Donald Trump is standing by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) after federal prosecutors alleged Monday during opening arguments in the so-called Bridgegate trial that he knew the 2013 lane closures on the George Washington Bridge were politically motivated.
“I have known and liked Chris for 15 years,” Trump said in a statement to The New York Times. “After his recent run for president, he called me to say that he would like to endorse me in that he sees a movement like he has never seen before. I was greatly honored, accepted his endorsement, and he has been a spectacular advocate ever since.”
Trump’s statement made no mention of the potentially explosive accusations against Christie made by prosecutor Vikas Khanna. Khanna said the governor’s appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey “bragged” to him about causing a massive traffic jam in a punitive plot against a Democratic New Jersey mayor,who refused to back the Christie’s re-election campaign.
Yet Trump himself once took issue with the Garden State governor’s claim that he believed the lane closures were part of a traffic study, an explanation later revealed to be a cover-up for the punitive scheme.
While campaigning in South Carolina last December in the heat of the primary race, the GOP nominee said Christie “totally knew about it.”
“He knew about it. Totally knew about it,” Trump told a crowd in Mount Pleasant. “He has a very friendly group of people over there that they—look, it’s called life. You have to be smart in life. I would say there’s less than 1 percent chance—could be, but I doubt it. He knew about it.”
Christie was one of the first prominent Republicans to back Trump’s campaign after he emerged as the likely nominee, and he has been rewarded for his loyalty. He is now one of Trump’s senior advisors and serves as the head of his transition team.
Christie was also in the running to serve as Trump’s running mate, but he’s acknowledged that the Bridgegate scandal was likely a “factor” in Trump ultimately choosing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) as his vice presidential pick.