Epic presser this morning for the embattled governor, as many, including Jersey boy Jon Stewart last night, claim Chris Christie is finished as GOP candidate for president (and possibly in his current position) because of Bridgegate. Latest report: US attorney now looking into it, amid claim that at least one life may have been lost due to planned traffic gridlock.
One problem: Can he possibly go after his usual whipping posts in the press? And will he quote Springsteen? (Maybe “stalling on the back streets.”) Advice to Bridget Kelly: if Silvio Dante asks you a ride today, run the other way.
The irony: today is Richard Nixon’s birthday. And see Christie’s remark, below, with Nixonian echoes, “I am not a bully.”
11:07 Opens with apology to Fort Lee, motorist and state legislators, claims he is embarrassed and blames underlings. And apologizes for not “understanding true nature” of the problem until now. Fires Bridget Kelly for “lying to me.” Says he’s asked staff now for “any information” on the lane closings and gave them one hour to report, or he would go out at this presser and say no one knew anything beyond what has already come out. And his chief of staff also tells him “no one on my staff involved.” This he says is clearly a “lie,” as the press reported. And no justification for that. So he has fired the one guilty party.
11:10 He’s now doing one-on-one interviews with folks. Announces further exit of political boss/campaign manager Bill Stepien, whom he was pushing for GOP state chief. Blames others but says yes “I am responsible.” But then blames others again. “I was blindsided” after learning stuff yesterday “after my workout.” Will go to Fort Lee today and apologize to folks there.
11:20 Claims this is great departure from past four years, “the exception not the role.” Says has tried to act bipartisan and represent all in Jersey. “The political overtones in documents release not acceptable.” But “human beings are not perfect and mistakes are made.” Closes his remarks by emphasizing he had no idea about any of this at all and he was “stunned” by revelations. Says he has 65,000 people working for him so how could he possibly keep tabs on all of them? Now to questions from press.
11:23 Replying to first question, yes, he will cooperate with probes, even though he has denounced some of people doing them in past. “Heartbreaking that I wasn’t told the truth.”
11:26 Won’t change his style because “politics ain’t beanbag.” But “I am not a bully.” (Will this be his “I am not a crook”?)
11:28 Says he has no evidence that this goes beyond what he knows, but that could change—trying to cover himself for future bombshells. Says he “absolutely” did not authorize the traffic stops. Thought it was just a “traffic study.” Gets a little testy now when reporter interrupts.
11:30 Asked what this tells about him that he allegedly did not know about this, he says it’s been false claim that he is a “micro manager.” And repeats “no way anyone would think” that he knows everything going on. If you find that hard to believe—“I had no knowledge until after it was over.” Thought it was just a “traffic study” until yesterday. Claims he had not reason to punish the Fort Lee mayor, didn’t really care about his endorsement for governor, don’t think he was even asked for it.
11:35 Admits, amazingly, that he hasn’t gotten to “angry stage” yet, but may get there. Revealing. How could he not be angry if what he is claiming is true? Says he’s doing “soul-searching” and that’s it.
11:40 Claims he has “reputation for telling the truth” so apologizes (in this case) to his hated press corps for state not telling truth. And apologizes for joking to press in past about traffic tie-up. Reporters asked if he “fostered” this atmosphere revealed in e-mails. Replies: “I haven’t because I know who I am and I am not that person.” Again says not a bully. Claims he has taken “swift” action since only learning any of this yesterday.
11:55 Questions continue. Pushed out Stepien simply because he didn’t like tone of e-mails and “lost confidence” in him. Says he has no idea how this impacts his race for president. “My job is to be governor of New Jersey.” Nowhere near considering a run. “My focus is on the people of New Jersey.” Race for president just “hysteria” now. “Dominant emotion” he is feeling right now is “sad.” Still not angry.
12:05 Since Kelly and Stepien will testify before state committee (and for US attorney?), he doesn’t think proper to discuss his personal chats with them… “Awful” to hear that woman, 91, may have died because of bridge tie-up, but “what else” can he do now?
12:15 “I have absolutely nothing to hide.” And jokes: He won’t be suggesting any traffic studies in the future. Slips by saying, “I am out of the traffic study business,” quickly adding, “I was never in it.” Then: this cannot have “anything to do with politics” since he had no concerns about Fort Lee mayor at all. If someone had asked him about the mayor he would have answered, “Who he?” Adds: “Not to diminish him in any way.”
12:25 But Christie “happily admits” he was ‘trying to run up the score” in the election. Given his “soul-searching,” any thought at all of quitting? “Oh, God, no, or would I.” Adds: “There are going to be mistakes.” Continues to use terms “sad” and “disappointed” and “embarrased” but not anger.
12:40 Stresses for third time he is not mad or angry. Just sad, very sad. Oh, so sad. This is from low-boiling-point Christie. “It is a sad day for me.”
12:50 Still going! Christie, aping his hero Bruce, will now announce this is the end of his first set and he’ll be back after intermission. Then encores!
12:55 And now we’re on to the cable news analysis. One problem for Christie: Fox doesn’t love him so he won’t get the usual propaganda bump from them. NJ State Sen. Buono, who just lost to him in race: Christie runs “paramilitary org,” so no doubt knew about cover-up of Bridgegate.