Politics

Chris Christie blames Trump’s rhetoric about stolen election for January 6 insurrection

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting at The Venetian hotel-casino on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

(CNN) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he believes the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 was the result of former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

“I think everything that he was saying from Election Night forward incited people to that level of anger,” Christie, a longtime friend and high-profile supporter of Trump, told CNN’s Dana Bash in “Being… Chris Christie,” the second episode in Bash’s “Being…” series, which will air in full on Monday at 10 p.m. ET.

“I think people minimize what happened on the 6th by pointing to the speech that he gave on the Ellipse on the 6th,” he said.

Christie, a failed contender in the 2016 primary, says he voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020. He also served as an adviser to the then-President, helping him prepare for the presidential debates ahead of last year’s election.

But Christie has been outspoken against Trump’s lies about the 2020 election results.

Asked by Bash if Trump was responsible for the insurrection, Christie said that while he doesn’t believe any one single person can be responsible for the actions of others, he does believe rioters attacked the Capitol that day because they thought the election had been stolen — a lie that was fed by Trump.

“I don’t think they would’ve gone there if they thought the election had been fair,” Christie said.

Christie, whose new book “Republican Rescue: Saving the Party From Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden” comes out Tuesday, has in recent weeks been vocal about his vision for the future of the GOP. He’s delivering a message to Republicans that the only way for the party to continue building on this month’s electoral successes in Virginia, where the GOP won the governor’s mansion, and in his home state of New Jersey, where the GOP nominee kept it closer than expected, is to move beyond past elections.

He told Bash he does not want to make predictions about 2024 and is unsure whether he or Trump will run again. “I don’t know that he’s going to run. I don’t know whether I’m going to run,” he said.

Asked by Bash how seriously he is thinking about it, Christie said he is considering it.

“I’m definitely thinking about it, but I also know that the most important thing is to deal with 2022 first,” he said.

Pressed if he could see himself running against Trump, should the former President also run again, Christie said he would not rule it out.

“I will not defer to anybody if I decide that I want to run, including him. And, you know, no one in my mind that’s on the scene at the moment is worthy of deferring to. Nobody,” he said.

But despite his criticism of Trump’s rhetoric, Christie also did not rule out supporting him in 2024 if he runs. “Let’s see who he is and what he says and how he conducts himself,” Christie said.

Christie was just one of a half-dozen potential GOP contenders for the White House who addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition conference earlier this month in Las Vegas, laying the groundwork for their potential bids as the party waits to see whether Trump attempts another run for the Oval Office in 2024.

“We can no longer talk about the past and the past elections — no matter where you stand on that issue, no matter where you stand, it is over,” Christie told some of the Republican Party’s most influential donors and bundlers. “Every minute that we spend talking about 2020 — while we’re wasting time doing that, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are laying ruin to this country. We better focus on that and take our eyes off the rearview mirror and start looking through the windshield again.”

‘They want it to just go away’

Christie has been outspoken against the insurrection since January 6, but some of his fellow Republicans have changed their tunes in the past 10 months, either giving oxygen to conspiracy theories about that day or simply going quiet.

“I’m confident some of them are” scared of Trump, the former New Jersey governor told Bash, noting that “everybody’s accountable for their own statements and conduct.”

But “they fall unto a number of categories,” he said. “Some of them believe him. They want to believe him. Some of them are scared of him. Some of them don’t want to talk about it. They just don’t want to talk about it. They want it to just go away,” Christie said.

“I think that there are lots of Republicans who believe exactly what I believe, but no one’s saying it to them. The only voice they’re hearing right now are voices that say that the election was stolen and that’s just not true. So you need other voices to speak out. So I’m doing it.”

‘They never called me’

Christie was one of the people helping Trump with debate prep last fall who caught Covid-19. An asthmatic, he eventually ended up in the intensive care unit, scared that he’d be intubated and no longer able to talk to his kids.

Trump had announced his own positive diagnosis shortly before Christie checked himself into the hospital. But despite the outbreak, Christie told Bash the White House did not call him.

“No, no. They never called me,” he said.

Christie said he was unsure of the then-President’s testing protocol.

“All of us in the room who entered the White House every day were tested,” Christie said. “I don’t know what the President’s testing protocol was or wasn’t. He never shared that with us, but to be honest, I never asked him. I assumed he was being tested. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.”

“I mean, the President ultimately called me when I went to the hospital,” Christie added.

Christie, in his new book, reveals that when Trump — who at the time was being treated for Covid-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center — called Christie in the hospital, he asked if Christie would say he caught Covid from him.

” ‘Are you gonna say you got it from me?’ the President asked. ‘I don’t know that I got it from you, sir,’ I said. ‘So I would not say that. No,’ ” Christie writes.

Christie, who spent seven days in the ICU with Covid-19, opened up to Bash about his time battling the coronavirus.

He said he told his wife that if he was to intubated, he wanted to talk to his family first.

“The breathing, being asthmatic, everything was an issue. So I had a conversation with Mary Pat where I said to her, ‘Look, you need to tell the doctors that if they’re going to do it, they need to tell you first, because I want to talk to the kids before it happens because a lot of people get intubated and they don’t ever come out of it.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want that to be their last memory of me,’ ” Christie said.

This story has been updated with additional comments from Christie.

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