Christie on Port Authority scandal: How I respond matters (WATCH)
The timing isn't exactly great.
As Gov. Chris Christie tries to generate some kind of momentum for his fading presidential campaign, we mark the two-year anniversary Wednesday of the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal dubbed Bridgegate.
You remember that mess, right? Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and Bill Baroni, the former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey deputy executive director appointed by Christie, are facing charges of conspiracy and fraud for their alleged participation in the scheme. Another Christie Port Authority appointee, David Wildstein, is the star witness for the prosecution in that case.
The governor, who has maintained he knew nothing about Bridgegate, has been cleared of any wrongdoing by federal investigators — but his popularity, which began to drop after the scandal came to light, has never rebounded.
Now comes word of another scandal being investigated by the feds, and this one has an extended Christie connection as well.
But Christie, at New Jersey 101.5's studio for "Ask the Governor" Wednesday, said a leader should be measured by his response to a problem — not whether he can perfectly predict human behavior.
The Port Authority Scandal
United Airlines CEO Jeffery Smisek has resigned after a probe was launched into his relationship with former Port Authority chairman David Samson, another Christie appointee and a close friend of the governor.
It seems United, as the airline was negotiating several deals with the Port Authority, reinstated a direct flight between Newark Liberty Airport and South Carolina, where Samson happens to have a vacation home. This was done even though the Newark to South Carolina route was losing money.
As the federal Bridgegate probe heated up in 2014, Sampson resigned his Port Authority position, and a short time later the Newark to South Carolina flight was abruptly scrubbed.
Samson, who also resigned from the law firm he co-founded earlier this year, has not been directly implicated in any Bridgegate wrongdoing, but his buddy-buddy relationship with Christie could prove problematic for the governor as he tries to appeal to voters and capture the republican nomination for President.
Christie's response at New Jersey 101.5
During Townsquare Media's Ask the Governor program Wednesday evening, when Christie was asked about these latest developments, he said he's learned "you never can completely believe what you read — so I don't know."
He continued: "It's my job is to bring out the best in people around me and to try and do the very best I can do every day, and to uphold the standard of conduct that people would be proud of, and if there's ever circumstances where folks around me don't meet that standard, then that's really disappointing."
The governor added when people have disappointed him in the past, he's fired them.
"I have to be held accountable for what happens on my watch and I'm happy to be held accountable," said Christie, "I'll always strive to do better and I'll just continue to work very hard."
When Christie was asked specifically about Samson he said "I find all of this hard to believe — David is a friend of mine."
As far as what this suggests about the Port Authority, if the allegations are true, Christie said scandal at the PA is nothing new under any governor, which is why he's working with New York governor Cuomo to change the Port Authority system, reform the agency, and appoint a CEO.
When Christie was asked about his leadership and judgement in appointing people who have allegedly committed crimes and behaved inappropriately, he answered: "You deal with human beings, you cannot judge all the time how people are going to conduct themselves in certain circumstances."
He added the way you should judge a leader is "when mistakes are made, how do you react, do you cover them up and make excuses or do you act? When we find out about problems (in Bridgegate) we acted immediately and terminated people that we thought their conduct was in question and then moved on."
He also said everyone fails some of the time and no one is perfect.
Christie, who has slipped in recent approval polls among voters in primary states, has promised to "go nuclear" in the second GOP Presidential debate next week if he doesn't get asked more questions by moderators.