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Trump accused of skipping debate because he’s ‘scared of Chris Christie’

‘He knows he’s a prosecutor who’s ruthless and knows how to push his case,’ Scarborough says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 22 August 2023 20:35 BST
Expert questions whether Donald Trump is afraid of Chris Christie ahead of possibly skipping debate

Donald Trump has been accused of not attending the first Republican primary debate because he’s supposedly scared of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has vowed to come after Mr Trump.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Matt Lewis discussed the prospect after writing a Daily Beast column entitled Showing Up to the GOP Debate Would Be the Ultimate Trump Flex.

“I’m curious to see if Donald Trump is afraid of Chris Christie, so afraid of Chris Christie that he doesn’t show up, that he uses excuses such as, ‘I’m not going to sign the pledge, the RNC pledge,’ or whether Donald Trump is just an egomaniac who craves attention, who loves attention, and who now feels that he has a bigger chip on his shoulder, has to unburden himself and play the victim again that he shows up in Milwaukee,” he said, according to Mediaite. “And I think I’m leaning toward the latter. He may not fully appreciate the danger that Chris Christie specifically poses.”

“I think the biggest flex would be to turn himself in, to surrender himself and then go to the debate,” Mr Lewis said, referring to Mr Trump’s recent indictment in Georgia. “I think Donald Trump shows ‘I can walk and chew gum at the same time’. And so I think if you add that in and just his compulsive need for attention, I think he shows.”

Host Joe Scarborough responded that he was “going to take the other side of it. I do think he’s scared of Chris Christie. He saw what Chris Christie did to Marco Rubio when Chris Christie went into a debate with one thing in mind. He knows Chris Christie put Jared Kushner’s father in jail for a very long time”.

“He knows he’s a prosecutor who’s ruthless and knows how to push his case. And he also knows that his secret sauce in 2016 was being the disrupter,” he added. “Shaking Hillary Clinton up on the debate stage, shaking the Marcos and everybody else up on the debate stage. That gig that’s like eight years old, right?”

“That’s Elvis in ’77 now. And I think Chris Christie’s got his number and he knows Donald Trump ... obviously, his political gut instinct is second to none – he sees it coming,” Mr Scarborough said about the former president. “I think he’s scared to death of Chris Christie and will not have the guts or the nerve to go on stage with Chris Christie anywhere.”

Jonathan Lemire, the host of MSNBC’s Way Too Early, cited a source in Trumpworld who said that an argument for Mr Trump not to attend would be that Mr Christie would then possibly set “his sights on Ron DeSantis and maybe finishes him off there”.

Donald Trump and Chris Christie are in a battle of words on the 2024 campaign trail (EPA)

Mr Lemire also noted that Mr Christie hasn’t yet qualified for the second GOP debate, perhaps allowing Mr Trump to take part without having to battle with the former governor.

To take part in the debate, candidates have to pledge to support the eventual nominee, something several candidates, including Mr Trump and Mr Christie, have appeared sceptical of.

The former president announced over the weekend ahead of the debate that he would not be taking part and appeared to imply that stood for every debate on the calendar.

He posted on Truth Social: “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had, with Energy Independence, Strong Borders & Military, Biggest EVER Tax & Regulation Cuts, No Inflation, Strongest Economy in History, & much more. I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”

When eight of his Republican rivals for the party’s nomination gather on Wednesday in Milwaukee, fans of Mr Trump can watch what has been referred to as counter-programming — a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

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