Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) said he endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump because “given the other options on the stage,” Trump was the “strongest” and best suited to “beat Hillary Clinton.”
Partial transcript as follows:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about the policy in this campaign right now. During your campaign, you ran as a straight-talking truth-teller, specific answers to America’s challenges. And here’s what you tried — you told voters to question Mr. Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I tell everybody who goes to a Donald Trump event, if he gets asked a question, just ask him how. First, he says he’s going to build a wall across the entire border between the United States and Mexico. How? How is he going to make the Mexicans pay for the wall? How? They are a sovereign nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re backing him now.What’s the answer?
CHRISTIE: The answer is he will do it —
CHRISTIE: — the fact — the fact is that he’s going to have to answer that question. And he will. You know, George, this is a February — this is February of a campaign. And let’s say this. You look at everybody else on that stage — and there have been many more specifics from a lot of other folks on that stage. And that was part of my argument during the campaign. But there I am, as somebody who’s —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait, wait a second. We’re eight months into this campaign. The wall has been his signature issue. He says it’s his go-to line whenever he needs applause. You’ve now had the Mexican president, two former Mexican presidents, the Mexican foreign minister in “The Washington Post” this morning, calls this a racist, ignorant and absurd proposal. You know that Mexico’s not going to pay.
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, George, I’m — that’s — what would you expect Mexico to say? That’s of course what they’re going to say. And the —
STEPHANOPOULOS: How is Donald Trump going to force Mexico to pay?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I think that there is great ways to be able to use diplomacy and other tools to be able to come to compromise with nations that are both our neighbors and around the world. And we’re working on those things. And that’s what leadership does. Strong leadership is able to exert those things and be able to talk to folks about what advantages and disadvantages are of certain policies. The fact of the matter is that there won’t be any question about Mr. Trump’s strength and his resoluteness in terms of getting the things done that he’s wanted to get done. That’s what his whole career is —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But what’s the answer to the how? That’s the —
CHRISTIE: And this is the thing that I said. And he will answer that question. But you know, to me, I’m not answering the question for him this morning. That’s his — that’s the way he will answer it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he hasn’t answered it.
CHRISTIE: Listen, I think what he’s talked about is the trade relationship and working on the trade relationship and he talked about that yesterday. And using that as a lever to get them to do things on immigration. And I think that’s a perfectly appropriate way to discuss this and it is a part of the bilateral relationship that should be a part of the conversation —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Before you were opposed to terrorists. That’s what he’s talking about.
CHRISTIE: Listen, I’m not saying — I’m not going to support everything that happens in any campaign. But what I will tell you is is that an appropriate conversation between two countries, there are all types of appropriate conversations to have between two countries. And that’s what will happen when Mr. Trump’s president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your signature issue in the campaign was entitlement reform. You’ve been talking about it for years. You say reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are essential. It’s time for a candidate who speaks hard truth.
Donald Trump is the only candidate said he’s not going to touch Social Security. Here’s what you said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I say Mr. Trump, what would you do on Social Security? When I become president, the entire country is going to get so wealthy, so amazingly wealthy and rich, that we’re not going to have to worry about Social Security. How?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the question is, how?
CHRISTIE: Yes. And listen, I think that we need to do something on Social Security. And I’ve made that really clear. And so listen, Donald Trump and I are not going to agree on every issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this is the signature…
CHRISTIE: And this…
STEPHANOPOULOS: — issue of your campaign.
CHRISTIE: But it doesn’t mean that you have to agree on every issue, George. Just — it’s not the signature issue of my campaign. The signature issue of my campaign was national security, keeping America safe and secure from terrorist attacks and making us a better ally and neighbor around the world. That was the signature issue (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to that…
CHRISTIE: Now, Social Security is an important issue. And I’ve laid out my views on that and I’ll certainly share my views with the candidate. The fact of the matter is, though, when you look up on that stage, no one else has a plan on Social Security, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he said…
CHRISTIE: No one — no one…
STEPHANOPOULOS: — at the debate on Thursday at the end…
CHRISTIE: — no one else has a plan on Social Security. So why aren’t we testing all these other candidates, as well…
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ve — I’ve asked all the candidates…
CHRISTIE: — on that — on that issue?
STEPHANOPOULOS: — about this question…
CHRISTIE: And none of them…
STEPHANOPOULOS: — on that issue.
CHRISTIE: — and none of them have an answer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the question, at the debate on Thursday night, he said the answer on Social Security is eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. In all of your speeches, you said that’s not an answer, we need hard truths.
CHRISTIE: Listen, I’ve given my answer on Social Security, George, so I’m not saying — I’m not disagreeing with what you’re saying. What I’m saying to you is that…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’re disagreeing with Donald Trump.
CHRISTIE: Well, what I’m saying is that he’s going to give more complete answers as time goes on on these issues. And — and let’s hold every candidate to that same standard. Let’s hold every candidate to that same standard. The difference in this — in this race is that some members of the media, and others, want to hold Mr. Trump to a different standard than they want to hold the other candidates to. Let’s get Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Don’t you think they have been more specific…
CHRISTIE: — let’s get Governor Kasich…
STEPHANOPOULOS: — than Donald Trump?
CHRISTIE: Not on Social Security, they have not. Absolutely not, sir. I’m the only person who put out a specific plan on Social Security. So let’s hold everybody to the same standard. And — and I’m happy to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear, you do not believe that you can solve the problem of Social Security by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse?
CHRISTIE: No, I — I put out what my plan is on Social Security. And, by the way, that was on a bigger issue. His answer on that was on paying for a tax cut. That was not just on Social Security. It was on paying for a tax cut.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s said that on Social Security many times. But I do want to get to national security, because you’re right, you did talk about that and made that a central issue of your campaign, as well. And one of the core issues that Donald Trump has been this ban on having Muslims enter America. Here’s what you said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: The idea of banning all Muslims from this country is ridiculous. And the reason it’s ridiculous is because you don’t need to do that to make America safe. When Donald Trump said that, he was dead wrong. And he’s dead wrong now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he dead wrong now?
CHRISTIE: Listen, and that’s not what he says any longer. He’s backed off of that position over the course of time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only for citizens.
CHRISTIE: Over the — well, but that’s a big difference, George. That’s a big difference from what his position…
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s still banning Muslims…
CHRISTIE: — was.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — from coming into the United States.
CHRISTIE: It’s a big difference from where the position was and — and what we need to do for…
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you endorse the one he has now?
CHRISTIE: — (INAUDIBLE) excuse me. Let me answer, George. What we need to do is have a coherent national security policy that’s very clear, that says that we need to go after folks who want to do harm to this country. And having good, competent law enforcement. Mr. Trump has talked about the idea of making sure we restore NSA authority, he’s — which some people in this race have not been in favor of, like Senator Cruz. He has stood up and said that he wants to make our military stronger, which we need to do. He’s stood up for law enforcement in ways that other candidates in this race have not done. So let’s not just take one section of it and make that the entire national security policy. There’s been a lot of other conversations about it. And by the way, I’ll continue to have conversations with him about this as the campaign goes forward, to be able to make all of these things more fulsome. But we’re, again, at the end of February, George. This is the — Donald Trump is going to…
STEPHANOPOULOS: (INAUDIBLE) June?
CHRISTIE: — Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States. And he is going to bring this race to Hillary Clinton. He is the best candidate to beat Hillary Clinton in November and the best candidate to restore national security for our country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But — but on — on the Muslim ban, are you saying now that you endorse the ban on having non-citizen Muslims…
CHRISTIE: No, that’s not what I’m saying.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — (INAUDIBLE) from the United States?
CHRISTIE: I’m saying that that’s only one piece of an overall approach to national security.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you disagree with it?
CHRISTIE: So I — I said that very plainly. Listen, George, here’s the bottom line. Elections are choices. And you look at the candidates up on the stage and you decide all things considered, who’s the best choice. You know, I tell voters this all the time, if you want to vote for the candidate who you agree with 100 percent of the time, go home and look in the mirror.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But — but I…
CHRISTIE: You’re the only person you agree with 100 percent of the time, whether it’s you or me. So you can — we can sit here this morning and play the game of everything that — I ran against the guy, so of course there’s things that I disagree with him on. But this is now a choice. And of the candidates remaining on that stage, he is the best person to beat Hillary Clinton, which is job one for Republicans. We do not want Hillary Clinton in the White House. He is the best person to beat her and he is the best person to help keep America safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But to do what? I’ve just pointed out three of the biggest issues in this campaign, the ones he talks about all the time. You disagree with him on all those issues. So when you say he’s going to do what needs to be done, what exactly are you talking about?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I’m talking about a whole bunch of things. First of all, George, we haven’t even touched on the economy. And I think he’s got a really solid record and job — to help create jobs in this country and to make the tax code fairer, to make opportunity better, to lower regulation. He has laid out those plans. The fact is, he’s going to do some things for this economy that need to be done to make America safer, not only from a national security perspective, but for people to invest in America again…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Besides his tax plan…
CHRISTIE: — and create jobs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — what are you referring to?
CHRISTIE: Well, this — he’s — he’s laid out a plan on regularity reform, to lower regulations in this country. He’s talked about the idea of making sure that small business folks are empowered in this country once again, to be able to create jobs for people. There — there has been a lot of things that have been laid out tin this campaign, um, that — that merit real consideration and real support. And — and we’re not going to agree on every issue. But I wouldn’t agree if I were here this morning supporting any of the other candidates that remain on the stage. We would have some major disagreements with each other, because we ran against each other. But let me tell you, they’re minor disagreements compared to what is going to happen if we have Hillary Clinton as president of the United States, who is moving so far to the left to beat Bernie Sanders that I don’t know which one is the socialist, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you…
CHRISTIE: — they’re both now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — finally, you talk about Donald Trump as the person who can be trusted. He still maintains that he saw thousands of people celebrating in New Jersey after the 9/11 attacks. You said that didn’t happen, it was not factual.
So if he continues to hold that position, isn’t that a slander of your state citizens?
CHRISTIE: Now, listen, I don’t think he means it as that at all, as a slander of my state’s citizens. You, what I think, though, is when I say he’s — can be trusted, this is a guy who, when he makes promises, he keeps them. Um, and I’ve seen that over the course of a 14 year relationship with him. I didn’t just meet Donald Trump on the debate stage in August, George, of 2000 and — and 15. I met Donald Trump in 2002 and have been friends with him since that time and gotten to know him. And the American people out there, you’ve listened to what’s happening, George. The American people see him. They see someone who’s strong, who’s resolute, who’s tough, who is not part of the Washington, DC establishment, that has really messed this country up and disappointed our people, both sides of the aisle. He’s going to go down there and take an entirely different approach. That’s an approach that America needs. And given the other options on the stage, let me tell you something, he’s the strongest, best guy to be our nominee to beat Hillary Clinton and to be the next president of the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Christie, thanks for joining us this morning.
CHRISTIE: Thank you, George.
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