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Bucking his party, Chris Christie makes his case for 2024

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a town hall-style event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on June 6, Manchester, N.H.
Michael M. Santiago
Getty Images
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a town hall-style event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on June 6, Manchester, N.H.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still a Republican – after all, he's running for that party's presidential nomination, as he unsuccessfully did in 2016. But today, his views on Ukraine, on abortion and on other issues put him out of step with many in the party he hopes to lead.

"Look, I think our country is in a much different place. And I think I'm a much different candidate than I was eight years ago," Christie told NPR. "I'm looking at this as a real moment for change for our party. And I got into this race because I felt like no one was making that case. No one was willing to take the case directly to Donald Trump as to why he and through his conduct had disqualified himself for ever being president of the United States again. I want to make that case. I've been making that case. I think it's important not only for my party, but for our country."

In a wide-ranging interview with Susan Davis and Tamara Keith on The NPR Politics Podcast, Christie explained his views on potential Republican efforts to impeach President Biden, access to abortion and former President Donald Trump.

Interview Highlights

On the indictments facing former President Trump

DAVIS: Do you have any doubt about these indictments? Do you believe that they're driven by politics? And do you have any reason to doubt the motives of these investigators, in particular, people like special counsel Jack Smith?

First off, what I see disqualifies are not the indictments themselves. It's the conduct that underlies those indictments. So to be clear, I think it's the conduct of the man that disqualifies him from being president much more than the judgment of any individual prosecutor. I've said publicly too that I think I would not have brought either the New York case or the Atlanta case against Donald Trump. I think the New York case was a silly one to bring. And while I don't approve of his conduct of paying off a porn star to hide a extramarital affair while you're running for president, I do not think that that's something that should be a top priority of the Manhattan DA's office, given what I see happening in Manhattan every week from a crime perspective. And the Atlanta case, I think, had already been brought against Donald Trump by Jack Smith. And I think, you know, doubling up on those kind of prosecutions never makes sense. When I was U.S. attorney, I always tried to make sure I cooperated with local prosecutors. And we either did the case together where possible or we made a choice as to which one of us would bring it based upon what would be best for the investigation. But the two federal cases, I believe, are absolutely appropriate cases to have been brought. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence as everybody in this country is. But I think particularlythe classified documents case is one that he will have a very, very hard time, either legally or factually, getting out from under.

On potential Republican efforts to impeach President Biden for his son Hunter Biden's business dealings

DAVIS: Do you think that case is there? Do you think that an impeachment case should be broughtagainst the president?

Not at this point. But I do think that it's necessary, given what we've seen, for there to be oversight by the House. If that oversight then gives us evidence that the president was somehow involved, and he's been very clear about saying, as has his spokespeople, that he's had no involvement and any time with his son's business. Now, you know, whether those phone calls that we've heard about amount to enough to impeach, I would doubt, but I need to see the rest of the evidence. So, no, I don't think that's the case at the moment. But I do think there's enough smoke that the DOJ should be looking into it, that David Weiss, the special counsel, should be looking into that, and the House should be providing appropriate oversight to get the facts out.

On abortion access and federal legislation concerning abortion

KEITH: If Congress sends to your desk any legislation that would put restrictions on abortion access, would you sign it into law?

As I've said on this issue, I think we fought as conservatives for 50 years to say this is not a federal issue, it's a state issue. And so first, I hope that what happens over the course of the next 16 months or so is that each of the states and their people weigh in on this issue of abortion, whether it's through referenda or whether it's through actions by the legislature and the governor. After that, if there were a consensus, an obvious national consensus that was adopted by the Congress, I would consider signing such a piece of legislation. But I don't think the federal government should preempt the rights of the states and their people to make these decisions. And I have a hard time at the moment believing you can get 60 votes in the Senate for any of those proposals. But if a national consensus were formed by the wisdom of the 50 states, their action, I'd consider it. But the states should be the ones who are making the calls on this and the people of each of those 50 states.

KEITH: Are there any states that have limits that you think are too strict or too lenient?

Sure. I think Oklahoma having no abortion available except to save the life of the mother is too strict. And I think New Jersey allowing abortions up to the ninth month of pregnancy is too lenient. I really believe that the states should make these determinations. I'm willing to give you what I think are outliers on both sides, but I want the states to make these calls. I've argued both as a lawyer and as a politician that Roe v. Wade was wrong, that it shouldn't have been a federal issue, that it's not a constitutional issue. And I think it would be hypocritical of me now to say, well, now that Roe is gone, let's have the federal government take this over. In making the call, I think the states should do it.

On access to healthcare for transgender youth

KEITH: You are the only Republican in the race who opposes bans on specialized health care for transgender youth. And we're wondering what shaped your view on this?

Well, I thought what shaped my view is I'm a conservative Republican who doesn't want the government telling mothers and fathers how to treat their children. No one loves my four children more than I do and my wife does, and no one knows what's better for our children than we do. Certainly, no governor sitting in a state capital knows better how my children should be raised than I do. And I believe that's a conservative Republican position, and I'm not a big government Republican. I think any type of government intervention of that kind between parents and their children is wrong, and that's why I oppose it.

Casey Morell produced the podcast audio and wrote the digital story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Casey Morell (he/him) is an associate producer/director of All Things Considered.

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