New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blasted the mainstream media’s coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s empaneling of a grand jury in the Russia probe, arguing during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the coverage revealed “a fundamental misunderstanding of the way this process works.”
Christie, a former Republican presidential candidate in 2016, told host Jake Tapper that last week’s reports analyzing Mueller’s decision to impanel a grand jury and reporters’ labeling of such a step as “monumental” were overblown. Pointing to his ample experience with grand juries and subpoenas as a U.S. attorney in New Jersey for nearly seven years, he said Mueller’s actions are “typical” of anyone who is conducting “a thorough investigation.”
“This is a normal step taken by a careful prosecutor who’s doing a thorough investigation,” Christie said. “I think that’s exactly what Bob Mueller is doing. You can’t issue subpoenas without a grand jury. It’s the grand jury that actually issues the subpoenas. And so I think Bob Mueller wanted a grand jury focused on this so he could issue subpoenas and then review the evidence. That’s a typical thing to be done in any investigation.”
But the mainstream media and Democrats gobbled up the news that Mueller was moving forward with the grand jury, and some pundits even presented it as unmistakable evidence that President Donald Trump and several of his officials would be indicted during the course of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
“The coverage about how monumental this was is just a fundamental misunderstanding of the way this process works,” Christie said, noting that he believes Mueller will “be very careful to try not to go on a fishing expedition.”
“There’s always temptation to do that. I hope that that’s not what [Mueller] does. I hope the focus remains on what may have motivated any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, if, in fact, any collusion happened at all,” he said. “That’s what investigations are for. I said all along, let the special prosecutor investigate it and let the chips fall where they may.”
But Tapper pressed Christie about the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his decision to meet with a Russian lawyer during the campaign after the lawyer promised damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Tapper suggested that this “collusion” could implicate Trump, especially following reports that the president helped his son craft his first statement responding to the disclosure of the meeting.
Although Christie agreed that Trump Jr.’s meeting was “ill-advised,” he warned Tapper against letting his biases and assumptions get the better of him.
“You’re assuming that the president knew about that last piece that you talked about,” he said, referring to the Russian lawyer’s ultimately false offer of damaging Clinton information. “I don’t know that he knew that and neither do you.”
“But the fact of the matter is, I’ve said before, this meeting was ill-advised. This is not something that should have happened,” Christie added. “And I believe that if they had reached out to Don McGahn, the campaign attorney and now the White House counsel, he would have told them that. So I think that everybody in retrospect knows this was a bad idea.”
But the New Jersey governor insisted that no evidence has yet been presented that indicates Trump knew about the meeting at all until just before the reports of it surfaced this summer. Although Trump Jr.’s emails setting up the meeting showed his willingness to hear the information promised, those emails do not implicate the president, Christie noted as he urged Tapper to take a step back before jumping to conclusions.
“But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves. We don’t know that the president knew about those emails or about the content of those emails. And so we don’t know what his own son told him about that meeting,” he said. “So my view on this is, this is why we have people looking into it. It’s not for us to make conclusions beforehand. It’s to let Bob Mueller and his team do the investigation, and then let’s have the facts come out. And I think everyone will be better served by that.”
(photo credit, homepage and article images: CNN’s “State of the Union,” YouTube)