Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sideswiped several top congressional Republicans as he exited the GOP presidential primary on Wednesday.
Christie had been the party’s most vocal candidate warning that former President Donald Trump is a threat to democracy and should be viewed by his party and voters as unfit for office. Speaking to supporters at a New Hampshire town hall before he ended his campaign, Christie called out Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., by name, and alluded to recent comments by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.
Christie’s choice of three lawmakers is significant: Emmer is the House GOP whip, Stefanik is the House Republican conference chair and included in speculation about Trump’s running mate, and Barrasso has signaled an interest in succeeding Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as the chamber’s top Republican.
“And you just look at what’s happening in the last few days,” Christie said in remarks he largely read off sheets of paper. “Good people who got into politics I believe for the right reasons. People like Sen. John Barrasso, people like congressman Tom Emmer, stand up and endorse Donald Trump. They know better. I know they know better.”
He also was critical of a notion pushed by Trump, that people have been unfairly prosecuted for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot. The former president has referred to them a “the J6 hostages” even though many have had their days in court and been convicted by the justice system.
Stefanik on a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” echoed her party’s leader.
“I have concerns about the treatment of January 6th hostages,” she said. “We have a role in Congress of oversight over our treatment of prisoners. And I believe that we’re seeing the weaponization of the federal government against not just President Trump, but we’re seeing it against conservatives.”
Christie took umbrage with that characterization.
“I’ll tell you who hostages are: Israelis who are being hidden in Gaza tunnels,” he said, referring to the Israelis abducted by Hamas when it attacked from Gaza on Oct. 7. He added of Trump’s congressional loyalists: “They speak louder for the folks who attacked our Capitol than they do for the people of Israel.”
Meanwhile, some political analysts had noted Christie seemed to jump to the defense of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during GOP debates that Trump has skipped. That prompted talk that, with Haley in some polls pulling within single digits of Trump in New Hampshire’s second-in-the-country GOP nominating contest, the former New Jersey chief executive might endorse her.
That became more complicated Wednesday evening after a hot microphone prior to his exit speech caught him criticizing Haley’s decisions on spending campaign cash and ability to take down The Donald.
“I mean look, she’s spent like $68 million so far, just on TV — spent $68 million so far — $59 million by DeSantis, and we spent $12 [million]. I mean, who’s punching above their weight and who’s getting a return on their investment, you know?” Christie said. “And she’s gonna get smoked. And you and I both know it. She’s not up to this.”
“I thought actually the biggest story wasn’t the fact that he dropped out,” Trump said of Christie during a prime time Fox News town hall Wednesday night. “Nobody cared too much about that, but he had a hot mic where he was talking to somebody about the weather.
“And he happened to say that she doesn’t have what it takes. She’ll be creamed … in the election,” the former president added. “And, I mean, I know her very well and I happen to believe that Chris Christie is right. That’s one of the few things he’s been right about, actually.”