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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vowed to get on the debate stage to face off with Donald Trump – even if he has to sign a ‘loyalty’ pledge the Republican National Committee is demanding of participants.
‘I’ll be on the debate stage and I will take the pledge that the RNC puts in front of me just as seriously as Donald Trump did eight years ago,’ Christie said Wednesday, hours after mounting blistering attacks on Trump at a town hall in Manchester where he announced his campaign.
‘I will do whatever I have to do, George, to be on that stage,’ Christie told interviewer George Stephanopoulos, who had noted his past statements never to back Trump, the leading GOP contender for president.
Christie referenced Trump’s own decision in 2016 to pledge to back the nominee and not run an independent challenge, only to walk it back during a live CNN debate.
‘I’m going to do exactly what the RNC has set us up to do,’ Christie said. ‘I’m going to do whatever I need to do to save my party and save my country,’ he added, when pressed in an appearance on ‘Good Morning America.’
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tore into Donald Trump in remarks in New Hampshire Tuesday
The RNC is headed by Trump loyalist Ronna McDaniel. Christie also must meet other criteria: amassing 40,000 donors nationwide and being at 1 per cent in the polls, something he said he would achieve.
Christie made the comments in his first TV interview after his brash announcement. He spoke from the stadium of the city’s minor league Fisher Cats stadium, after appearing for years on ABC’s ‘This Week’ with Stephanopoulos.
‘I’m going to miss you on the roundtable,’ the former Bill Clinton advisor told him. But his former colleague noted Christie was far behind in the polls and pressed him on how he would prevail.
Christie revisited some of his attacks on Trump from hours earlier, when he attacked his former ally for ‘broken promises like that, George, aren’t acceptable to the American people.
Christie said he would take the pledge ‘as seriously’ as Trump did in 2016 – when he dropped the pledge
These included building a border wall, repealing and replacing Obamacare, and balancing the budget.
Christie told Axios in March he could never support Trump again. ‘I can’t help him. No way,’ he said.
At an early Fox News debate in 2015, Trump was the only candidate to raise his hand saying he would refuse to commit to backing the eventual nominee and refusing to run as an independent.
In September 15 he signed a pledge, but backed away from it in in March 2016 amid his angry clash with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
‘No, I don’t anymore,’ he said at a CNN town hall.
Christie began his return to the national political stage with an opening message: ‘Go big’ – then flashed his ability to go for the jugular.
He denied running for president as a spoiler but said he did want to take down Donald Trump – who he hit for ‘coddling’ Vladimir Putin, running ‘failed casinos’ and ‘reprehensible’ bartering of Ukrainian aide that was the subject of Trump’s second impeachment.
He said Americans knew Trump was ‘full of it’ when he said Mexico would pay for the border wall, then vowed not to make the mistake of letting Trump’s claims go unchecked.
Christie, who filed paperwork to run for president Tuesday, railed against the ‘disrespect, the narcissism and the lying for four years’ of the Trump era. ‘The people in the middle said enough,’ he said, pointing to the 2020 results.
He promised to take on Trump’s four-year record, and needled fellow Republicans for being unwilling to even say his name, like ‘Voldemort’ in the Harry Potter series.
Christie took on Trump for ‘lying’ about issues from the budget deficit to saying he wouldn’t play golf while president. He even went after Trump’s family.
‘The grift form this family is breathtaking,’ Christie told a crowd at a town hall in Manchester. ‘Jared Kushner and Ivanka Kushner walk out of the White House and months later get $2 billion from the Saudis. You think it’s because he’s some kind of investing genius?’ he said, pointing to the deal Trump’s son-in-law inked with the Saudi investment fund months after Trump left office. ‘That’s your money he stole, and gave it to his family. You know that what makes us? A banana republic,’ he said.
Christie once prosecuted Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, who Trump pardoned in his last days of office.
He said he ‘can’t imagine’ pardoning Trump – but said he would have to learn what he is charged with and convicted of in the hypothetical as his rival faces multiple investigations.
Christie began a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire by listing leaders from the founders to Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy who he said were willing to go big when it mattered.
Then he ripped rivals he dubbed ‘pretenders’ he said were seeking to divert attention by focusing on small issues in an effort to divide the nation for their own advantage.
‘We have candidates for president who are talking about issues that are so small that sometimes it’s hard to even understand them,’ he said, in a remark that seemed aimed at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
He said Donald Trump ‘made us smaller by dividing us even further and pitting one group against another, different groups pitted against different groups every day.’
He said ‘pretenders’ were seeking ‘to divide you further, to make it easier for them to rule over you.’
Christie spoke at a town hall at St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute Of Politics in Manchester, putting him face to face with voters in a state where he focused heavily in his 2016 campaign, but where he came in sixth.
He spoke at first without dropping a name about a leader he called ‘lonely, self consumed and self-serving mirror hog.’
Then, in blunt talk he plans to once again make a hallmark of his campaign, Christie said: ‘The person I am talking about who is obsessed with the mirror, who never admits a mistake, who never admits a fault …. is Donald Trump.’
Christie made clear from the beginning of his remarks he would deliver on his promise to take the fight to Trump, who stands far above rivals in the GOP field.
Christie accused Trump of ‘coddling’ Vladimir Putin and disingenuously saying Mexico would pay for the border wall
Christie took on Ron DeSantis for his ‘territorial dispute’ comment about Russia’s war on Ukraine that DeSantis tried to walk back
‘Joe Biden never beat anybody outside of Delaware for 40 years. Except for one guy: Donald J. Trump,’ said Christie
‘The grift form this family is breathtaking,’ Christie said, going after Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump for Kushner’s inking a $2 billion deal with a Saudi investment fund months after leaving office
His first question came from a clinical psychologist who said the nation has been ‘traumatized.’
Christy denounced ‘chaos’ and ‘constant screaming, yelling,’ as well as ‘faux strength.’
‘If you direct that chaos to aggrandize yourself … well then you’re traumatizing the nation,’ he said.
‘There is no such thing as Trump voters,’ he told a 15-year-old questioner. ‘He doesn’t own them. He didn’t’ take title to them. They’re not one of his buildings. They’re not one of his failed casinos in New Jersey. They’re not that wreck he’s got in Las Vegas.’
Christie ridiculed the narrative that he is running as a spoiler on a kamikaze mission to take down Trump.
‘The guy’s ahead in the polls. Who am I supposed to be worried about, Nikki Haley?’ he said in response to a question about what he learned from his failed 2016 run.
He vowed not to make the ‘same mistake’ of letting Trump boasts go unchecked on the assumption that people won’t believe them.
‘The reason I’m going after Trump is two-fold. One he deserves it. And two it’s the way to win,’ he said.
Even after joking about his sixth place finish, he said his run for the White House is real.
‘I am going out there to take out Donald Trump. But here’s why: I want to win. And I don’t want him to win.’
‘There are not multiple lanes to the nomination,’ he said, ridiculing the political science talk.
‘There is one lane to the Republican nomination, and he’s in front of it. And you want to win? You’d better go right through him.’ Then he spoke of Trump’s penchant to attack rivals: he already attacked Christie’s weight days ago.
‘He’s going to try to go through me,’ Christie said.
Christie gave Biden credit for helping rally Europe to arm Ukraine, but didn’t go easy on him either.
‘He’s a nice guy. I’ve known him for 40 years,’ said Christie. ‘He is out of his depth because he’s not the guy he used to be,’ he said.
He took shots at former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for dancing around her criticism of Trump. He even mentioned soon-to-be candidate North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. ‘They don’t know Doug Burgum in South Dakota,’ he quipped.
Christie twice mentioned Bridge-gate, once when asked if he had any regrets. He spoke about officials he designated who ‘used my power and my authority to play a fraternity prank, and it cost me a lot,’ speaking of the closure of the George Washington Bridge.
‘It was a mistake on my part. I didn’t see who they really were. And I’ve got to be responsible for that,’ he said.