New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said today the ongoing George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal will not impact his ability to execute his second-term priorities and promised his administration’s internal review will be released to the public.
Greg Brown, CEO of Motorola Solutions, asked Christie about the scandal’s possible impact in the moderated conversation at the Economic Club of Chicago and Christie at first joked at the question, telling Brown and the audience, “Actually, I’m shocked you brought that up.”
“[S]ome people who worked for me made some significant mistakes in judgment, and when you are the leader of that organization … the first thing that happens to you, happened to me, was extraordinary disappointment,” Christie said.
“But you only have a few minutes to wallow in that disappointment and then if you are a leader you have to try and get a handle on the story and take decisive action, which we did by letting people go and talking to the public about it,” he said, adding they are in the “midst of an internal review” and promising to “release to the public” whatever the “internal review discloses.”
“If there is more action that needs to be taken I’ll take it,” Christie pledged. “But, I don’t think it will curtail for the long haul a second-term agenda because I think the public in New Jersey won’t tolerate it. The fact is they expect me and the legislature to continue to do what we did in the first four years, which is to find solutions to New Jersey’s problems and get things done.”
Christie said the “last six weeks have not been the most enjoyable in my life,” but said the “fact is we need to do our work.”
“I believe we are focused on the things we need to be focused on in terms of fixing past problems and in terms of moving ahead,” Christie said.
Brown is the Christie-appointed vice chair of the Rutgers Board of Governors and he moderated a wide ranging discussion with him, including reprising some of what Christie told fellow Republicans at the Republican National Committee’s meeting last summer, stressing the GOP should be focused on winning, not talking.
“I thought political parties were formed in order to win elections, not to be debating societies, not to be academic institutions to debate the great esoteric issues of the day just for the sake of debating those issues to see who wins the debate,” Christie said. “Political parties are there to win elections because when you win you get to govern and when you get to govern you get to make change and that’s what we should be focused as the Republican Party. It is time to win again.”
Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, said as his party looks forward to 2016, their priority should “winning the election,” not winning the argument, adding it is time for the GOP to “get pragmatic.”
The New Jersey governor also criticized Washington, D.C., saying it’s critical to “develop relationships.”
He also had some critiques for the president, though he said on the topic of foreign policy he did not “know enough to make specific criticisms.”
“I do detect some confusion in the world about who we are and what we stand for,” Christie told Brown and the audience. “I do detect some concern among allies that they aren’t quite sure who we are and what we stand for anymore, that needs to be clear for there to be a strong America and for America to be a strong influence in the world, for good.”
In what Brown called a “lightning round” near the end of the event, Christie was asked which contemporary public figure he admires most and he said Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, is someone he has “great admiration for.”
Christie’s trip to Chicago also included two fundraisers for the Republican Governors Association, of which he serves as chairman. It was reported over the weekend that none of the GOP candidates running for Illinois governor would be attending the fundraisers, but a Christie aide said that is not correct and they expect some to attend.
Christie came under fire last month when emails were released indicating local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the country’s busiest span, were closed for political retribution against a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse Christie. Since then, national Democrats have been shadowing his public appearances, and they did so again in Chicago.
In a news conference before Christie spoke, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said “Either the governor is lying or he is the most inept, incompetent chief executive imaginable.”
“If he is so incompetent in his judge of character … God help us if he were to become president,” Strickland said.
Christie has said he had no information about the lane closures before they occurred and had nothing to do with the decision to close them. There has been no evidence directly linking Christie to the lane closures.
On Thursday, he will hold his first town hall since the scandal broke. It is Christie’s 110th town hall and he will focus on the state’s continued recovery since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He will then travel to Washington, D.C., for the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce trip where he will address members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation and business community.
ABC News’ Andy Fies contributed to this report.