New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined me today to discuss all things 2016:
HH: First, I am pleased to welcome back New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor Christie, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
CC: Hugh, I’m glad to be back. How are you today?
HH: I’m great. I want to talk to you about your time as a prosecutor. I like to tell people I worked at the Department of Justice, but I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn, so I don’t really know anything about prosecuting. What kind of a banana republic are we running when the former Secretary of State’s lawyers got a thumb drive with 30,000 emails, and scores of which are classified? What’s going on here?
CC: Well you know, listen, this is typical of the Clintons, Hugh. They set their own rules. And then they look at you say are you going to believe me or your lying eyes? This is the typical approach to the Clintons. They stonewall, they obfuscate, they don’t tell the truth. And you know, this’ll be a good test for Attorney General Lynch. Is she going to look into this, the entire email circumstance, or isn’t she? And I think it’s a good test for the new Attorney General.
HH: Now do you see any difference? David Petraeus, one of the country’s great generals, made a huge error of judgment, obviously, and he should not have allowed his biographer and his lover to have access to classified materials, and he got a two year probation and $100,000 dollar fine. But isn’t that minor league compared to what we’re talking about here?
CC: Seems that way, because here you have the nation’s chief diplomat who was using a private email server to conduct official business. I mean, listen, we all got those lessons. When I was a U.S. Attorney in the Justice Department, we couldn’t do that. Everything had to be on your official email account. So this seems like it’s very important, and I don’t know why the Justice Department is waiting. Maybe they are looking into it and they haven’t said so. But the fact of the matter is, is this is really important stuff.
HH: Now this is where you, I want you to put on your old United States Attorney had. You’re the only one in the race who was a prosecutor, as far as I can recall.
CC: Yes, sir.
HH: Is there another United States Attorney with jurisdiction here if in fact Attorney General Lynch doesn’t move? Do we look to the U.S. Attorney in Chappaqua? Do we look to the U.S. Attorney in Virginia? Who do we look to?
CC: Well, you can look to a couple of places, right? You could look to the place where the server was located, and the U.S. Attorney who has jurisdiction over that in Westchester County. That would be the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York, I believe. And you could also look to the U.S. Attorney in the eastern district of Virginia, because a lot of that stuff happened to also go through State Department channels as well, and also the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. So there’s a number of different folks who could take a look at this, but I’ll bet you this will be controlled and assigned out of main Justice.
HH: Well, given that, does anyone put up their hand and say I’m done here? You wouldn’t have put up with anything like this, would you? This Department of Justice is creating a second set of rules for Mrs. Clinton.
CC: Well, there’s no question, and what you do, if you’re the U.S. Attorney in one of those districts, you’re raising your hand right now and you’re saying I want this case. Let me do it. And if they’re unwilling to give you the opportunity to do it, then you’ve seriously got to consider whether you want to continue working in a Justice Department that says there’s one set of rules for the rest of America and a different set of rules for Mrs. Clinton.
HH: All right, Governor Christie, let’s turn to the debate next week. One set of rules for that debate requires polls. I’m not sure how Fox is doing this. Are you feeling comfortable that you’ll be on the stage next week?
CC: I feel good that I’ll be on the stage next week, yes, and I think no matter which polls they wind up using, we are going to wind up being in the top ten. And so we’ll be on the stage, and then once you’re on the stage, it doesn’t matter whether you’re number one, number four, number eight, you have a podium, you have a voice, you’re going to have time to speak, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to lay out my really specific, detailed vision for America’s future in front of a national television audience.
HH: So what happens when the Donald goes long or interrupts you? I actually kind of think that might be like Godzilla and Mothra, but…
CC: (laughing) Well listen, you know, if Donald tries to interrupt me, I can guarantee you that that’s not something I take from a reporter in the gaggle, and it won’t be anything I’ll take from somebody who’s standing on that stage as a colleague and a competitor.
HH: Now I said last night on the Hannity Show that Donald is probably, and I’m pretty certain is the only candidate of either party in this election or actually the last few about whom a Broadway musical almost certainly will be made?
HH: What do you make about his entrance into the race and his effect on it?
CC: Well, listen, you know, I’ve said all along that Donald Trump will be as serious a candidate as he wants to be by both how he gets himself ready for these debates, how substantive his proposals are for the future for the country, and the words that come out of his mouth. And so you know, I don’t know that I expected him to run, because he had said so many times before that he was going to and then did not. And so I was a little bit surprised that he actually did pull the trigger. I look forward to him being on the stage, as with everybody else. It’s a good group of folks, and we’re going to have a good debate.
HH: Now one of the things about which there’s genuine difference are drugs. And today, Nate Silver’s group over at 538 is trying to make it sound like you just announced your intention yesterday that you were going to enforce the federal laws on marijuana. You said that on my show months ago, and you’ve been saying it for a long time.
CC: Yes, I did.
HH: How important a divide is that among the Republican field, because Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and others disagree with you, I think.
CC: Well listen, I’m just for enforcing the law, Hugh. If these folks want to legalize marijuana, then stand up and say you want to legalize marijuana, and that as president you will put a bill forward in the House and the Senate to change the law. But we cannot pick and choose. You know, here’s the hypocrisy in this, Hugh, is they say it’s okay to pick and choose on whether to enforce the law against marijuana, but everybody’s against sanctuary cities. And that’s just picking and choosing which laws you’re going to enforce as well. This President has decided we’re not going to enforce the federal immigration laws. He’s going to permit for sanctuary cities. Well, if you’re against sanctuary cities, which I am, the only way to be consistent intellectually is to also be against letting marijuana be used recreationally in this country absent a change in the law.
HH: And if you did bring down the hammer, do you think you can get everyone back on the same page, because it’s 538 Blog’s proposition that the states are scattered everywhere, effective decriminalization. I was just in Alaska. It’s effectively decriminalized there. It will soon be legal to sell it in another year. Colorado, where I’ll be next week, it’s legal to sell. And other states are still arresting you for it. Can you put the king’s men back together again?
CC: That’s your job as president of the United States, and the attorney general you appoint will have to make the law enforcement decisions necessary to get it done, or change the law, Hugh. But I’m not for changing the law, to be very clear. But these other folks can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you’re for marijuana being a federal crime, but you’re not for it being a crime in another particular state.
HH: Now Governor Christie, I was asked this week how important the next attorney general will be, and I said it’s going to be extraordinarily important because of the return of the rule of law. Who will Chris Christie look for, the kind of person, a Mukasey sort of federal judge, or someone in whom you have complete trust as a longtime political associate? What kind of AG would Chris Christie want over at 9th and Constitution?
CC: I’m going to want somebody in charge of the Justice Department who has a history of prosecution, who knows how to prosecute cases, and I’m going to want somebody who is going to be credible not only to the folks on Capitol Hill where they’re going to have to be confirmed, but more importantly to the folks in the Justice Department whom he or she is going to have to direct. I want a professional, and I want somebody who agrees with my perspective on the fact that the rule of law has to be enforced in this country. And that’s the kind of person I’ll be looking for much more than someone who’s been with me for a long time, politically. I’m going to be looking for someone who has the credentials and the resume and the background to be credible when they stand up, whether it’s in front of the Congressional committees, or whether it’s in front of their employees as the Justice Department, or in front of the American people making the case on why particular law enforcement actions are necessary.
HH: Well, and that brings me back to the former Secretary of State. Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told me on this show that her server was compromised, probably in real time by a hostile intelligence agency. And someone’s going to have to investigate that if Loretta Lynch doesn’t. Won’t it be easier to do that if it’s a former federal judge as opposed to a political appointee, someone like Michael Mukasey coming in off of the bench to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton?
CC: Listen, it could be a federal judge, but it doesn’t have to be, Hugh. It has to be someone with a history of prosecutorial experience who has served the country well in other capacities. And we have a lot of those people out there, especially folks who served as U.S. Attorneys along with me in the Bush years and senior members of the Justice Department who have a long history of serving in those capacities. I wouldn’t preclude a federal judge, but I wouldn’t say that that’s absolutely a requirement for becoming the next attorney general.
HH: How important, last question before I turn to the politics of Iran and the substance of Iran, how important is prosecutorial experience to this campaign? I think you’re the only one on the stage with it. I’m running through my head. I don’t think anyone else really…
CC: I am.
HH: Yeah, okay.
CC: I am.
HH: So how important is that?
CC: Listen, I think it’s really important when you look at the quality of experience I’ve had – first prosecution of a terrorist post-9/11 was done by our office under my, over my supervision. And we had a number of large terrorist cases. We worked at the Joint Terrorism Task Force in one of the most dangerous areas in the country, in the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan area from a terrorism perspective. I know how important intelligence tools are. I know how important the law enforcement tools are. And I know and understand the nature of the threat and how to fight them, because for seven years, I was part of the team that kept America safe after 9/11. So I think it’s very, very important given the rise of ISIS, the continued existence of al Qaeda, now through this Iran deal, how we’re going to see Hezbollah funded even more. This is a dangerous, dirty world, Hugh, and you’re going to want somebody sitting in the Oval Office who understands how to use our intelligence capability and our law enforcement capability to do the first job we need to do, which is to keep the homeland safe.
HH: All right, well let me switch, then, to the Iran deal. How does the prospect of Iran with a nuclear weapon present a different problem than, say, Pakistan having a nuclear weapon, or our Indian allies having a nuclear weapon?
CC: Significantly different, because the folks in Pakistan or in India have not been chanting death to America for 36 years, burning American flags, holding American hostages, and promising to annihilate Israel off the face of the map. These are folks, and they have not been, neither India nor Pakistan, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Iran’s been all those things. And so this is a much different type of regime. And that, this regime should not be trusted with nuclear weapons. It’s outrageous.
HH: Is it a regime that can be deterred in the way that the USSR was deterred, or the PRC is by the nuclear triad?
CC: No, because the mutually assured destruction theory doesn’t work with folks who believe that they’re on a religious mission. And that’s what the Iranians believe they’re on.
HH: Is the American nuclear triad even necessary, if it’s affordable, and it’s really a two-part question. Is it necessary to have the three legs? And is it affordable to have all three legs?
CC: Yes, and yes. I think it is necessary for us to have the three legs, and I do think it’s affordable for us to have the three legs. It’s one of the reasons why I put forward a detailed entitlement reform plan that’ll save $1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years not only to make solvent Social Security and Medicare, which are on the road to insolvency so that they’re there for our seniors when they need them, but it’s also because it’ll free up some extra resources for us without having any increased taxes to be able to modernize our military.
HH: All right, a couple of last questions that are political. The last few vice presidents who have run on the Republican flag have been Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Jack Kemp, and Dan Quayle. Would you compare and contrast those and tell us which one is most like the person that Chris Christie will be looking for?
CC: I’m going to be looking for someone like Paul Ryan who has the type of cutting edge thoughts on how to deal with the problems of the 21st Century. I’m going to be looking for a tomorrow type of candidate if I were ever to get the nomination, and not a yesterday type of candidate. We need to move forward with new ideas to solve the problems of a new generation. So somebody like Paul Ryan is somebody who has the intellect and has given the thoughtfulness to the problems that we need, and he is someone who, you know, that type of person can be a full partner for a potential president in terms of trying to get to the bottom of some of the really big problems we have in our country.
HH: Is there a prohibition that you believe is real against naming candidates and vice presidential running mates before the nomination and before the government is formed? Because it seems to me the Republicans hide a lot of their advantage when it comes to talent, because they honor that unwritten rule, which is not actually a law.
CC: It is not. But I’ll tell you the truth. You know, I think for most of us in a 17 person field, you’re a little superstitious to start talking about running mates and everything else before you wind up securing at least close to enough delegates to actually secure the nomination. And so I’m sure it’s something that goes through all of the people’s minds who will be standing on that stage on Thursday night, but it’s not something that people, I think, want to talk about if for no other reason than not to seem presumptuous. And for those of us who are superstitious, and I am a little superstitious, I don’t want to jump into that breach until I actually secure the delegates I need to be the nominee next July in Cleveland.
HH :All right, let’s talk about that debate, last question. Most Americans over 50 shrug, and some even laugh at the idea of a 24/7 online world. But as you are debating, even at that moment, there will be a debate underway on Twitter about who’s winning, sort of like the debate when you did your epic press conference. I was watching that. I was tweeting about it.
HH: People instantly concluded you hit a home run at that press conference. They will instantly conclude, whether it’s James Hohmann or Michael Shear or Molly Ball or you know, Dave Weigel, they’re all over the place. Are you prepared to sort of win the debate within the debate? And how do you prepare for that?
CC: Listen, I think the only way that you prepare for that is by preparing yourself to be the best performer on the stage in the debate, to give the clearest, most direct, most complete answers, and to be on your toes for anything unusual that might happen based upon what someone else says. And you know what? You can’t train for that in a couple of weeks. That’s got to be something that you learn over the course of your career. And having done 138 town hall meetings in New Jersey as governor, I doubt there’s been many situations that I haven’t been confronted with already on my feet, even whether you’re prepared or unprepared. You’ve got to be ready to react and respond to it. I think that’s the way I’ll be ready, and the way I’m going to distinguish myself.
HH: So you don’t care, even if you’re on the far wing, if you’re the second to last, or the last guy onto the stage, you don’t mind being on the far right or the far left of that stage?
CC: I’m on the stage. That’s all that really matters. They’ll be asking me questions and everybody else, so it doesn’t much matter. And as we know, let’s remember this, Hugh, four years right now, Herman Cain was ahead in the polls. Eight years ago right now, Rudy Giuliani was ahead in the polls. You know, as far as I can recall, neither one of them got to be the Republican nominee for president. No one’s voting for seven months. Campaigns matter. How you conduct yourself in debates like this matter. How you campaign on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire matters. And so let’s just get to the campaign. And it’s going to really start in earnest on Thursday night on that stage in Cleveland.
HH: Chris Christie, great to talk to you. We’ll be watching on Thursday night, and I’ll be talking to you from that podium at the Reagan Library the following month. Good luck.
CC: Hugh, looking forward to it, and thanks for the time again today.
HH: Thank you, Governor Christie.
End of interview.