By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Christie last night distanced himself from whatever transpired between David Samson and United Airlines CEO Jeffrey Smisek.
“I have to be held accountable for what happens on my watch. I’m happy to be held accountable for what happens on my watch. I have 60,000 that work for me. And so you can always strive to do better, which is what we strive to do I’ll just continue to work very hard, and it’s always the way I’ve conducted myself and there’s nobody who can say I didn’t conduct myself like that in all my 13 years in my public life in the state,” said Christie.
At the same time, he did not throw Samson under the bus.
“I find this all hard to believe. David’s a friend of mine. I don’t see him as much as I used to now because he’s retired and moved out of state so I don’t see him as much as I used to when he was an active lawyer and lived here. But he’s my friend and has been and continues to be,” Christie said.
Samson, a former state attorney general, was Christie’s appointed chairman at the Port Authority.
Federal prosecutors are looking into whether the Port Authority gave preferential treatment to United Airlines, its big tenant at Newark Airport, and if in return, United revived a low-demand flight from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, that made it easier for Samson to get to a second home he had there.
The probe into the so-called chairman’s flight grew out of the investigation of Bridgegate, which has already ensnared two other Christie appointees at the Port Authority.
“Does it say something about your judgment if you have individuals that are high up that are your appointees that are abusing their power?,” asked Ask the Governor host Eric Scott.
“I don’t think so. I think what it says is, you deal with human beings,” said Christie.
United said Smisek resigned as a result of an internal investigation related to a federal investigation of the Port Authority.
That has led some to speculate that Samson could be indicted for his role in the relationship.
And with Christie running for president, the political community has reacted.
Christie opponent John Wiesnieski, a Democrat who co-chairs the legislative committee that investigated Bridgegate, is calling on Christie to quit the presidential race.
Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger published a front-page column today under the headline, “Christie’s dream is all but dead, felled by a friend.”
“The way you judge a leader is, not that they make every decision absolutely right. If everyone is held to a 100 percent standard, everyone will fail. The standard you need to hold to is, when mistakes are made, how do you react? Do you cover them up? Do you make excuses for them? Or do you act? And when we found out about the problems that happy ed there, we acted immediately. We terminated people whose conduct we thought was in question and then moved on.” said Christie.
Christie’s presidential campaign is already struggling. Legal action against David Samson would only make that worse. As of now, there’s no hard evidence any charges against Samson will be brought.