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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visits the Miller Center

Christie discusses ‘Future of American Conservatism’ on American Forum

<p>Host Doug Blackmon engages with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during an American Forum earlier this February.</p>

Host Doug Blackmon engages with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during an American Forum earlier this February.

Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, visited the Miller Center Monday as a special guest on American Forum, the Center’s weekly public affairs television program broadcast on PBS. Christie engaged with host Doug Blackmon in a conversation entitled the “Future of American Conservatism.”

The event included a live studio recording of the episode and a question and answer session with the audience. Blackmon asked Christie questions about the state of conservative politics in America, particularly the condition of President Donald Trump’s administration. The conversation covered topics including Trump’s inner circle of advisors, the substance addiction epidemic in America, the media and immigration policy.

Blackmon opened the conversation by asking about Trump and the current controversy surrounding his platform and presidency. Christie stated a lot of the struggles that have occurred in attempting to pass legislation — most notably the proposed border wall with Mexico — have stemmed from the president’s cabinet members.

“I think that’s predominantly because of the people he’s surrounding himself with,” Christie said. “I think people chose an outsider, but once you get there, you need people around you who know how to play the inside game.”

Blackmon shared how he considers Trump to be very different now than he was 20 years ago, stating he was more articulate about his thoughts in the past. Christie responded that Trump was an intelligent individual, although his attempts to use the bully pulpit were done very bluntly. 

“I spent a lot of time with the President over the years, and I know … of course he’s smart,” Christie said. “I think that person is still there, and I see that person in private … I do believe his intellect and his ability to understand things is there.”

Blackmon asked Christie how he would operate if he were elected to Oval Office. Christie said he would act very similarly to how he presided during his two-terms as governor of New Jersey. Christie said he would try to use the bully pulpit to bring Republicans and a willing group of Democrats together to solve large-scale problems.

“I was not a small-ball player — I was not interested in small-ball things,” Christie said.

The most discussed topic during the conversation was the state of the FBI, which launched an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties to the Trump campaign. 

Christie said he believed Robert Mueller, a University Law alumnus, Special Counsel for the Department of Justice and head of the FBI investigation into alleged Russian interference, was not pursuing the investigation out of politically-charged motives, and spoke favorably of Mueller. He also praised Christopher Wray, whom Trump appointed as the head of the FBI in 2017.

“I absolutely have faith and confidence in Bob… and don’t have any reason to believe that he would pursue anything for a political motive,” Christie said. “I have great confidence in Bob Mueller. I have even greater confidence in Chris Wray.”

Christie acknowledged rumors that Mueller might submit Trump to questioning, saying he did not think Mueller would approach Trump unless he had absolute reason to do so. When Blackmon asked if he thought the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was a hoax, Christie said that although he did not suspect collusion, the investigation was not entirely inappropriate. 

“I never thought that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Christie said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. [But] I think at this point, the investigation can’t be deemed to be misguided because there were some people who committed federal crimes.”

When asked about the powers of federal bodies as outlined in the Constitution, Christie acknowledged the original intent and power of the Constitution and gave a nod to the University’s founder.

“I believe the Constitution should be read and enforced in the way it was written by the founders,” Christie said. “We should trust them to allow that process to work ... I don’t feel like I’m smarter than Jefferson.”

Christie’s episode will air on PBS in Virginia Feb. 25 and nationally Feb. 28. The final episode of American Forum this season will feature University history professor and author William Hitchcock and will air the week of Mar. 4.