothing to do with it. That's why. And obviously, I -- obviously the email is evidence of kind of callous indifference to the result of that, and I've -- that's what I've apologized for, and I do apologize for it, Melissa (sp), and I certainly intend to apologize, you know, to the mayor today. I'm going to try to get a meeting with his this afternoon.
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Terry (sp)?
Q: Governor, the flip side to the retribution question, in emails there's at least one mayor who was seeming to -- (off mic) -- endorsement.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Who's that?
Q: Mayor -- (off mic). Is that what your campaign -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I read that. I didn't -- I didn't read that that way at all. And that was a reference to a traffic study that, candidly, I know nothing about. And I recognize that the email said something about the "gov" supported it or endorsed it. I have to -- because I don't know anything about it, I have to believe that was, like, the governor's office generically, that reference, because I -- as I stand here today, I don't know anything about a traffic study in Springfield.
Q: (Off mic) -- your campaign, did you guys every go into and say that this is what happens if you endorse us?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, god, no -- absolutely not. No. No. It's just not -- no, that's not the way it operated. Terry (sp), we built relationships over four years with folks, trying to be helpful to every town that we could be helpful with appropriately. So no, nothing like that was ever done.
Q: Governor, you said you had been doing some soul-searching. I'm wondering if you're soul-searching about the kind of people you hire, or the kind of people who run your campaigns, or the kind of people you want to run the Republican Party who are willing to apparently engage in political retribution and also call the mayor reportedly a racially insensitive man.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: Soul-searching on the hiring practice isn't how you judge people.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Sure, it was a mistake. I mean, the soul- searching is complete on that part of it. It was a mistake.
Q: To hire him?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Obviously. It was a mistake. It was -- listen. The fact is that mistakes were made, and I'm responsible for those mistakes. And I obviously try, every chance I can, to hire the very best people, and I think the history of this administration shows that we have hired outstanding people with great ethical standards who have done their jobs extraordinarily well. In a government of 65,000 people, there are going to be times when mistakes are made. Mistakes were made, and I remediated those mistakes today by the actions that I've taken. And so, you know, I'm in a constant state of trying to figure out what's -- who are the best people for individual jobs who will make me proud to have put them there. And so that's always been going on. That's nothing new now.
But, you know, there are times when people that you put in those positions make mistakes, they disappoint you, you lose their -- you lose your confidence in them, or they lie to you. And when you find that out, the test of leadership is what do you do?
I found this out at 8:50 yesterday morning. By 9:00 this morning, Bridget Kelly was fired. By 7:00 yesterday evening, Bill Stepien was asked to leave my organization. That's pretty swift action for a day's work, and that's exactly the way I'll continue to conduct myself if there's any other information surrounding this that comes up, or anything different that comes up over the course of the next four years.
Q: (Off mic) -- how much of a crisis in confidence -- (off mic) -- people you surrounding yourself with and your ability to accept future leadership roles?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I can -- I can differentiate, Phil (sp), between people who have served me well and they haven't. And of course, there is always going to be some -- after something like this where you've been lied to, there is going to be some crisis in confidence, OK? There always will be. I mean, anybody who tells you differently is not telling you the truth. If they say to you, you know, this happened to you and you're not going to second-guess yourself at all, well then you're -- then you're just stupid. Of course I've second- guessed myself and got through my head on some of this stuff. And in the future I'll try to be even more careful.
But here's what I know about human beings, Phil (sp). I've hired a lot of them in my time, as U.S. attorney, as governor and as an -- a hiring attorney in a private practice law firm. Sometimes, despite the best background checks beside -- you know, despite the best interviews, despite your best instincts, sometimes people are a mistake hire. Sometimes they start off as a good hire; because of circumstances that happened in their life, they change. You can't prevent everything. But the test of leadership is, when you find it out, what do you do? And I'm saddened to have to do this. It's difficult personally to do. But it's my job, and I've taken an oath, and I'm going to execute my job.
Q: Governor -- (off mic) -- just found out about -- (off mic) -- story. Is that just a misstatement, or --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, I'm sorry.
Q: OK. The (other thing is ?), in terms of drilling down down now that you've been able to get a handle a little bit more on -- (off mic) -- what happened (then ?)? Was there a threat or an ask for an endorsement? Was there then retribution?
And what about this piece where there was some sort of vendetta exercised against the New York side at the Port Authority after the revelations first began appearing in the press?
GOV. CHRISTIE: A few things. First off, to my knowledge -- and I think the mayor said this last night -- I have no knowledge of him being asked for an endorsement. He may have been, but he certainly was never asked by me. But he, I think, said last night on television that he doesn't recall ever being asked for an endorsement. That's why this made no sense to me, Josh, because why would you execute a vendetta against somebody who you didn't get a chance to say no to? Put aside the fact that you shouldn't do that at all, but then, if you never asked him for an endorsement, why are you mad at him that he didn't give one? I mean, none of it made any sense to me. So that's the first point.
Q: So you still don't know what prompted an apparent vendetta? OK.
GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't -- I don't. And again, I don't know whether this was a traffic study that then morphed into a political vendetta or a political vendetta that morphed into a traffic study. I mean, I've seen, in front of the legislature statistics and other things about the traffic study, so I know there's information there. I don't know what it is, and so we'll find out over time maybe, but that's really in the minds of the people who were doing it, and that's what I based my decisions on at the time, was the testimony that people gave. Lastly --
Q: On the (payback ?) with the New York side?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah -- no, no, no. Listen, I don't know exactly what you're referencing, but I think that you're talking about the Foye memo that was leaked? Is that what you were talking about? No?
Q: Yeah, but why -- as the memo -- and it was a little more (to follow up ?) because of (the redactions ?) -- but it seemed that according to Wildstein's emails, the traffic issue arose, complaints were made, a story appeared in one of the newspapers. Complaints were then lodged internally at the court over the stories, and so Wildstein says -- I don't know the exact words, so forgive me, but it's something along the lines of, we're taking appropriate action against the New York side, and Samson is working with us on it.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, it was something -- yeah, I asked General Samson about this, I think it said -- yeah, it said something to that effect. I don't remember exactly what it was. I asked Samson -- General Samson about that yesterday. He said he has absolutely no idea what Wildstein's referring to, and that the only communication that he had at that time was his concern that he expressed to fellow commissioners about internal Port Authority documents being leaked, and that he just said, that's just not appropriate for folks to be leaking internal documents.
But he has no recollection, from what he told me yesterday, of any conversation like that with Wildstein or Baroni at all that references what -- the gist of what you said in the email.
Q: (There weren't ?) internal payback outrage going on --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Not that I --
Q: -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Certainly not that I'm aware of, or not out of the normal. I mean, let's remember something too: This is a bi-state agency with significant tension all the time. Now, there's no tension between Governor Cuomo and I; we get along quite well, and when issues rise to our level, we've always been able to resolve them. But there is tension and always has been between New York and New Jersey on the allocation of resources at the Port Authority.
And so let me be clear; there are some battles over there that go on that have happened in every administration over the course of my memory, but you can't connect that to -- that's kind of the ongoing nature of the tension of that agency, and, I think, of most bi-state agencies, although I think at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, because the resources are greater and demands are greater, it's even more. So no, nothing that I know of that's specific to that, Josh.
But I do want to make clear to people that, you know, this is -- there is tension that goes on between the employees of these agencies. Not every one of those issues of tension, thank goodness, are raised to my level and Governor Cuomo's level.
But the good news for the people of New York and New Jersey is that when those issues have been raised, in the last three years, to my level and Governor Cuomo's level, we have always, between the two of us, amicably resolved it and been able to move on. And sometimes that's the roles governors have to play in that agency.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: Two questions about your judgment. You said clearly that you had nothing to do with the actual implementation of what happened. So are you now questioning your own judgment about whether or not you can discern with your nose for scandal -- to discern whether or not putting out a series of cones to change a couple of lanes of traffic was actually a legitimate traffic study, one?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I -- OK, let me answer that, and then I'll let you follow up. I don't know what makes a legitimate traffic study. It's not my area of expertise. And so I wouldn't have a nose for that. I just wouldn't. I don't know what makes a legitimate traffic study. I've been told that sometimes they're done live, sometimes they're done by computer model. I've heard that in the professionals who've testified for the Port Authority. But you'd have to go to them to ask them what a legitimate traffic study is. I probably wouldn't know a traffic study if I tripped over it.
Q: So in this environment, it didn't raise a smell for you?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, it didn't.
Q: Governor --
Q: And second --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Second -- he had a follow-up. Go ahead.
Q: You've said -- you've said that -- just a moment ago that sometimes this raises to the level of governors. There's a report now that in fact you called Governor Cuomo to complain that your representative on the Port Authority board was asking too many questions -- (inaudible) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Not true. Not true. I've denied that story before. That's an old story. And Governor Cuomo has denied it as well. So it's not true.
Q: Governor, didn't Pat Foye perjure himself when he said he didn't believe this traffic study -- (inaudible) -- did he lie under oath -- (inaudible) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't -- listen, I have no idea. But clearly, you know, there's a difference of opinion between Senator Baroni and Pat Foye about the existence of a traffic study, and there seemed to me to be evidence that Senator Baroni showed of statistics and maps and other things about a traffic study.
Now, this could go back to the nuance of what really constitutes a traffic study or not, and they may be arguing about some specifics and nuance that I'm not familiar with. But I certainly would not accuse Pat Foye of perjuring himself. I don't. I'm not. I'm just telling you what I was told and what we saw before the legislature. But, you know, I certainly wouldn't accuse Pat Foye of perjuring himself in any way.
Q: (Off mic) -- right? You still think everything he said was genuine and that he's not in any way --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, I -- guess what. I -- after reading everything yesterday, I don't know. But what I'm telling you is that that's what I've been told; he seemed to display evidence for that at the time. But that's now, because of the tone and tenor of these emails and text messages, that's now -- you know, all this stuff is something that I'm not going to warranty, because I don't know, given some of this back and forth that went on between (all of them ?).
Senator Baroni's a very respected guy. He served in this building for a long time. I've known him for a long time. When he, you know, made his testimony, I would have no reason to believe that he wasn't telling the truth. But obviously, from reading these emails yesterday, there was other stuff going on that I hadn't been informed about.
Q: Why didn't you check back -- (off mic)? You never called him to see --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I never called him personally, no, but Baroni's position continued 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 didn't think Bill Baroni was going to change his mind, because Pat Foye had already expressed those concerns in earlier written documents that he had -- not he, but that someone had put out to the press.
Q: (Off mic) -- with Stepien yesterday, what was going on, why he --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I had no conversation with Bill Stepien (yesterday ?).
Q: (Are you not curious ?) -- (off mic) -- what happened here yourself?
I mean, it has come out --
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, no -- listen, I had -- 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 emails involving Bill Stepien were all after -- well after the fact. So -- but that's not the basis upon which I made my decision on Bill, Matt (sp). My decision on Bill was made based on the fact of the tone, the tenor and the conduct that was evidenced in those emails. I lost confidence in his judgement. And that's why I made the decision I made as to -- as to Bill.
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, Brian (sp).
Q: It's no secret -- it's no secret that many in the Republican Party are -- (inaudible) -- run for president in 2016. Do you see what has happened here playing into your decision making process over the next year or two?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I have no idea what that decision making process would even look like at this point, as I've said many times before. And I know that everybody in the political media and in the political chattering class wants 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 have -- I'll say what I've 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 there. 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's -- 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 got some spare time to spend.
Yes. Because you're rolling your eyes and looking very, you know -- (laughter) -- disgruntled that I hadn't called on you. Well, I've known Brian (sp) longer than you, so --
Q: (Inaudible) -- you barely talked about David Wildstein in this conference. Can you elaborate how you're feeling (toward ?) his role in this? And any information that you garnered from him -- (inaudible) -- said that you wanted to show emotion. What kinds of emotion --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I think you've -- I think you --
Q: -- in private with --
GOV. CHRISTIE: 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 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 that I've selected. The emotion that I've been displaying in private is sad.
And as I said earlier, I think in the answer to your question, you know, 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.
Q: (Inaudible) -- friend David Wildstein?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, let me just clear something up, OK, 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 mean, I had a high school in Livingston, a three-year high school that 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 Kean for governor campaign in 1977. He was a youth volunteer, and so was I.
Really, after that time, I completed 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 reacquainted 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 the stories (that've been written imbued ?) 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 it, 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, OK?
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. It should never, ever have been written or uttered by somebody with a position of responsibility like that, and those sentiments. So that's the way I feel about it, and thanks for the opportunity to further expound on my relationship.
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, John (sp).
Q: You said you haven't spoke with either Bridget Kelly or Bill Stepien. Why not --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I made my --
Q: -- if you're going to get to the bottom of how much -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: John (sp), 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 coloring character of the emails has led -- have led me to conclude that I don't have confidence in his judgement any longer. And that's why I asked him to move on, and he has.
And 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 Wisniewski said pretty clearly yesterday that he intends to ask Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien to testify.
And I don't -- my gut sense, John (sp), 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, as to those two folks who I made determinations regarding their future, to move on from there and talk to other folks who are still in my employ.
Q: Quick follow-up?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: There are other names in your inner circle who are in those emails, at least named or -- (inaudible). Are you confident -- and some fairly high up -- are you confident that they are -- you know, they're -- (inaudible)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I believe -- I believe that I've spoken to everyone who was mentioned in the emails except for Charlie McKenna, who is away at a family funeral. And I am confident, based upon my conversations with them, that they had no prior knowledge nor involvement in this situation.
Q: What about -- what about the cover-up piece of this?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, well, that's your characterization not mine. But there is nobody on my staff who had any knowledge of this issue until after the issue was already done.
Q: Can I follow-up?
GOV. CHRISTIE: In the back, yes.
Q: There are multiple reports that an elderly woman in -- (inaudible) -- died after emergency -- (inaudible). What's your reaction?
GOV. CHRISTIE: It's awful. Now, I've also seen conflicting reports about what the cause of death was and whatever, but it doesn't matter. It's awful to hear.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: 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'm just going to apologize. I think that's all you can do, and there's really nothing else you can do.
Q: Governor, along the lines of doing the job as governor that you have said that you're focused on -- regaining the trust of the people of New Jersey -- a lot of people are upset about this and shocked. The first couple of years you were governor, you did a lot of town hall meetings. You traveled all over the state and spoke to people. Any thought about possibly trying to do something like that again?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, we clearly are going to do town halls in the second term, David. I think we suspended town halls during the campaign because of our concern that folks may raise the issue of, in the midst of a campaign, blurring the line between what would be a town hall event and what would be a campaign event. And 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, you know, I certainly had no plans to do it during the transition -- I was trying to get through a transition. But we certainly intended to do town hall meetings in the second term and try to do, you know, hopefully as many as we did in the first term. I enjoyed the town hall setting and process, and the fact is, David -- you know, I think -- I don't believe I've lost the truth of the people of New Jersey.
I think the people of New Jersey are looking to see, when mistakes are made, how their leader is going to react. And I believe that when they see me take the action I'm taking today, that they'll say, mistakes were made, the governor had nothing to do with that, but he's taking responsibility for it, and he's made the decisions that need to be made and has promised us he'll continue to make those decisions if necessary going forward.
Q: Governor, two questions. Do you think David Wildstein should go before the -- (off mic) -- this afternoon and tell everything he knows?
GOV. CHRISTIE: 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, you know, advise them what to do. Someone who's represented by counsel is going to make his own judgment.
Q: You wouldn't encourage him to do that?
GOV. CHRISTIE: 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.
Q: I have a follow-up, please. Who initiated this whole thing -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't know. I don't know. I mean, listen, up to this point in time, up till the emails released yesterday, it was Senator Baroni's testimony that Mr. Wildstein initiated it at his approval -- with his approval. Now it -- 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 in initiation, as Senator 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 (sp) 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.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Angie (sp).
Q: Governor, as a U.S. attorney, you -- (off mic) --hundreds if not thousands of people.
So how could you fail to get the truth from your own staff?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, first off, I would love, Angie, for you and others to believe that I interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of people, as U.S. attorney. I did not. My AUSAs interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I mean, it was the very rare occasion when the U.S. attorney himself or herself goes into a room and interviews a witness. It probably happened a dozen times in seven years; it's a very rare occurrence.
Angie, if you're -- try to understand this on a personal level. 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 and did you have any involvement in it, did you have any knowledge of it, and they look at you and they say, no, and you've had -- 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 of people, and I assume, over a period of time, that most people are trustworthy unless proven otherwise.
And so when we asked those questions and we got those answers, there was no reason, at the time we asked the questions, for us to believe that they weren't true, based upon the conduct of that person. I think, you know even if you look at some of the stories today written about Bridget Kelly, I don't think you've heard anybody in those stories talk about her in any way but very positive ways, given her history here in the statehouse working for the legislature.
So I had no reason to believe that she was telling me anything other than 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 had placed a significant amount of trust in.
So, yeah, 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 at 9 -- a little before 9 yesterday morning. By 9:00 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.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: The nature of Bridget's email, it sounded like they had a (pre-arranged -- (off mic).
GOV. CHRISTIE: You know --
Q: That when she said time for a traffic problem, he knew to (shut those down ?).
GOV. CHRISTIE: 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 questions, we didn't even know about the existence of the email. I found that out for the first time at 8:50 yesterday morning. 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.
Q: Governor, you were a U.S. attorney, very high profile, in fact investigated one governor -- (off mic) -- governor's office and a state party. You now are a governor who has a U.S. attorney investigating people that were connected to your office. What instructions are you giving, have you given to your staff? What will you do? And can we expect to see claims of executive privilege and, no -- (off mic) -- you cannot have documents, or are you going to cooperate fully and very helpfully?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, I have absolutely nothing to hide. And I have not given any instruction to anyone yet, but my instruction to everybody will be to cooperate and answer questions.
I -- you know, Josh (sp), I have nothing to hide. So any questions anybody wants to ask me, they can ask, you know. From law enforcement, you know, anything they want to ask, they can ask. So we have nothing to hide, and this administration has nothing to hide.
Q: Governor --
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, Bob (ph).
Q: In terms of -- it seems like your fact-finding is still getting some momentum. You're still finding out what's going on. Do you think this could have an impact and you should put on hold -- (off mic) -- O'Dowd's nomination to be the attorney general since he was the chief of staff and would probably be involved in setting the tone?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, absolutely not. Kevin's, you know, confirmation hearing will go forward on Tuesday, and I expect, you know, 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.
Q: You mentioned this as we saw from the emails, that too much of this discussion was taking place on private email accounts. Have you asked your staff to stop communicating government business on private email accounts?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I have not. I hadn't thought about that yet, Elise. There's been a lot of things I've been 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.
Q: Have you read any other emails? Yesterday's emails were just a small amount -- (off mic) -- what's available.
GOV. CHRISTIE: We've been given no documents, Elise (sp).
Q: Have you requested any more documents?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't know, but we certainly -- none were offered to us to review. And the first time we saw any documents was on the Bergen Record website yesterday morning, and we haven't been offered any.
Q: Bridget Kelly, did she have the authorization to carry out significant policy decisions such as an authorization of the governor's office -- (off mic) -- or funding without getting prior approval from you or your senior staff -- (off mic) -- authorized to make those decisions?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, I don't -- I don't believe Bridget had 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, that policy issues had to be run through the chief of staff's office. And so no. You know, now, again, I know there are certain suppositions in that -- in that question, but my understanding of Bridget's authority was not that it extended to policy, no.
Q: (Inaudible) -- supposition, or as a follow-up question, is that I believe there is -- (inaudible) -- that some share that they find it hard to believe that Bridget could be -- would be making these kind of calls, making these kinds of decisions, as reflected in the email that we saw yesterday, without prior approval, without the knowledge of senior staff.
GOV. CHRISTIE: She had no prior approval. I mean, let's put 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 seems, you know, 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.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: 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, in the 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, that the dinner was a social dinner, not a professional dinner. Jenna?
Q: I think he said that you would have -- (off mic) -- your intention at this point to get to the bottom of why the lanes were ultimately closed?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, to the extent I can, Jenna. I mean, from what I know, at this point, Mr. Baroni and Mr. Wildstein's position is that the lines were closed to do a traffic study. And I have heard nothing from them that changes their position. I now see emails which indicate that there is a political overtone to what went on. I don't know what the situation is. I don't know whether -- like I said -- I think I answered this before -- 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 -- I don't know.
Q: But you're trying to find out?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, to -- as best I can, but, you know, Mr. Wildstein is scheduled to testify, you know, at the legislature, so you know, it's not like he's available for interview. So, you know, I'm not going to -- as I said in response to a question over here, I'm not going to get in the middle of the 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, then I'd be accused of trying to play around with testimony, which I'm not going to get involved in.
Q: Governor, at one point -- (off mic) -- you questioned whether -- (off mic) -- immediately have -- (off mic) -- going into the -- (off mic). Do you still believe that that -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: (Chuckles.) Listen. You think I'm suggesting any traffic studies anytime soon? (Laughter.) Got to be getting me. I don't want a traffic study in front of my house, Marsha (sp). (Laughter.) 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.
Listen, I -- 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.
Q: Moving forward, Speaker-elect Prieto indicated yesterday that the assembly's investigation in this will continue. Do you believe that -- (inaudible) -- Wisniewski and folks in legislature have the right to continue to look into this type of thing, or do you believe that they are looking to along with -- (inaudible) -- score political points -- (inaudible)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, I think they have every right to do what they're doing given what was revealed yesterday. And so, you know, I'm certainly not going to question that in terms of the 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 that 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, no.
Q: Governor, you said you didn't seek the mayor's endorsement -- (off mic). Just wondering, in the course of the campaign, you're having these meetings where you were actively seeking the support of many Democrats in the state. But when you have these meetings, and they say, you know, Governor's latest polling, here's your new ad, here's the update on the Democratic outreach -- did anyone say do you, well, the mayor of Fort Lee, he's -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: He never -- his name was never mentioned to me.
His position was never mentioned to me. When I say, John (sp), he was not on my radar screen, that means he was not on my radar screen. I never had Bill Stepien or anybody else connected with the campaign even mention to me, like even an update, like, hey, we've had two meetings with the mayor; we think things are going well or we think things are going poorly. I'd get those kind of updates. I never heard the Fort Lee mayor's name, Mark Sokolich, his name, until all this stuff happened.
And so he was not on my radar screen at all. Plenty of other mayors were. And a number of them wound up endorsing us, and a number of them, I wound up having meetings with like you're referencing. Mayor Sokolich -- not only did I never have a meeting with him, he was never mentioned to me. That's why -- you know, you go back to the question over here about, you know, making a joke about this. That's part of the reason I felt comfortable doing it. Like, this can't have anything to do with politics. I don't even know this guy. How could it be that someone would be doing something like this against a mayor that I never had any conversations with nor any sense that we were even seeking his endorsement?
And so, you know, that's why this is such -- that's part of the reason this is such a mystery to me, John (sp), and why I'm so upset about it.
Q: That's what I'm trying to -- (off mic) -- somebody said, screw him or to hell with him -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: I would have said, who's he?
Q: (Off mic) -- wasn't you?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I would have said, who's he? If somebody would have said something that to me I -- who's he and what did he do? I mean, I don't know this guy. Like I said, I may have met him in a greeting line or in a -- in a big Bergen County event or at a town hall meeting or something. But I'm telling you, like, until yesterday when I saw his picture on TV, I wouldn't have -- I -- if he walked in the room, I wouldn't have been able to pick him out.
So that's not to diminish him in any way. It's just that in this context, this is not a guy who was on my radar screen in any way, nor was his name ever brought up to my by Bill Stepien until after the story started to appear about the Fort Lee traffic problem.
And that's the first time that I heard about Mayor Sokolich. And so that's why, John (sp), it's such a mystery to me. And --
Q: (Off mic) -- with Democrats?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Sure. Of course I was, Kelly. But you know what? He wasn't one of them. He wasn't one of them. I mean, I'm happy to admit I that I was trying to run up the score, absolutely. That's what you do in a political campaign, try to get as many supporters, endorsers that turn into voters. That's part of your job.
Q: It's individuals anyway, not a -- (inaudible). He did represent something you were trying to get.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Of course, but I had to go get it. Invariably in these things, I ultimately had to make a phone call or do something to bring the person over the finish line. It was the rare occurrence that I never met a person or spoke to them or had that arrangement with them.
So you know, my point to you is, this is -- I'm trying to give you context for why I didn't think this was an issue, because I know the campaign that we ran. I know who I was pursuing as endorsers. I know who was close and we didn't get. I know who was never close or we were trying to get. And know the people we got.
This guy never was on my radar screen. And I think he confirmed that last night by saying he was never really -- he doesn't have any recollection of being even asked for the endorsement. And that's -- you know, that's why I don't get this. But it is what it is. And I'm responsible for it.
Regardless of all that, John (sp), I'm responsible for it. It happened on my watch. And you can't just say, well, listen, I didn't know about it so it's not my problem, go talk to somebody else. The buck stops at my desk. And so I have to act.
And I've acted as quickly as I could responsibly. I found out about this at 10 minutes to 9:00 yesterday morning. By 9:00 this morning, Bridget Kelly was terminated. By 7:00 p.m. last night, Bill Stepien was told to leave the organization and leave the RGA.
So I think that's pretty swift action given that I really yesterday was blindsided by this. I'm not happy I was blindsided. I'm not proud I was blindsided. As I said when I came up here, I feel humiliated by this. I'm a person who cares deeply about doing my job well. I work extraordinarily hard at it. That's what I should do. I've taken an oath to that effect. But I am humiliated by the fact that I did not know this and that I was deceived. And that's an awful way to feel.
Q: Mr. Governor?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: One person who's very much -- (off mic) -- Senator Buono. And we talked to her yesterday. Some of the emails -- she was not happy -- (off mic) -- for example, when they -- one of the (texts ?) said -- (off mic) -- Buono's children -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Buono's supporters' children, yeah.
Q: Yeah. So sort of two questions, her Justice Department investigation, but also, this is -- it raises serious questions about kids getting to school, about EMS response. Could I just get your thoughts, please, on how serious this was, just -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: It wasn't good.
GOV. CHRISTIE: I mean, I think that's why I'm here apologizing. It's -- it was -- it was an awful, callous, indifferent thing to do. And if it was part of a traffic study, that's one thing. Once it has political overtones, that's an entirely different matter. And that's why I am upset about this. And that's why I apologized to the people of New Jersey today and why I apologized specifically to the people of Fort Lee who were inconvenienced over those four days.
It's not right, and that's why I'm here apologizing.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, I have no idea. And again, in -- I will respond to those questions as I always have. As a former U.S. attorney, when I was U.S. attorney, I hated when politicians stood behind podiums and told the Department of Justice what to do, and I am not going to do that after complaining to my colleagues about it for seven years when politicians would it. Now that I'm one of those, I'm not going to do that.
Q: Governor, you just said -- (off mic) -- I have nothing to hide, and then you repeated "I have nothing to hide."
GOV. CHRISTIE: Right.
Q: In your long public career at the U.S. Attorney's Office, first term as governor, second term now, did you ever imagine you'd stand in front of this many cameras and this many reporters and have to say, I have nothing to hide?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: That was -- that was a searing bit of commentary, wasn't it? (Laughter.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: Brian (sp).
Q: Governor, obviously this has been a traumatic experience. You said you got very little if any sleep whatsoever last night. Did you ever for even a brief moment entertain the idea that perhaps you should resign?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, god, no. No. Brian, I mean, you know, listen. I know you're asking. You know, I am -- I -- you know, I am -- I heard -- (off mic). That's a crazy question, man. I mean, I'm telling you: I had nothing to do with this. And so, you know, no. I never gave any thought to doing that at all, nor would I.
What was I thinking about last night, when I couldn't go to sleep? How did this happen: That's what I was thinking about. You know, when -- sure. When you're responsible -- and I spent a lot of time keeping Mary Pat up last night, talking me through it. You know, it's when it's great to have a really, you know, supportive spouse: She's willing to do four hours, too.
But, you know, it -- that's what I was thinking: How did it happen and why do people do this? I just don't get it. You know, you work really hard -- Brian (sp), I work hard at this job, and it's incredibly disappointing to have people let you down this way. I'm incredibly loyal to my people and I expect in return their honesty and their candor and their loyalty, and I didn't get it. And it's a hard thing -- a hard thing after you work as hard as I do with them at it.
But here's the thing: This is my job and there are going to be mistakes and there are going to be disappointments. I don't think there's a perfect government anywhere in the country, and I certainly never claimed to have one. I claimed to have the best government I could possibly make, but sometimes there are going to be mistakes, and when there are, I have to own up to them and take responsibility and act, and that's what I've done today. And my promise to the people of the state is that if there's any other evidence that comes forward that requires action to be taken, I will take it, no matter how much it hurts me personally or dismays me, because this is the job I asked for and I've got to do it.
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yes, Luke (sp)?
Q: There were some folks that raised an eyebrow -- (off mic) -- with Mr. Baroni's resignation at the news conference where you had asked -- (off mic) -- replaced by Deborah Gramiccioni, but that was something that was in the works and that you were trying to advance. Looking back on it now -- (off mic) -- clarify how that process played out, do you think Mr. Baroni was jumping ship a little bit here, trying to get out -- (off mic) -- political -- were you guys moving to replace him before that news conference?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Neither. As I said that day, I had made the determination during the fall campaign that I wanted to make a change at the Port Authority.
Bill was one of the longest-serving deputy executive directors in recent history at four years, and I felt like it was time for a change. Part of that is evidenced by, like, my response to Josh's question about the internal workings. I mean, there's a lot of hand- to-hand combat over at the Port Authority -- legitimately so -- between New York and New Jersey about resources and whatever, and I think -- I thought, as I said at the time, that four years was enough for any one person. And so I had approached Deb Gramiccioni during the fall campaign, who at the time was my policy chief, and said, I'm thinking about making a change at the Port Authority. Would you be willing to take the job if I asked you? She said yes.
And so from the fall campaign -- and I don't remember if it was September or October, but it was sometime before election day -- excuse me -- I had made that decision in my own mind. And very soon after the election, that was communicated to Bill Baroni. So what we were doing was trying to figure out the timing of all that during the -- I wanted to get it done during the transition. I wanted Deb to finish some policy work that she needed to finalize for me, and I wanted Bill to have an appropriate period of time to be able to get himself ready to move on to his next opportunities. And so that's the way the process worked.
And so it was neither Bill jumping ship nor us pushing for this reason, it was us saying, hey, it's time to go. You've served four years, and I'd like to put someone else there. And so all of that was very amicable at the time and something that, you know, he understood to be such once Deb was willing to take the job.
Q: Governor, a couple of hours after the story broke yesterday, the assembly transportation boss, Wisniewski, was discussing the fact that the more he learns about this -- he's reading thousands of pages of documents -- the longer the list was growing of people he would be thinking about issuing a subpoena to. And he was asked if that could possibly include you.
And he said he had the authority to issue a subpoena to anybody who he needs to get information from. If you were to get a subpoena, for whatever reason, what would you do?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I'm not going to speculate on that.
Q: Governor, the revealing nature of these emails made some of us wonder what else -- what other emails -- (off mic). (Off mic) -- filed a number of requests for emails related to this, and they were told there was nothing available. And yet these emails that were released yesterday reveal that there -- (off mic) -- related to this issue. Is there a -- did you know about that? Is there a transparency issue in general -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No. I -- A, I don't know about what you're talking about. This is the first I've heard of it. Second, I don't believe there is. We take these OPRA requests very seriously. And we have a person dedicated in counsel's office to use to review these matters. And, you know, they have people inside the departments, the individual departments, to review OPRA matters. So, no, I don't think there is, Matt.
I think in the main, you know, we've -- you know, we respond to these OPRA requests appropriately under the law. That's my understanding from both my first chief counsel and my second chief counsel. So I don't have any reason to believe otherwise.
If there are sometimes -- I don't know the incident you're talking about, but if there are sometimes mistakes that are made or oversights, I'm sure that can happen, but no, there's no pattern or conduct of that. I mean, it's the law. We have to comply with it, and we comply with the law as written.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, (Kathleen ?).
Q: Governor, I'm wondering when you were first called for comment on the story, and whether you think this will affect your ability at the -- (off mic).
GOV. CHRISTIE: When was I first called for comment? I have no idea because I don't get those calls directly, so I didn't -- I don't know.
Secondly, no, it won't affect my ability to work at the RGA at all, no.
Q: Governor --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: -- throughout this entire press conference you've said that you're a loyal person, you expect loyalty, and you fired this person on your staff because she lied. Are you the victim here, or is -- are the people of Fort Lee the victim? Should she have been fired because she ordered a traffic study that messed up traffic and put people in danger in that sense --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, first of all -- first of all, I don't know that she ordered a traffic study. I know what I might infer and you might infer from that. As I said earlier, we're going to have to find who actually was --
Q: (Off mic) -- traffic problems.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, I -- that's not what you asked, though, OK? I'm telling you that when I ask for an answer from a member of my staff and they lie, regardless of what the conduct is they lied about, they're gone. So I never had to get to the conduct, the underlying conduct. If you lie when I ask you a question, you're fired. That's it.
Now if I had to have gotten to the underlying conduct, there was plenty underlying conduct there to fire her on too. But I didn't need to get there, because question one was, do you know anything about this, did you have any involvement in it? The answer was no. The email's evidence that the answer should have been yes. I needed to go no further than that in terms of making a determination about her future employment with me.
Q: Governor Christie, but one of the things is that in terms of a lying standpoint, the very person who has probably these most information about why she did this is the very person you cut off communication with. Isn't that a management mistake?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Are you suggesting I should have kept her?
Q: Well, I'm saying talk to her. I mean, in terms of the conversation, like why did you do this? Get some information.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, Bob, and then if I did that, then you'd have the legislature complaining that I'm talking to someone who the chairman has said yesterday publicly he intends to call as a witness.
And I think the higher priority is for me not to interfere with what the legislature is in the process of doing. And so no, I'm not going to do that because then -- listen, the political nature of this would lead charge -- to charges of interference. I'm not going to do that. If after -- if she's brought to testify there, which the chairman says he intends to do, and she testifies, if after that time I have -- we have other questions, then we can make the decision at that time whether to pursue that information. But it is my judgment -- you can disagree with it, but it's my judgment that for me to get involved with someone who the chairman has said he's going to call as a witness between the time I discovered this and the time that she may testify would be not the right thing for me to do.
Q: Like tampering with a witness -- (inaudible)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, I've certainly wouldn't tamper with a witness. (Laughter.) But I could be accused of tampering with the witness --
Q: (Inaudible) -- something though about -- (inaudible) -- what point does political misconduct cross into criminality?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't know, Bob (sp), you know. And the fact of the matter is I've -- the best way for me to not involve myself in that is to not involve myself in that. And I'm just trying to be a safe and careful steward of the public trust. And would I love to have more information yesterday? You bet. But I also have to understand the position I hold. And it's a position of extraordinary trust. And I have to execute that position with the acknowledgement of that trust. And so that's why I'm not doing it.
Q: Governor -- (inaudible) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: No. You.
Q: It is no secret -- (off mic) -- how could staff -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I didn't quite understand you question. Could you repeat it? I had trouble hearing you, too.
Q: It wasn't a -- I mean --
GOV. CHRISTIE: He -- it wasn't a surprise it was subpoenaing it.
I didn't get the last part.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: Because we didn't have the documents.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, we asked Bridget Kelly. She told us she didn't have any. We asked her if she was involved. She said she was not. We asked if she had any knowledge of it. She said she didn't. That's why I was surprised. I was surprised because I was told there was nothing there and then there was. I mean, you know, this is not a -- in that sense, it's not a mystery.
If you ask for something and someone deceives you and tells you it doesn't exist, what's the follow-up? Are you sure? Yes. You've searched your emails? Yes. You don't have anything? No. OK. Were you involved in any way? No. Any knowledge? No. Well, after that, what do you do?
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: You'd have to ask them. I don't know.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't think so. I don't think so.
Q: Governor, were you -- (inaudible) -- break anything?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No. (Laughs.)
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: I -- yeah, I know. Listen, I know you guys would love that if I actually did. I told you, I'm not to that stage yet. I'm sure I might get to the stage where I'm angry. I don't break things.
Q: You weren't yelling at people who --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, gosh, no. Look, you need to understand this. I am standing here resolved to do my job and do what I'm supposed to do. But I am a very sad person today. That's the emotion I feel. A person close to me betrayed me, a person who I counted on and trusted for five years betrayed me. A person who I gave a high government office to betrayed me. I probably will get angry at some point, but I got to tell you the truth.
I'm sad. I'm a sad guy standing here today, and very disappointed. And that's the overriding emotion. Someone asked me that before. That's the overriding emotion. And I know that because of my bluntness and my directness, that people think, well, of course he must get behind that door and be a lunatic when he's mad about something. If you asked this staff, it is the rare moment in this office when I raise my voice, the rare moment when I raise my voice. I reserve it for very special times.
And I will tell you the last time I did. Four weeks ago, when I had them all in that office and I said, if any of you have any information about this that I don't know, you need to tell me, Kevin or Charlie now. That was the last time I raised my voice in that office. And so, no, I didn't break anything. I didn't yell and scream. I didn't curse anybody out. It's a sad day for me. And I'm doing what I'm obligated to do under this job, because it's the right thing to do, and I'm doing it. But it doesn't make me angry at the moment. It just makes me sad.
Q: (Off mic) -- none of them talked to you and said, Governor, you're about to get whacked?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No.
Q: Not even David Wildstein? He didn't say, oh, my god, you wouldn't believe what -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election. You know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I've had with David since he worked at the Port Authority. I did not interact with David.
If David would be here for a meeting in the State House and I ran into him, we'd say, hello, how's your family? We'd chat. We didn't have that kind of relationship. I understand the way it's been characterized in the press -- you know, high-level appointee -- well, yes, he had an important job but he was not interacting with the governor on any regular basis. There were channels to go through here. And he and Bill Baroni went through those channels, and if something had to be brought to my attention -- I don't even remember in the last four years even having a meeting in my office with David Wildstein. I may have, but I don't remember it. Bill Baroni yes, but David no.
So no, nobody called and told me anything. I'm telling you, at 8:50 yesterday morning -- I got done with my workout at 8:45. My trainer left. I'm getting ready to get in the shower and at 8:50 Maria Comella called me and told me about the breaking Bergen Record story, and that was the first I knew of any of the emails or the information that was contained in that story.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I was at -- (inaudible) -- yesterday.
Q: (Off mic) -- that these people with emails -- (off mic). These emails say that they took action in front of your constituents to try to -- (off mic). They focused on the -- (off mic) -- but they did something that conned your constituents.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah, that's why I apologized to them, Kelli (sp).
Q: Is your credibility -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I don't think it's my credibility. I mean, I think, Kelli (sp), if I didn't stand up and take responsibility and apologize directly to the people of New Jersey, as I've done today, then I think that would be a risk, but I'm not that kind of person.
I understand the responsibility of this job. I've had it for four years now. And I think I said this at the press conference in December. There's plenty of times I get credit for things that I had little to do with, as governor, and sometimes I get blamed for things that I have little to do with. But it doesn't matter. I'm the governor, and the things that happen on my watch are my responsibility, both good and bad.
And you're darn right: What they did hurt the people of New Jersey and hurt the people of Fort Lee.
And the person who needs to apologize for that is me, and I have. And I'm sorry to all the people of the state that they have to be, you know, occupied with this matter. It's embarrassing. And as a said before, the whole matter is humiliating to me. But all you can do as a person when you know this is to stand up and be genuine and sincerely apologize and hope that people accept your apology. I think I've built up enough good will over time with the people of New Jersey that I'm very hopeful they will accept my apology.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Marsha (sp).
Q: So -- (off mic) -- David Wildstein, is it possible that there could be other emails that Bridget Kelly may have shipped -- have sent about this issue to other people -- (off mic) -- Port Authority, in your administration that you don't know about at this time? And are you going to take-- make an effort to look at computers and BlackBerrys and things like that in (her ?) office to see if these things are -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I certainly -- first of all, the answer as of right now is I don't know. It is certainly something that I've talked to staff about looking at.
But, you know, again, Marsha (sp), we found out about this 24 hours ago. So, you know, things will take some time. I certainly have spoken to people in the interviews I conducted yesterday. I asked them specifically, you know, to check their emails and to let me know if there is anything that touches upon this. And we'll interview also folks who have -- who worked for Bridget to see if there is anything that they know and can shed light on.
So we're in the process of doing that. But that's -- you know, going to be time-consuming. We want to do it carefully. And I just began that process yesterday. And I'll work with my new chief counsel to get that stuff done so we can uncover whatever information we need to. But wherever the information comes from, you know, we'll take into account, and if action is required, I'll take action.
Q: Governor, one of the things -- (off mic) -- this impression that you're not sort of -- (inaudible). And a lot of your opponents will use this as a -- sort of -- (inaudible) -- like, see, we got you. You know, it's always the same. Is there any level of political retribution that is acceptable and -- (inaudible)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: You know, listen, political retribution? No, Terry (sp). Political fighting? Sure. And people go back and forth all the time. And you've seen that in this building no matter what administration was here. But the way we're different is, we can fight but then we get into a room and more times than not we're able to reach common ground with the other side to be able to move progress forward.
I mean, the Dream Act signing a few weeks ago was a perfect example of that. There was a lot of fighting about that and a lot of kind of hysteria in the media about who's saying what about whom and what's all this mean and the anger and the back and forth between me and the Senate president and others who were supporters. You know, part of that is, you know, what you should be doing to engage in political debate and to try to persuade folks to your particular point of view.
And the ultimately, though what makes us different, and the thing that I was talking about not as politics as usual, is this is an administration that has never shutdown government over a budget dispute. This is an administration that has reached bipartisan consensus on issues that have been problems for New Jersey for decades that no one else has been able to reach consensus on -- bipartisan or partisan. This is an administration that's gotten big things done with a legislature of the other party.
So that's what I mean it's not politics as usual.
But will we fight sometimes, and will things get sharp-elbowed? You bet. It goes both ways, but, you know, retribution as the word? No.
Q: Governor, there have been other examples of allegations of improper political behavior by state government -- I'm thinking particularly about the Hunterdon county sheriff whose case was taken from the county prosecutor -- (off mic) -- knowing what you know now about, you know, your staffer lying to you, are you going to go back and look at some of those other situations and see what -- (off mic) --
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, because that was a situation which was handled by the attorney general at the time, and now Judge Paula Dow, and I have complete and utter confidence in Paula and her ability to make those decisions. I was not involved in that decision, nor was anybody in this building, because we don't get involved in law enforcement issues. And so, no, there's no reason for me to go back and look at that. David?
Q: Governor, your state of the state address is coming up. Is this whole issue going to affect that at all, and if so, you know, whether it be overtones or -- will you approach it in any kind of a different way?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I won't. State of the state address. And listen, this is one issue that we have to deal with. It's an important issue, but it cannot be the only issue, because, you know, we have things to do in this state. Important things to do for the people of this state.
So I'm going to keep working, and I'll work some on this, and I'll work on other things as well. But it was very important today, within 24 hours of these revelations, for me to take action and to apologize to the people of the state and the people of Fort Lee, and that's, you know, exactly what I'm doing.
Q: It was just reported that the Fort Lee mayor says a visit today from you would be very -- (inaudible) -- disruptive and should be postponed. Did he know you were planning on coming today, or you were going to call him after this?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I was going to call him after this.
Q: And if he won't see you, then --
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, if he won't see me, I'll go see other people in Fort Lee.
I mean, I wish he would see me, but if -- I'm certainly not going to, like, barge into his office. If he doesn't want to see me, then I'll go some place else in Fort Lee and talk to people in Fort Lee. I wish the mayor would reconsider, because I'd come up to genuinely apologize to him for the conduct of people who were in my employ. But if he doesn't want a meeting -- I don't know what he means how a meeting between he and I could be pre -- what were the words?
Q: He said premature and disruptive.
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: Premature and disruptive? I don't know how a meeting between two elected officials could be premature and disruptive. But if he doesn't want to meet with me, that's his choice. You know, I'll meet with other people in Fort Lee, then.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: I want to ask you, though. You said the buck stops here -- (off mic).
GOV. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
Q: The mayor did say at one point there was some significant overtime involved for first responders in terms of police. Is that something that you would consider to -- (off mic) -- campaign fund, to reimburse -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, I don't know why it would be the campaign fund. And I have no knowledge of that, and we would consider that in the normal course of business with Fort Lee. And it's certainly not something that, you know, I'm prepared to talk about now.
Q: Can you explain why -- (off mic) -- email was first published -- (off mic) -- first time that there was -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I think it was the -- it wasn't one of Pat Foye's emails, but I think there was an earlier story than that. But --
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't remember exactly.
Q: (Off mic) -- it was about the traffic, though.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Something about the traffic, yeah.
Q: And why didn't you respond then, especially after the Foye email, around all this stuff about emergency services -- (off mic)?
GOV. CHRISTIE: I -- we did. No, we did. And we were told it was a traffic study.
Q: Yeah, but they tell you it's a traffic study, but the mayor is saying the ambulances can't get -- (off mic).
GOV. CHRISTIE: And we were told that they did a traffic study where they did not want a normal flow of traffic to be interrupted so that the traffic study would be a valid one. That's what we were told. And so we did respond. We asked them, and that's how we responded. You know, and again, I'm not somebody who's going to be, you know, getting into the details of a traffic study and whether one is done appropriately or inappropriately, certainly at that time.
And I can tell you that at that first moment, that's when I became aware that there was some issue. But I didn't even at that point delve into it. It was not something that I was personally delving into.
(Cross talk.) (It surprised ?) --
Q: (Off mic) -- we just got this from -- (off mic) -- about Mayor Sokolich saying that he appreciates your comments very much. He thinks a visit today might be premature -- (off mic) -- rather he not waste the gas, but if he does come -- (off mic) -- community. We would just ask him to delay his visit. Any reaction?
GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, my intention was --
Q: (Off mic.)
GOV. CHRISTIE: -- when I got out of here, was to call the mayor, and so I will call the mayor, and we'll see.
In any event, you know, I'm going to go up to Fort Lee today, because I think it's important for me to do that. Now if the mayor doesn't want me to meet with him, that's certainly his choice. He's --
Q: He said meant no disrespect.
GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, I'm sure he -- listen, I don't know him, OK? So I can't be offended, and I'm not offended. If he wants to meet with me today, I'm happy to meet with him. If he doesn't want to meet with me today, I'm still going to go up to Fort Lee today because I think it's important for me to be on the ground there today and to apologize to folks. And so I'm going to do that. If he wants to be part of that, he's more than welcome to be, and also to meet with me privately. If he doesn't, that's his choice too. He's, you know, got independent will. That's, you know, his call.
So I want to thank you all for coming today and for your -- and for your questions. And I will -- I will see all of you, if not before, on Tuesday, for the State of the State address.