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Chris Christie defiant as conservative crowd boos Trump criticism

Ex-New Jersey governor has become a vocal critic of Mr Trump after supporting him in 2016 and 2020

Andrew Feinberg
Friday 23 June 2023 20:17 BST
Chris Christie says Donald Trump ‘failed’ Republicans as leader

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie on Friday defended his criticism of former president Donald Trump before a sometimes-hostile crowd at the first day of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual Road to the Majority Conference, telling an audience of evangelical voters that Mr Trump had let down the people who voted for him in 2016 and in 2020.

Speaking from the main stage at the Washington Hilton, Mr Christie recounted to the audience how he’d been the first of Mr Trump’s 2016 opponents to endorse him and helped him with debate preparations on his way to winning that year’s general election before serving as the first chair of Mr Trump’s transition team.

He also noted that he’d assisted Mr Trump with debate prep in 2020 by playing Joe Biden in mock debates before asking attendees why, after supporting Mr Trump in two consecutive elections, would he choose to run against him again.

“I'm running because he's let us down,” he said.

“He has let us down because he's unwilling — he’s unwilling to take responsibility for any of the mistakes that were made, and any of the faults that he has, and any of the things that he's done, and that is not leadership, everybody”.

As Mr Christie continued by describing what Mr Trump had done as “a failure of leadership,” a large portion of the evangelical voters who’d gathered to hear him began to boo loudly.

The former New Jersey governor responded that the hecklers could “boo all you want,” but shortly after he had some of them offering applause instead after he said their shared Christian faith “teaches us that people have to take responsibility for what they do”.

“People have to stand up and take accountability for what they do,” he continued. “And I cannot stand by”.

Mr Christie added that after all his prior support, all Mr Trump now does is call him names and belittle him.

He said the attacks from Mr Trump put him on a “great list of Americans,” including Mr Trump’s former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, his former defence secretary, Mark Esper, and former OMB Director, ex-acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former White House chief of staff John Kelly.

“You can love [Mr Trump] all you want, but I will tell you, I will tell you that doing those kinds of things makes our country smaller,” he said. “It makes our country smaller, and it makes us lesser”.

A short time later, he criticised the twice-impeached, now twice-indicted ex-president even more directly while speaking to reporters as he left the conference venue.

Mr Christie said there had been “a lot of people” who’d wanted to “hear the truth” about Mr Trump, adding later that it’s not possible to pretend that the former president is “a man of character”.

“This is a guy who paid off a porn star. This is a guy who has regularly lied, this is a guy who has abused people who have worked for him,” he said before a rattling off a list of ex-Trump administration officials who the former president has attacked after hiring them.

The former governor added that he respected the conference attendees “because they care about the country and they want to elect the best person they can,” and stressed that he would not “pander” to the crowd by refusing to criticise Mr Trump but instead would continue to say exactly what he thinks.

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