POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Christie Talks NJ Transit, Comey Firing, AG’s Crackdown on Drug Offenders

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

“If all the questions are about events in Washington, D.C., we’re going to end really quickly,” said Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie gave fair warning to reporters at an omnibus news conference about bus safety, where he announced a 360-degree camera system will be installed on 2,500 NJ Transit buses, so drivers could better see pedestrians and bikers. But with events in Washington reaching critical mass — reporters inevitably queried Christie about former FBI Director James Comey — who was fired by the president, for refusing to cancel FBI investigations into Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 election.

“I have great respect for Jim and my view is that if Jim wants to be heard, Jim will be heard,” Christie said. “And the FBI has said they’re doing a counter-intelligence investigation. They should continue to do it. Find out what the facts are.”

Christie says he doesn’t want Comey’s old job. As for Trump’s allegedly boasting about classified intel to Russian diplomats, Christie says the president has the legal authority to declassify information.

“We still don’t know exactly what the president revealed. We have press accounts from leaks. It’s irresponsible for someone in my position and with my background especially to speculate on stuff like that,” Christie said.

He also wouldn’t talk about Trump reportedly asking Comey to drop an investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. As for perceived White House dysfunction, Christie offered only general advice.

“Rather than worrying about, how do you plug leaks? It’s more about, how do you get them to not happen in the first place? And that’s setting a certain expectation and spirit within an organization that there’s no need to do that,” Christie said.

The governor also wouldn’t comment on how U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crackdown on drug offenders could damage efforts to treat addiction as a disease and expunge criminal records of former drug felons. Even though it’s Christie’s signature issue.

“Listen, I can’t control what happens on the federal level, Brenda. I’m not the attorney general of the United States. My job is — you’ll see us come forward with a bipartisan bill on expungement that will make expungement easier and have more common sense here in New Jersey in terms of giving people a second chance. Those are the things that I can control,” he said.

On transit issues, Christie said negotiations with Amtrak on how best to repair and reconfigure New York Penn Station. The governor’s still withholding rent payments and with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushing Amtrak to privatize station operations.

“This is not the fault of New Jersey Transit or the Long Island Rail Road. This is the fault of Amtrak and years of, what it looks like, of neglect for Penn Station and the rails leading into Penn Station. That’s why Gov. Cuomo and I have asked Amtrak to consider bringing in a private operator,” Christie said.

The bad news? Extended train service outages on NJ Transit appear inevitable over the summer as Amtrak accelerates repairs and track work.

“It makes me really angry. But I also don’t want more derailments and more delays,” Christie said.

In the end, the governor refused to criticize the president, saying he’d rather focus on fixing problems here at home — like NJ Transit.