Christie: Pal’s plea in airline shakedown ‘made me very sad’
NEWARK -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was "sad" his friend and confidant admitted shaking down United Airlines to reinstate a flight to make it easier for him to reach his vacation home in South Carolina.
David Samson is "my friend and it made me very sad," the Republican told NJ.com on Monday. But Christie would not say whether Samson has tarnished the governor's legacy, which included serving as New Jersey's attorney general.
"That's all I have to say. That's all I have to say," Christie said as he left the arena in Cleveland where the Republican National Convention is being held.
Samson is the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and was a mentor to Christie. He admitted he pressured United to reinstate the flight after he removed from a board agenda discussion of a hangar United wanted at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The money-losing flight was ended three days after Samson resigned. United's CEO resigned after an investigation into that service.
Jamie Fox, a former lobbyist for United who Christie later named the state's transportation commissioner, was charged by federal prosecutors with soliciting the bribe. Fox's attorney said he will fight the charge.
United agreed to pay a $2.25 million penalty for its role in the scheme.
Samson was head of the Port Authority when two former allies of the governor were accused of shutting down lanes to the George Washington Bridge as part of a political retribution scheme. Neither Samson nor Christie was charged in that case. A third Christie appointee has pleaded guilty in that case, which is expected to go to trial in September.
Christie denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by a taxpayer-funded legal inquiry. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said there's no evidence the governor had anything to do with the bribery scheme Samson pleaded to.
But the bridge scandal in particular put a cloud over Christie's political future. Democrats then and now have seized on both cases to criticize Christie, who ended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and began backing presumptive nominee Donald Trump.