New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined me today:
HH: That, of course, former Secretary of State Clinton talking two days ago. I’m joined now by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who must have seen or heard that press conference by now. Governor Christie, welcome, it’s always a pleasure to have you on the show.
CC: Hugh, thanks for having me back.
HH: What did you make of Mrs. Clinton’s presser two days ago?
CC: She is breathtakingly arrogant and she’s in big trouble.
HH: Why wipe a server down, Chris Christie?
CC: Because you’re trying to hide from people what’s on it.
HH: And is there any rational reason for doing that other than to destroy evidence?
CC: No, absolutely not.
HH: You went on CNN on Monday, and I’ve been telling everyone about this, and you pointed out to Andrew Cuomo that if you had done anything like this during the bridge controversy, you’d have been put on a spit and basically boiled.
HH: Why is there a second standard at work here?
CC: Well, for two reasons. Because the media bias is at work and in favor of Hillary Clinton, and we know that, we’ve seen it, Hugh, over all the time you can think of. And let’s just look at what this woman has done. Here’s what she won’t answer. Why did she have a private email server in the first place? And why were you doing official business of the government over a private email server? The only potential explanation is that she was trying to hide the things that she was doing and saying from relevant discovery by the public through the right type of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, and maybe even from her own bosses.
HH: When you came under scrutiny, you walked out and did the epic press conference. I believe it was for two and a half hours. Isn’t that what she has to do here if she has nothing to hide?
CC: That’s what she should do if she has nothing to hide, but you know she won’t do it. The Clintons never do that. And she won’t do it, because she believes in a different set of standards that apply to her. And she immediately falls back to this is politics. Listen, we need to have a real honest conversation about this in the country. And we know that this woman is not trustworthy. It’s that simple. She’s not trustworthy.
HH: Should she take herself out of the race?
CC: I don’t know if it’s going to matter, because I think if anybody, if anybody strong gets into the race, I think she may just lose anyway. But Hugh, you know what? She won’t take herself out of the race, because this is just her wanting to pursue power in whatever way she possibly can.
HH: Do you, when you were a prosecutor and you did that for seven years, and if you had a suspect wipe down a server or otherwise destroy evidence that had been subpoenaed, and this had been subpoenaed by Trey Gowdy, is that obstruction of justice?
CC: Oh, let me tell you something. It certainly looks that way. You’d have to see all the dates and times of when they did it, when the subpoena was received and all the rest. But if you know that there are things that are under subpoena and you wind up destroying them intentionally, then that very well could lead you to be charged with obstruction of justice.
HH: All right, now let me talk a little bit more about the debate, in the first debate. I haven’t talked to you since then. Congratulations. You brought up the Ohio class replacement, so I’m very happy with you. I think you were the only person that talked in specifics about the military budget.
CC: Well, it’s important. Well listen, it’s very important. We’re talking in specifics about everything, not just the military budget as you know, but in entitlement reform, in tax and regulatory reform. The American people need to know what they’re buying with the next president. And with me, I’m going to tell them exactly what I’m going to do when I get into office. And modernizing the Ohio Class submarines is one of those things.
HH: All right, now I want to talk about Donald Trump. I have a theory. I don’t have a pollster, I don’t have any cross-tabs. I don’t even have a ham sandwich, but I think he’s taking a lot of former Christie voters who went free radical during the bridge controversy, and they’re looking for someone who speaks bluntly and authentically. A) what you do think of my theory? And 2) how do you get them back?
CC: Well listen, I think what you do is you get voters back to you by speaking authentically and by laying out a real detailed plan for the future of our country. And that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I think we made good progress in the last debate. We’ve got more progress to make in the next one. But I can’t worry about any other particular candidate, Hugh. That’s not the way it works when there’s 17 of us in this race. You’ve got to go out there and prove your bona fides to the people of this country, and particularly to the people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
HH: Do you think part of Donald Trump’s appeal is his combativeness, as it has been part of your appeal?
CC: You know, I’m not really sure. I think it’s, what you’re really looking at is a country that’s filled with anxiety and wants strength. They want strength and directness because of a weakness that we’ve gotten from this president. And so I think that’s part of it. But in the end, listen, you know, I’m not a talker. I’m a doer. And when you look at what’s happened in New Jersey, you want somebody who just this past week, Americans For Tax Reform said I’ve vetoed more tax increases than any governor in American history. You want someone who’s going to stand up to the Congress? I’m the guy. You want someone who’s going to stand up to the state legislature in New Jersey? I’ve done it. You want somebody who’s going to stand up to the Iranians and to our other adversaries around the world? I’m the guy who’s going to do it, not just because I talk about it, but because I’ve done it already as governor of New Jersey, in the bluest of blue states in this country.
HH: Let me talk about something you’ve also done already, which is appoint Supreme Court justices. It matters a great deal, obviously. You’ve appointed three in New Jersey – Ann Peterson, she went to Cornell Law, Faustino Fernandez Vina, who went to Rutgers, Lee Solomon, who went to Widener. You yourself are a Seton Hall grad. You’ve got great diversity and background. Right now on the United States Supreme Court, all nine of the justices came from Harvard or Yale Law School. How healthy is that for the bar, Chris Christie?
CC: It’s not healthy, and the fact is that I’ve worked really hard to make sure that we have a representation of people on the court who have real life experiences. You know, you need folks who have real life experiences, who have had real struggles, and who have made a difference in their communities in ways that are different than just going to an Ivy League school. And so you know, that certainly wouldn’t be something that would preclude you of being a nominee of mine from the Supreme Court, to have gone to an Ivy League school, but it’s not going to be a requirement. I want people who have had real life experiences and know that the things they do on that court have an effect on real people’s lives every day in this country. Those are the kind of people I’ve appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and those folks have done quite well, in my view, so far on the court.
HH: I want to quote to you from Dahlia Lithwick. Now that’s going to surprise some people. She’s a Stanford Law grad. She’s a lefty, but she’s really smart, and she wrote a piece for the New Republic a few years ago called “Yale-Harvard-Yale-Harvard-Harvard-Harvard-Columbia.” And the key paragraph is this. “The result of the last many years of judicial appointments have been what Professor Amar of Yale Law School calls the judicialization of the judiciary, a selection process that discourages political or advocacy experiences, and reduces the path to the Supreme Court to a funnel. Elite schools beget elite judicial clerkships, beget elite federal judgeships. Rinse, repeat. All nine sitting justices attended either Yale or Harvard Law Schools.” We no longer have, she notes out, a single veteran, “no one from the heartland,” no “former cabinet officials, no capital defense attorneys.” She concludes, “the Supreme Court that decided Brown V. Board of Education had five members who had served in elective office. The Roberts court has none. What we have instead are nine perfect judicial thoroughbreds who have spent their entire adulthoods on the same lofty, narrow trajectory.” Will you break that pattern, Chris Christie?
CC: Yes, I will. And I’ve done it in New Jersey, and I will tell you that I would do it on the United States Supreme Court as well. The fact is I want real people on that Court who have had real life experiences. We’re tired of the Washington establishment and the educational establishment in this country who believes that only if you go to an Ivy League school can you succeed. I just read a great book by Frank Bruni called Where You Go Isn’t Who You’ll Be, talking about all the successful folks we’ve had as leaders in this country who didn’t go to one of those schools. Now in full disclosure, my oldest son goes to Princeton. Great for him. I’m excited for him. I’m proud of him. He does a great job, but it doesn’t mean that he’s the only person from his high school class who’s going to be able to do great things, and should have the opportunity to do great things. You have to broaden our experience here in America. I’m proud University of Delaware graduate. I got a great education there. And I don’t think it’s held me back from doing anything. In fact, I’m running for president of the United States.
HH: Can we, do you think we could get the commitment at least not to make your first Supreme Court justice a Harvard or Yale law grad?
CC: Listen, let me tell you this, Hugh. I think you can be pretty sure of that fact, yeah.
HH: Now I want to switch to politics. There’s a lot of anger at Washington, D.C. at the Republican leadership there – John Boehner, Mitch McConnell. I’ve campaigned for Mitch McConnell. I actually think Mitch is a terrific Senate leader. But the filibuster stands in the way. We talked a little bit about this again. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came up at the debate, because it divides the field. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham defend the filibuster, Scott Walker has blasted away at it. What do you think about this rule, which isn’t even in the Constitution, but which clogs up the United States Congress from doing a lot, both bad and good?
CC: Listen, I’m so disgusted with the performance of Congress. When you see that Congress has a 13% approval rating, my only question there is who are the 13% who actually think that what’s going on there is good. I think the filibuster is one of those things, and that should never stop us. The Democrats got rid of it to get appointments through, and other things through that they wanted to do. I don’t know why Republicans are standing by this, especially as it applies to the Iran vote that we’re going to have coming up, and other really important things. The fact is the majority of people in the United States Senate make a difference, and they should make a difference. The people elected a majority of Republicans. We should be pushing Republican bills through. If we can get some right thinking Democrats on them, great. But if not, the American people voted for a Republican Congress. Let’s get some bills on the President’s desk and make him make some decisions.
HH: Hey, turning to foreign policy, Governor Christie, and the big question, I’ll give some example here, is when should American force, military force, be applied abroad? We did nothing when Mrs. Obama held up the hashtag bring our girls home. We did topple Qaddafi when the Secretary of State Clinton urged us to do so. That didn’t turn out so well. We did not intervene to stop the Rwandan genocide under President Clinton. We did intervene to stop the Serbs in Kosovo under President Clinton. President Clinton bombed Iraq to destroy WMD during Operation Desert Fox. President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq because he and the world thought that WMD were still there. Senator Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Clinton believed Saddam had WMD. So it’s a very mixed record about when we go in and when we don’t go in. Bad things happen when we do. Bad things happen when we don’t. Sometimes, good things happen. What’s Chris Christie’s rule for the use of military force abroad?
CC: The use of military force abroad can only be used when it’s in direct American national security interests. And the fact is that we need to do that at times to try to keep and restore, keep or restore order to the world, because to allow a lack of order can really threaten our own national security interests and those of our allies. That’s the way we should make those decisions. And lastly, you have to have a plan on both getting in and getting out.
HH: What about that Rwandan holdback? Bill Clinton said that was the biggest mistake of his presidency. A genocide followed. On the other hand, obviously America’s national security interests were not involved.
CC: Listen, I think that’s the hardest decision to make. But then I think our job is to unite the world against acts like that. And the fact is America shouldn’t be going those things alone. But if we had better relationships with our leaders, if we didn’t have such a weak, feckless president, we would be able to unite the world against things like the slaughter that’s going on in Syria. But instead, this president decides to walk away. We should unite the world against the use of chemical weapons by Assad. But instead, the President makes a promise and then walks away from it. That’s a bigger problem, Hugh, the lack of American leadership that unites our allies around the world. They want American leadership. But when they think that we’re going to drop our support of something every time a poll number ticks down three or four points like this president does, well then, they’re not going to be willing to stand with us. And then the only option we’re going to be left with is to go it alone. That’s not right, not what we should we doing. Let’s work to unite the world in these regards, and let America be a leader.
HH: Three last questions. You and Rand Paul mixed it up in the first debate. As a questioner at the next event, I talked to Jake Tapper about that. I don’t think I would have stepped in the middle of that. I think I would have let that go a bit. What did you think about the intervention/non-intervention policy of the Fox hosts? And what do you think is the best way for a debate? I don’t know that we’re going to take your advice, but I’m curious for when people are mixing it up like that.
CC: I like it to be a debate, Hugh. And I think if, listen, they asked that question intentionally to get conflict between Senator Paul and I. All right, I mean, so then when you get conflict between Senator Paul and I, why not let it go and let us really flesh out the issue? I mean, you know, it wasn’t as if Senator Paul and I started that discussion that night. It was, as you know, that question was intentionally put to us to try to post us up against each other, in basketball parlance. You know, same thing with the entitlement question. Chris Wallace asked that question saying Governor Christie, you say this, Governor Huckabee disagrees with you and says that. Is Governor Huckabee a liar? I mean, when you ask a question that way, you know there’s going to be a back and forth between me and Governor Huckabee, a more civilized one than the one that Senator Paul engaged in, but nonetheless, a back and forth. We should let those back and forth go so that people can really understand our positions on the issues. And I think that’s what a debate is supposed to be all about.
HH: Were any questions not asked that you thought ought to have been probed? I personally though the Iran deal, the most consequential deal of the next 35 years, got very short shrift. What did you think?
CC: I was surprised that the Iran deal wasn’t a much greater centerpiece. I know that there is a lot of different competing interests that they have in terms of what they wanted to ask. But quite frankly, I thought some of the, you know, I thought that there were some other questions that should have been asked. I don’t think there was nearly enough asked about higher education and student debt, because I will tell you, Hugh, every town hall meeting save for one that I’ve done in New Hampshire, I’ve done 17 of them now in New Hampshire, I’ve gotten asked every time by people about the issue of student debt and how we’re going to make college more affordable. That’s something that should have been asked in greater depth in that debate as well.
HH: What do you think about Hillary Clinton’s get out of debt free card? I mean, she wants to give away free cheese now, let go of everyone’s student loan debt. What do you think of that, Chris Christie?
CC: Well, it’s absolutely absurd. And you know, listen, Secretary Clinton just wants to pander. She wants to pander on path to citizenship. She wants to pander on giving everybody free college education. Let me bring a message that I know your listeners understand. Nothing is free. Nothing is free. And that just means that she’s going to raise more taxes or incur more debt on our already $18 trillion dollar debt to be able to pay for these things. Nothing is free, and our children and grandchildren will wind up paying for it in the long term. And in the short term, we’re going to wind up paying for it. Let me tell you this. You want somebody who’s going to veto every tax increase that comes across my desk as president of the United States? Then you should look at what I’ve done in New Jersey, because Americans For Tax Reform now say I’ve vetoed more tax increases than any governor in American history.
HH: All right, last two questions are sports. You were at the Cavs game. You just mentioned post up. I’m from Northeastern Ohio. I’m a Cavs fan.
HH: Are you sticking with the Cavs in 2015-16?
CC: Well listen, I’m a Knicks fan, which means that I am in desperate, desperate shape. But Dan Gilbert, Dan and Jennifer Gilbert are good friends of mine and Mary Pat’s. They invited me to come to the game that night. And it was a great game. The Cavs won, and you know, if you can’t enjoy watching LeBron James play basketball, then you don’t like basketball.
HH: Well, you’re a Knicks fan, so you think the Cavs should bring back J.R. Smith? There’s a mixed reaction to J.R. Smith in Knicks land.
CC: I am not a J.R. Smith fan from my experience with him as a Knicks fan, so I’d say to the Cavs move on.
HH: Very last question, will you promise me that you will not pardon Bill Belichick or Tom Brady as president?
HH: Okay, just checking.
CC: Absolutely, Hugh Hewitt. Indeed, the pardon authority is broad and deep, but you know, no. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I won’t use it that way.
HH: Oh, very good to talk to you, Governor Christie. I’ll see you in the Simi Valley at the Reagan Library, if not before. Thanks for joining me.
CC: Thank you, Hugh, looking forward to it.
End of interview.