Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined me this morning, and made some news:
HH: I’m so pleased to welcome back Governor Chris Christie, a frequent guest during the campaign of 2016. He’s been back a few times since then. Good morning, Governor. Congratulations on your recovery. It’s so good to see you back. I’m going to play your PSA here in a minute, but so good to have you back on the air.
CC: Hugh, great to be back with you. Thanks for having me on. And it’s great to be here.
HH: Now before I go to the PSA, I want to talk about that, but I’ve got to ask you. You described yourself as a secondary Jets fan. They managed to win a game yesterday and lose their number one draft. I mean, are you a little despairing over the Jets’ inadequacy at even losing?
CC: Yes. They can’t even screw things up successfully, Hugh. It’s just, it’s incredible. It’s incredible, and to beat the Rams. And it’s Sean McVay, who’s supposed to be a football genius. You have to lose that title if you lose to this New York Jets team.
HH: Well, the Browns are playing the Jets next week. I need the Jets to revert. I need them to go back to being what they were.
CC: Oh, don’t worry, Hugh. They will. Don’t you worry.
HH: I also need the Mets to put everything on the table for Frankie Lindor in Cleveland, because he’s got to leave Cleveland. And I think the Mets are the only people that have the money and the talent in the minors to get him. Are you urging Steve Cohen to do that?
CC: I am not urging Steve Cohen to do that, Hugh. This is where we part company. I don’t think we need to make those kinds of trades. I don’t want to trade some of our young talent in the minor leagues. I want to use the money the Mets now have to be able to pick up some good free agents and move from there.
HH: They’ve got the endless, I mean, they could sign Frankie for 10 years. He’s the greatest personality in baseball. He can just, and we could, well, we’ll leave that aside. Let me play, Governor Christie, the PSA that I saw for the first time yesterday that you recorded and then let’s talk about it. Let’s play it, Duane.
CC: This message isn’t for everyone. It’s for all those people who refuse to wear a mask. You know, lying in isolation in ICU for 7 days, I thought about how wrong I was to remove my mask at the White House. Today, I think about how wrong it is to let mask wearing divide us, especially as we now know you’re twice as likely to get COVID-19 if you don’t wear a mask, because if you don’t do the right thing, we could all end up on the wrong side of history. Please, wear a mask.
HH: So Governor, that is straightforward. It is powerful, and you’ve been there and done that, and you don’t want anyone else to go through what you went through.
CC: Absolutely right, Hugh. Listen, for seven months, I wore a mask all the time, washed my hands 10 or 12 times a day, socially distanced, and I stayed healthy. For four days in the White House, I let my guard down, because I thought I was in a safe space. And what I learned was there is no safe space from this virus in this country right now. And if you can get that disease while you’re standing in the White House where everybody was getting tested, it means you can get it anywhere. So I want people to learn from the mistake I made in thinking there was a safe space. Now that these vaccines are getting out there, we see light at the end of this tunnel. Thank goodness for the extraordinary pharmaceutical industry we have in this country that was able to get that done. And, but let’s not let our guard down. Let’s put masks on. It is not the ultimate sacrifice to be asked to make as Americans. Lots of other Americans sacrifice much more to save lives, and I want people to learn from my mistake. It was a mistake for me, and I wanted to admit it and let people learn from it so hopefully we save some lives.
HH: You know, Governor, this is a tough disease. Last night, Myles Garrett, maybe the best athlete in the NFL, was breathing hard. He had COVID. And he said after the game this thing kicked me in the butt. I’m still on my back. I’m gasping for breath. You’ve had it. How bad is it?
CC: It, when it hits you, Hugh, it hits you like a freight train. And you know, I got it while preparing the President for the first presidential debate. And you know, I didn’t get the symptoms for about three days after I left the White House. But on that Friday, I started to get it. My fever went up five degrees in the span of about six, seven hours. Every muscle in my body hurt. You know, had trouble breathing, had, you know, all the symptoms that you’ve heard about. And it comes on out of nowhere just like a freight train. And by the time I got to Saturday morning, Hugh, I had to go to the hospital. And it was, I have asthma. I’ve had asthma since I was 15 years old. It was further complicated by a course of treatment. But you know, just very, very lucky. I got wonderful treatment, and I was able to get through it.
HH: Governor, you bring up something that’s interesting. You advised the President on the first debate. A lot of people think that was a bad point in the campaign. Did he attack the debate the way that you had advised him to attack the debate, the first debate?
CC: No, he did not. And in fact, the last bit of advice, you know, I was in the Oval Office with him, and he’s getting ready to leave for the debate. And he said to me, you get one last shot. And I said let Joe Biden talk. If you let him talk, he will hurt himself. And he gave me a thumbs up, and he walked out of the Oval Office. And he interrupted him 71 times in 90 minutes. So no, he didn’t, that was not the debate I advised him to have, nor Kellyanne Conway, who was also in the room, nor Bill Steppien, who was also in the room. All of us said if Joe Biden interrupts you, don’t let him interrupt you, but not to be interrupting nearly as much as he did that night. That was really almost the polar opposite of what we had been practicing for four days in the White House. And we had six or seven sessions with him in four days at the White House. And I felt really good, Hugh. When we left that Tuesday, I felt like he was going to have a really good debate on Tuesday night. And it just didn’t work out that way.
HH: Well, he fixed it in time for the second one.
HH: I don’t think it’s going to be the decisive thing. Are you still talking with the President much before the transition, Chris Christie?
CC: I’m trying to. You know, it’s, the President is very, very focused now just on his continued concerns about how the election went. Those are things that he and I do not agree on. And so I try not to agitate him too much. But listen, I’ve been his friend for 20 years. I’ll continue to be his friend. But on this one, we have a fundamental disagreement.
HH: Will you advise him to attend the inauguration of President-Elect Biden?
CC: I think he should. I think these type of rituals and traditions and norms are important in our democracy. But I’m doubtful that he will.
HH: Have you discussed it with him?
CC: You know, Hugh, I don’t want to talk about that. I just want to say my impression is that I’m doubtful he will. But he’s Donald Trump, which makes it very unpredictable. So you never quite know.
HH: Why is it unfortunate if he does not attend?
CC: Because, Hugh, I think that lots of other people have gone through very difficult losses like the President went through. Let’s face it. You know, Hugh, I was very disappointed that he lost. But, and it is disappointing. And losing in politics hurts much more than winning feels good. It’s just a fact. But Al Gore sat there in 2000. That was a very, very difficult loss, and a much closer loss than this one. Hillary Clinton sat there four years ago. You know, you go through the years. George Bush 41 sat there after losing a three-way race to Bill Clinton, where Bill Clinton didn’t get anywhere near a majority of the vote. And Ross Perot really played spoiler there. I mean, there’s been a lot of difficult races over the years, and there’s really only three examples that I know of in history where the president didn’t go – John Adams after the election of 1800. You know, you had John Quincy Adams after he lost to Andrew Jackson, and Harry Truman, who didn’t even lose to Dwight Eisenhower, but who had a very troubled relationship with Eisenhower, who didn’t go. I don’t think anybody looks back on any of those three examples in history and says that was the right thing to do. I’m hoping…
HH: And Grover Cleveland, he did it four times. He won twice and he lost twice, or he was replaced twice. We had to do four inaugurations.
HH: Speaking of which, if President Trump decides to run in 2024, are you ruling out running against him?
CC: I would not. No.
HH: All right. You would not rule out? Or you would not run?
CC: I would not rule it out, Hugh.
HH: Well, that would be interesting.
CC: Yeah. That would be a no.
HH: That’s interesting. I want to talk to you about Bill Barr, because you’ve been a U.S. attorney. And I have not seen any U.S. attorney criticize Bill Barr fairly. I’ve seen some critics of him. What do you make, he’s leaving at the end of this week, what do you make of his performance as attorney general?
CC: Listen, I think overall, I would give the attorney general a B. I think he did, I think he did a very good job under some difficult circumstances. I didn’t agree with him in the way he handled the Mueller report when it came out. I think he should have been more direct and more transparent about that in the beginning. But I also think that he had a very difficult boss to work for in terms of what the President’s expectations were and understanding of what the Justice Department can do and cannot do. And I think that Bill Barr, when the big decisions needed to be made, the difficult ones, I sided with him much more than I didn’t, and I think he was a good attorney general. Certainly, certainly, Hugh, eons better than Jeff Sessions, who may have been one of the five worst attorney generals in my lifetime.
HH: Now the, Attorney General Barr did not announce or allow anyone to reference the Hunter Biden investigation, because of the standing rule, the 90 day rule. Do you applaud his discretion and the discipline with which he enforced that in the run up to the election?
CC: I do, and the reason I do is because we wouldn’t have wanted it done to us, Hugh. You know, the fact is that the way it works, and the way it’s explained to us as U.S. attorneys is that we should not be talking about who we’re investigating until we’re ready to stand up and either, and bring a charge and stand behind that charge. And that makes sense, because you know, a U.S. attorney, anybody at the Department of Justice, saying someone’s under investigation is ruinous to that person’s reputation. And then if it turns out they’re not charged, you can never put that toothpaste back in the tube. It just doesn’t work that way. You know the old story, Hugh. You know, the allegation is on page one, the exoneration is on page 20. That’s just the way it works in the world, and I think it’s very important to protect people’s reputations in that way. And I know that there are lots of people who wish that it would’ve been announced. I think the much bigger problem was the way the media dealt with the Hunter Biden issues, whether it was social media, with Twitter and the others who were not allowing the New York Post to retweet their stories, or the other mainstream media who didn’t pay any attention to the Hunter Biden case at all. That’s outrageous. It’s not the Justice Department that failed here. They did what they were supposed to do. It was the media that failed the American people by not putting the attention on that story it deserved. And it’s now going to hurt the new administration coming in if that story, if that story winds up having traction, because it’s going to be very difficult for them not to deal with that.
HH: Do you think Hunter Biden declared his Burisma income?
CC: I don’t have any idea, Hugh, but if it didn’t, he’s got a big problem on his hands.
HH: Yeah. Let me ask you about John Durham, who I assume you knew as a U.S. attorney.
HH: What do you think? What do the signals tell you about his investigation and his status as a special counsel? Dare Biden remove him? And the President-Elect has got a problem on his hands if he does.
CC: No, I don’t think that, listen, I agree with you completely. If the President-Elect removes John Durham, he’s got a big problem on his hands. He’s buying much bigger trouble than he can come up with, I think. I think that John Durham’s going to have to be permitted to continue his work. My impression of John Durham when I knew him as a member of the Justice Department was a very careful, very smart, very good prosecutor.
HH: So last question, Governor. If I go and look up Christie2024, will that URL already be reserved?
CC: Well, but ChrisChristie.com is, sir. So we’re going to keep that one, and we’ll see where we go from here, Hugh.
HH: All right, Governor. Good to have you back. Good to hear you in good spirits. Any lingering effects from that disease?
CC: Luckily for me, Hugh, no. I had about three weeks after I left the hospital of real lingering fatigue. But fortunately, that’s now resolved, and I really do feel 100%, and feel like it’s the best gift I could have gotten for Christmas this year.
HH: Well, the blessings to your family. And wear a mask, the PSA, is out there. Congratulations on doing that. I’m glad you did, and thank you for joining us, Governor.
CC: Hugh, thank you. Hope to come back again soon. Love your show.
HH: You bet.
End of interview.