Gov. Christie offered a new critique of President Trump’s administration Sunday, saying a White House request that the FBI refute media reports of contacts between Trump associates and Russian intelligence indicated a lack of “sensibility” by the president’s staff.
“You need to have the sensibility of a prosecutor when you're dealing with these issues, because perception matters,” Christie, a former U.S. attorney, said on CNN’s State of the Union.
The governor said he didn’t think that Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, “thought he was doing anything wrong.” Priebus, CNN reported Thursday, asked FBI officials to push back on a New York Times story saying that associates of Trump had communicated with Russian intelligence officials during last year's presidential campaign.
The White House on Friday defended the outreach to the FBI, saying Priebus had little choice after the FBI approached the White House about the Times article.
Christie said he doubted that Priebus would “ever have that type of conversation” again.
An early Trump supporter, Christie rejected the notion that a special prosecutor was needed to investigate Trump’s aides and their contacts with Russia, accusing Democrats calling for an independent investigation of “overreaching.” (On Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) also called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself.)
“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat … when a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control,” said Christie, who last year called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton Foundation.
But Christie also said that “the sensibilities need to be tightened a little bit at the White House, as well.”
“Remember, these are all people who have never been in government before,” Christie said. “They’re going to need to learn these things.”
Christie – who previously described Trump as ill-served by staff in the rollout of his order restricting immigration – said Sunday that “what [Trump] wants are results.”
“The folks around him are going to have to start producing results for him,” Christie said. If that happens, lack of governing experience won’t matter, he said. “If it doesn’t happen, it will.”
Christie also defended against criticism that Trump appeared to be more focused on personal grievances than issues affecting his voters’ lives, arguing that the president could manage “a lot of different battles” at the same time.
“When he engages, no matter whether it’s with the New York Times or ISIS … it energizes him,” Christie said.
He offered little sympathy for Republican members of Congress facing – and sometimes avoiding – demands to hold town-hall meetings in their districts.
“Welcome to the real world of responsibility,” said Christie, who has held frequent town-hall meetings as a presidential candidate and as governor, though not since Trump's election.
“We understand a lot of these protesters are professional protesters,” Christie said, echoing an assertion made by many Republicans. (In Marlton last week, constituents of Tom MacArthur shot back at that claim.)
“Let them yell themselves out.”