CNN’s Dana Bash sat down with Christie for a special running on CNN tonight at 10 p.m. ET called “Being….Chris Christie.” I caught up with Dana to get her impressions of the former governor’s plans — and his current views on Trump.
Our conversation is below.
Cillizza: Christie said he voted for Trump twice and, even now, wouldn’t change his 2020 vote. Did that surprise you?
Bash: It surprised me only in that he spends so much time in his new book systematically ripping to shreds the conspiracies that the former president propagates and explicitly details the ways that those lies destroy American discourse.
Christie argues that his ideological differences with Joe Biden are so big, that he never could have voted for Biden. What I told him that I don’t understand, and still don’t, is how he could argue that Trump’s lies are a danger to democracy and not think that supersedes everything else? Isn’t it a luxury to debate ideals? One that only people in a working democracy have the opportunity to tussle over? He argues the answer is “no.” A lot of people vehemently disagree — including fellow Republicans who, like him, are trying to find a post-Trump path for themselves and the GOP in general.
Cillizza: He rejected the idea — despite being the first major politician to endorse Trump in 2016 — that he was an enabler of the former president. Did he express remorse at any point in the interview for his role in Trump’s rise?
Bash: It is interesting — there are several times when Christie says flatly that he made a mistake, including that infamous picture of him on a closed beach at the end of his governorship when he was in a budget fight with the Democratic legislature.
But Christie expressed no remorse for helping Trump. I asked him point blank about being an enabler — about helping Trump get to the point where he was powerful enough to not only be President but use his perch to try to overturn an election that he lost in 2020. Christie makes the point that in 2016 he was the one who wanted to be president. When his own candidacy stalled, he saw that Trump was on the way to getting the nomination and that, in Christie’s opinion, Trump was still better than Hillary Clinton so he wanted to use his long relationship with Trump to help him.
Still, in his book Christie details example after example where he tried, and failed, to turn the Trump ship around. “I thought the presidency might change him, it did not change him a bit,” Christie told me.
Cillizza: The two men haven’t spoken since Christie was critical of Trump back in January. Does Christie still consider Trump a friend?
Bash: Christie does consider Trump a friend still, yes. They have had a relationship for about 20 years now and he says they have had other periods where they didn’t talk for a long time.
But let’s be clear — there is nothing this high profile or this consequential that has come between them before. Christie is saying Trump lost, which in Trump’s mind means that Christie is calling him a loser. Anyone who knows Trump will tell you that is the worst thing you can say about him — it is the whole reason the former president never conceded and is dragging the country through the mess of conspiracies about election 2020.
Cillizza: Christie repeatedly refers to himself as “edgy” and as a truth-teller. Is that positioning to run in 2024?
Bash: Christie is positioning himself to run in 2024. He argues that the reason he wrote a roadmap for Republicans to rescue themselves from Trump’s lies is not only because he loves his party, but because he won’t have a GOP to be a part of unless it changes. He wants to be president. We know that. He’s already run once. The question is whether 2024 is the year for him. Remember this time before the 2016 presidential cycle he had just won re-election in a landslide in a blue state. Then Bridgegate happened. He has first-hand experience of how things can change fast in politics.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “In 2024, Chris Christie is going to __________.” Now, explain.
Bash: “Be a major voice for the GOP.”
Whether he is a candidate himself or backing someone else, he is a political animal who loves being in the thick of it and, as he says candidly, naturally gets attention and stirs passion for whatever he is doing — the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Point: Watch Dana’s special tonight at 10 p.m. ET!