CNN town hall with Chris Christie

By Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 11:23 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023
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9:43 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie says he'd send the National Guard to the US southern border and slams Trump's immigration policy

GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie said that he would send the National Guard to the US-Mexico border to deal with issues involving large influxes of migrants.

"No matter how hard our Customs and Border patrol agents and our immigration and customs enforcement agents are working, they need backup," Christie said during Monday's CNN town hall.

"We need to secure that border," he added, also criticizing former President Donald Trump's border policy.

"This is where President Trump has failed us so badly. I mean I stood on that stage eight years ago and heard him say, 'I'm going to build a big beautiful wall across the entire border and Mexico's going to pay for it.' Well four years later, we got a quarter of a wall and not one peso towards that," he said.

He also said how Trump was unable to pass immigration reform despite having a Republican-controlled Congress for two years. "It is an abject failure, and now he blames Joe Biden for it. Well, what the heck did you do to make it better?"

"He took temporary steps, but the minute he left office, someone else could change. You know what that is? A bad executive," he said.

Christie said that he would be able to pass immigration legislation and not temporary solutions if elected president.

9:49 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie calls Russia-Ukraine conflict a "proxy war with China"

From CNN's Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg

GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie defended US support for Ukraine’s military in that country’s conflict with Russia, describing it as “a proxy war with China” and pointing out that Beijing is buying Russian oil and supplying Iran with drones.

He said that while US involvement in the war is unpleasant, “the alternative is for the Chinese to take over, the Russians, the Iranians and the North Koreans – a bad foursome.”

“For your children and my grandchildren, are they going to live in a world where China is setting the tone for this world? A communist dictatorship where they tell you how many children you can have? Where they tell you what you can think, what you can see and what you can hear? I don’t want that kind of world for your kids, and I don’t want it for my grandchildren,” the former governor said in CNN's town hall.

Christie’s comments came in response to a question about US spending on Ukraine’s war effort at a time of domestic inflation and federal deficits.

“A big and great country should be able to do both,” he said. “We should be able to get our spending under control, and we should be able to have a strong military that will stand up for friends around the world who are free.”

9:30 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie says that he believes each state should decide its own abortion laws

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12. Bernadette Tuazon/CNN

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in CNN's town hall tonight that he believes each state should decide its own abortion laws.

On the federal government's role in the abortion issue, he said that he believes "Roe was unconstitutional," which he said conservatives have been arguing for 50 years. He said that the federal government should "not be involved unless — and until — there's consensus around the country" from all the states on what the abortion law should be.

Asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper on whether he would sign a bill for a federal abortion ban as president if there was consensus, Christie said, "There's a lot of ifs in there." 

Pressed by Cooper on what he believes the time period in terms of weeks pregnant should be for a ban on abortion, Christie said, "I don't think anything in my heart about time period. What I have in my heart is that every life is precious and should be protected."

 

9:22 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie says his position on guns has evolved — and he would not support an assault weapons ban

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12. Laura Oliverio/CNN

Chris Christie pointed to law enforcement and mental health as being central problems to the issue of gun violence, adding that he would not support a ban on assault weapons.

Answering a question from CNN's Anderson Cooper about if there was anything new Christie would do to help curb gun violence if he was president, the former New Jersey governor said that he largely believes states should handle putting measures in place.

Cooper noted this was a shift from his stance when he was running for a New Jersey state Senate seat more than 30 years ago.

Cooper pointed out that Christie said he got into that race because Republicans were trying to get rid of an assault weapons ban — something Christie wanted to keep in place. He now says he does not believe there should be a ban on assault weapons.

“At 29 years old, I thought there were easy answers to everything, I really did, and I thought that would be an easy answer, an easy fix. It turns out, it's not," he said at the CNN town hall Monday night.

Christie said it’s a right for people to own guns, including assault weapons. He said he doesn’t own one “but that’s been my choice."

When Joe Robbins, a Nevada retiree who lost his son in a mass shooting, asked Christie how he would protect people from mass shootings while still protecting the Second Amendment, Christie reiterated his call for a focus on mental health.

“I don't think with 350 million or so guns out there that tighter gun control is going to keep the gun out of the hands of someone who's going to do what happened in Las Vegas or what happened in Uvalde or what happened in Sandy Hook," he said.

Christie said law enforcement needs to be “much more sensitive” to what they are seeing in the community and be able to identify when people are having mental health problems.

9:23 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie: Trump blamed me for giving him Covid-19 — despite not knowing how he contracted it

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12. Laura Oliverio/CNN

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he was told off the record by two reporters in 2020 that then-President Donald Trump blamed him for spreading Covid-19 during debate prep.

What appalled Christie about this revelation was that while he was in intensive care, Trump called Christie to ask if he was going to tell the world he contracted Covid from the president.

"I said 'Mr. President, I don't know who I got it from. There were six of us in that room for debate prep and five us of us got it.' So, I don't know who patient zero was, but ... then I understood," Christie said.

Trump, who also contracted Covid in the fall of 2020, was released from the hospital before Christie, the GOP presidential contender said, and went back on the campaign trail where two reporters heard him blaming Christie for contracting Covid.

"He called me to make sure that I would not blame him, and when I said I wouldn't because I had no basis to say who it was, he then blamed me," Christie said.

9:11 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie calls Trump's lies that 2020 presidential election was stolen "the most destructive thing he's done" 

Responding to those in the Republican Party who still insist the 2020 presidential election was stolen, Chris Christie responded Monday night: "Just show me the evidence." 

"It's the same thing that I said to Donald Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 election ... show me the evidence," he added.

Christie said that had there been any evidence of election rigging in 2020 he would have been happy to support Trump "all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and beyond" adding, "But there's no evidence."

Christie called Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen "the most destructive thing he's done." 

His relationship with Trump ended after he stood in front of "the Seal of the President in the East Room of the White House at 2:30 in the morning on election morning and said the election was stolen," Christie said.

9:15 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie denies knowledge of "Bridgegate" but says he regrets that the scandal happened under his watch

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12. Laura Oliverio/CNN

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie denied his involvement in the 2013 "Bridgegate" scandal, which involved political appointees under his watch as New Jersey governor.

Asked by Republican voter Jason Ortiz about Christie's direct and indirect involvement in the scandal, Christie responded, "I had absolutely nothing to do with it, no knowledge of it. I was appalled by it. And I had nothing to do with it."

Christie went on to say that despite his lack of involvement, he does regret that it happened under his governorship.

"I regret what happened, and I feel — I am accountable for it because it happened on my watch. But it'll never happen with me I can guarantee that," he said.

More background: Christie was first elected New Jersey governor in 2009, unseating Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine. He easily won reelection in the blue state in 2013. He served as US attorney for New Jersey from 2002 to 2008, a period in which he successfully prosecuted the father of Trump’s son-in-law and former aide Jared Kushner on criminal tax evasion and witness tampering charges. 

Christie was engulfed in the “Bridgegate” scandal during his second term as governor. Emails and texts from top aides showed that the George Washington Bridge lane closures in September 2013, which caused massive traffic jams, stemmed from a political vendetta after the town’s Democratic mayor declined to endorse Christie’s gubernatorial reelection. A federal investigation determined that Christie had no knowledge of the decision to close the lanes, but the scandal continued to follow the former governor. 

CNN's Gregory Krieg and Shania Shelton contributed reporting to this post. 

8:56 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Both Biden and Trump are hazardous to the country if elected as president again, Christie says

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12. Laura Oliverio/CNN

GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie said he wants US citizens to know he's not ageist. Instead, he says he is a realist when it comes to considering the future of the country if either of the two front-runners — Joe Biden and Donald Trump — is elected president.

"Look, it's a coin flip," Christie said. "I'm just a realist. If those two people were the nominees, they are going to be a combined 160 years old on Election Day. I'm sorry, guys, nobody beats father time. Nobody does."

Christie said he disagreed with Biden on a philosophical level and if Trump was elected, he would play the victim and be even angrier than he was in his previous administration.

"I don't think either one of those people are perfect to be president ... that's why I'm running," Christie said. "If those two are candidates, I don't believe there's a winning alternative for America."
9:24 p.m. ET, June 12, 2023

Christie: US should help foster compromise between Ukraine and Russia once Kyiv can protect land taken in war

Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12.
Chris Christie speaks at a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday, June 12. Bernadette Tuazon/CNN

On the topic of US aid to Ukraine, CNN's Anderson Cooper noted GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie had previously said that he agreed with supporting Kyiv until they are ready to resolve the conflict.

He then noted that Christie's comments are not exactly in line with what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked for. The Ukrainian president has said he wants to take back all territory from Russia, including Crimea.

"I didn't say that, I said until it was resolved. If I were President Zelenskyy, I would want everything too," Christie said during CNN's town hall.

"But there's going to come a point, I hope, that if Ukraine is aggressive enough and we are giving them the arms and support that they need, that both Ukraine and Russia are going to understand that it's time to end the killing and that there may have to be some kind of compromise," Christie added.

He said that's what the US "should be in the middle of trying to foster, once we get in a position where Ukraine can protect the land that's been taken by Russia in this latest incursion."

Cooper noted that the US has provided $37 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the start of the war.