By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS and JILL COLVIN
FLOWOOD, Miss. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he would have no problem testifying in a trial of former allies who face criminal charges for their alleged roles in politically-motivated traffic jams that caused long delays in 2013 over the George Washington Bridge connecting his state to New York.
Christie, a Republican who’s considering a run for president, traveled to Mississippi and Louisiana on Tuesday to raise money for Republicans in those states.
During a stop in a suburb of Mississippi’s capital city, he spoke to reporters for the first time since three former allies were charged in connection with the traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge.
“Listen, if they want to subpoena me, that’s fine,” Christie said with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant outside a restaurant in Flowood. “I’ve fully cooperated with the investigation right from the beginning, and I’m happy to tell anybody everything I know, which I’ve done with three separate investigations now that have come to the same conclusion that I said the day after this happened. And so, you know, I don’t have any misgivings about that at all.”
Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and the governor’s former top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that they purposely caused traffic chaos in the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, to punish the town’s Democratic mayor for failing to endorse Christie’s re-election.
Kelly’s attorney vowed Monday to subpoena her former colleagues to prove her innocence — and didn’t rule out serving a subpoena on the governor.
Asked about the indictments, Christie said: “It’s always sad to see people who have been charged with a crime. Now, we’ll let the justice system take its course.”
Christie appeared at a fundraising luncheon for the Mississippi Republican Party in Jackson, then went to a locally-owned cafe in Flowood, where he and Bryant spent about 10 minutes shaking hands and taking pictures with people eating lunch. Christie said he supports Bryant, who’s seeking a second term this year.
“Don’t take our governor away,” Jeremiah Robinson, a Church of God in Christ minister, joked as he shook hands with Christie.
Christie laughed and said, “We’re not. We’re making sure he stays.”
After the appearances in Mississippi, Christie was heading to Baton Rouge for a meet-and-greet with U.S. Sen. David Vitter and a reception for a PAC that is backing Vitter’s campaign for Louisiana governor.
Mississippi Democratic Party spokeswoman Ouida Meruvia criticized Bryant and Christie.
“Much like Bryant, Christie claims to be a problem-solver who gets things done, but not only has his administration been synonymous with abuse of power, his failed leadership has driven his state’s economy and finances into the ditch and left the middle class even further behind,” Meruvia said in a news release.
On Friday, Kelly told reporters that it was “ludicrous” for the indictment to suggest that she was the only person in Christie’s office who knew about the scheme.
Christie has long maintained that he knew nothing about the closure plot and treated Friday’s news as vindication. He said Tuesday that he’s not worried that the indictments of former allies might affect his chances at a presidential run.
“The now three investigations — an internal investigation, an investigation by a very partisan Democratic Legislature and an independent investigation by the United States attorney — have all come to the same conclusion — that I had nothing to do with this,” Christie said in Mississippi. “So, you know, all you can do is tell the truth. And that’s what I’ve done and what I’ll continue to do.”
Christie has said he’ll make a final decision about whether to run by the end of June.
AP political reporter Jill Colvin contributed to this report from Washington.
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