on with kara swisher

Chris Christie Says He Was ‘Honest’ When Questioned in Case Against Trump

Kara Swisher talks to the former governor about Trump’s legal peril.

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images
Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

In addition to his stints as a U.S. attorney, the governor of New Jersey, and a Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie has had an interesting relationship with Donald Trump. They were friendly long before Trump became a big Republican deal in the run up to the 2016 election, when after giving up his own bid for the nomination, Christie joined the chorus of GOP big shots endorsing him. During Trump’s presidency, Christie was one of the few Republicans willing to criticize him, but he didn’t really turn on Trump completely until after the 2020 election, when the former president refused to concede his loss.

Now Christie is once again running for president, and in addition to making some of the most blunt attacks on Trump of anyone in his party, he’s trying to make a case for himself and his long-shot candidacy with GOP primary voters — the vast majority of whom remain solidly behind the former president. On the latest episode of On With Kara Swisher, Kara grills Christie about his Trump flip-flops, his pitch to voters, and in the below excerpt, what he makes of the criminal cases against the former president. The interview was recorded the day before Trump was hit with a second federal indictment by special counsel Jack Smith, for Trump’s attempts to remain in power after losing the 2020 election, so they didn’t have the chance to talk about that, but Christie did reveal that he himself had been questioned in one of the election-related cases against Trump, and he explained why he thinks the chances of Trump going to jail are high.

On With Kara Swisher

Journalist Kara Swisher brings the news and newsmakers to you twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.

Kara Swisher: Let’s talk about the indictments. I want to know what the most… We can’t go into them in great detail, but you’re a lawyer, so it’s helpful. What are the most damaging? As a former prosecutor, can you rank them? And I know you can’t judge them because you haven’t seen the evidence, blah, blah, blah. But you have some sense?

Chris Christie: I think that the most legally perilous one for him is the documents’ case for two reasons. One, because of the nature of those documents. And I think a jury, when they ultimately see them, will be really, really offended by the idea that someone would keep these things illegally and then show them around to people willy-nilly. And secondly, the obstruction is so blatant. And even now, the superseding indictment on sending Fredo down to Mar-a-Lago to delete the server, it’s so blatant that it is an acknowledgement of guilt and fault. Because, if you didn’t think you did anything wrong, you wouldn’t be looking to delete the information off of the cameras. You’d say, “Look at whatever you want to look at. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Swisher: And “the boss wants to.” It does have-

Christie: It is very —

Swisher: I’m Italian, you’re allowed to use Fredo. Go ahead.

Christie: Yeah, it’s absolutely… And I think for those of us who are, we know exactly what Fredo-types are. So I’d say that’s the most dangerous one because of the conduct. The second one, my guess will be, it will be the January 6 one. I really don’t know yet. I’ve seen the target letter, but I don’t know exactly what they’re going to charge him and what the quantum of their evidence is. But I kind of suspect they have a number of cooperating witnesses in the January 6th thing that’ll talk about his conduct that day, and in the days leading up to it. And on two scores. One, that there were any number of people who were telling him, “You lost. Like, We’ve looked at everything, you lost.”

Swisher: Including his daughter.

Christie: Right. Although I don’t know what kind of witness she’ll be. But then also his conduct on the day of January 6th and his unwillingness to intervene, to attempt to stop the violence until it was much too late, and much of the damage had already been done.

Swisher: And what about the others?

Christie: I’d say the Atlanta one is going to be problematic because of the use of his own voice in the taping of —

Swisher: And it’s a RICO, it’s a racketeering —

Christie: Well and they have a very broad state RICO statute, which is kind of unusual. Most states don’t have a RICO statute, and that’ll expose them to a lot of potential state prison time. Again, the only thing I hesitate on is, I want to know what the quality of the evidence they have, wholly, is on it. But the tape alone of him saying, “Just find me 11,000 and some votes.” And the fact that people had told him, repeatedly, that the claims of fraud in Georgia were ill-founded, from the governor of Georgia right on down. So it’s not like he had incredible people telling him this stuff, people who knew it.

Swisher: As a prosecutor, how would you look at this case? Would you be like, “I got him.”

Christie: Which one?

Swisher: Any of them.

Christie: And by the way, the New York one I think is silly. Unfortunately, what Alvin Bragg did here demeans the other cases. And the fact that he went first —

Swisher: Many people have forgotten about that one.

Christie: Yeah, unfortunately. But I think it set the tone, and people thought, “Oh, well see, this is just a political thing.” And now Jack Smith’s work is being looked at in the same light, which I think is unfortunate. I don’t really think there’s anything political about what Jack Smith is doing.

Swisher: So how effective is that, calling it a “witch hunt” and stuff like that? It seems to be effective among his supporters.

Christie: I think it’s effective among his supporters. I think once you get into a courtroom, it’s not effective at all.

Swisher: Right. Which is what happened with the election lies.

Christie: That’s right.

Swisher: He lost in court after — including with CNN.

Christie: Yeah. And I think that will be his problem. His problem’s going to be there’s come a moment where he’s going to have to come eye-to-eye with the fact that he, more likely than not, is going to be convicted of one or more of these indictments. And if you take it to trial, especially on the federal level, there’s a presumption of jail. So he’s got to come to grips with that and make a decision about whether to try to make a deal or not, they’re trying to make a deal right now.

Swisher: So talk about that. Have you been questioned in any of the investigations?

Christie: Questioned in any of the investigations? One of them.

Swisher: Which one?

Christie: Well I can’t say.

Swisher: Okay.

Christie: But one of them.

Swisher: One of them? And what was the broad idea?

Christie: They were trying to get a handle on what I knew about his knowledge of the reality of the election results.

Swisher: Okay, all right. And when was this?

Christie: When was I questioned? … Six weeks ago, eight weeks ago.

Swisher: Okay.

Christie: So we’re in that range.

Swisher: Were you helpful?

Christie: I was honest.

Swisher: Okay, all right.

Christie: I hope that was helpful.

Swisher: All right. But getting to the point, you think he might take a plea deal in order to avoid going to prison. A lot of people have talked about this recently.

Christie: Well, because it’s becoming real.

Swisher: Even his supporters are like, “Well, even though it’s a witch hunt, maybe he should take a plea deal.” You never really say that. Explain how that would work universally. And can you or anyone beat Trump if he doesn’t take a plea?

Christie: Oh, I think he could still be defeated. I think he could still be defeated in a primary if he does not take a plea. But I think that any plea would have to include him agreeing to not run for any public office again.

Swisher: Can you do that?

Christie: Sure you can. Yeah.

Swisher: So how do you think he will take it? Many people think this is a big bet on his part.

Christie: I don’t think —

Swisher: Not to go to jail. He’s got to win or he’s got to have a Republican who wins, who’s going to pardon him, right?

Christie: Right, yep. I don’t think he can deal with the idea of going to jail. And I’ve always thought that based off a conversation I had with him 18 years ago. We had just finished convicting and sentencing a guy named John Lynch, who for a period of time in New Jersey was the Senate president. So a very powerful guy, a Democrat. And Trump and I were having dinner sometime thereafter, just the two of us. And he said to me, “So what’s going to happen to John Lynch now?” And I said, “Well, I forget what his reporting date is, but he’s going to jail.” He goes, “No, no, no. I mean what are they going to really do with him? He’s not going to a real jail. Where’s he going?” I said, “He’s going to federal prison, Donald.” And he reached over and grabbed my arm and he said to me, “I could never do that. I could never go to jail. That’s unbelievable. I couldn’t go to jail.” And that’s 18 years ago. I remember that conversation very clearly. And I think —

Swisher: But he still doesn’t believe he could go to jail.

Christie: Well, no. What he was saying though was: I couldn’t. I physically couldn’t.

Swisher: I couldn’t, but you think he right now believes where he said, no, he is not really going to jail, Chris.

Christie: Well, now he knows that’s what happens and I think he fears it.

Swisher: Right.

Christie: I think there’s no doubt in my mind that more nights than not, whether he is in Bedminster or in Mar-a-Lago, he lays down in bed, the lights go out and he’s staring at the ceiling thinking —

Swisher: “I could go to jail.”

Christie: “I could go to jail.”

This interview has been edited for clarity.

On With Kara Swisher is produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Cristian Castro Rossel, and Megan Burney, with mixing by Fernando Arruda, engineering by Christopher Shurtleff, and theme music by Trackademics. New episodes will drop every Monday and Thursday. Follow the show on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Chris Christie: ‘I Was Honest’ When Questioned in Trump Case