Republican leaders came out on Sunday morning talk shows in support of their embattled colleague Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has faced harsh scrutiny since his administration was implicated last month in a scheme to create traffic gridlock as political retribution against a local mayor.
GOP allies including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal all showed solidarity with Christie, saying that before all the facts are known for certain about Christie’s involvement in the scandal, it’s too early to pull the plug on the aspiring 2016 presidential candidate.
“I consider Chris Christie a friend. I think he’s been a fantastic governor,” Ryan said in an interview on ABC’s This Week Sunday. “Right now, all we know is one person’s word against another. You can’t base any conclusion on such a thing… And so unless something else is known or made clear, I don’t see why you would change what’s going on right now. I don’t think he should step down because nothing has been proven, and you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kind of situations, in my judgment.”
Federal and New Jersey state investigations are probing the traffic scandal after it was revealed that a top Christie aide organized lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to snarl traffic as revenge against a local New Jersey Mayor who had refused to endorse Christie for re-election.
A lawyer for former Christie ally and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey appointee David Wildstein claimed Friday that “evidence exists” that Christie knew of the traffic jam, despite his claims to ignorance in a press conference last month. Wildstein’s lawyer wrote a letter citing unspecified evidence tying Christie to knowledge of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge “during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly.”
Christie has virulently denied the allegations, denouncing Wildstein, and Giuliani said Sunday in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation that it’s too early to tell. “The governor has denied it. So far, there’s no evidence to suggest that he’s not telling the truth. I think the governor knows the consequences,” said Giuliani. “If he’s lying, it’s a really bad situation. If he’s not lying, then something very unfair is being done to him. So let’s see what happens.”
“If the governor didn’t tell the truth, the governor is in serious trouble,” Giuliani went on. “[But] we shouldn’t jump to that conclusion until there’s evidence to suggest that.”
Christie plays a highly visible role in the GOP as chair of the Republican Governors Association. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a former head of the association, said he supported the beleaguered governor’s chairmanship, and emphasized unification within the GOP.
“I don’t think he should step down, I think he should stay there,” Jindal said of Christie on CNN’s State of the Union. In the RGA, he said, “no one governor is more important than another… What really matters is the RGA is a place where our governors come together.”