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GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie heavily criticized Donald Trump’s praise last month of Vladimir Putin when the former president called the Russian leader a “genius” and “savvy” in launching the deadly invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
In a speech in New Hampshire on Monday, Christie asked “do we want to send admiring words to someone [Putin] who as we speak this morning is directing the slaughter of women and children in the Ukraine without any conscience?”
And the former two-term Republican governor emphasized that “words matter everybody. Words matter. And those words from people of our party who called him [Putin] ‘genius’ and ‘very savvy’ are being replayed over and over again in Russian television to justify and prop up a dictator who is sending his soldiers to slaughter in Ukraine.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at ‘Politics and Eggs’ at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, on March 21, 2022 in Goffstown, N.H. The speaking series is a must stop for White House hopefuls visiting the state that holds the first primary in the presidential nominating calendar. (Fox News)
Christie, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate who’s mulling another run, made his comments as he headlined the first edition of ‘Politics and Eggs’ in the 2024 election cycle. The speaking series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College over the past two decades has become a must stop for White House hopefuls visiting the state that for a century’s held the first primary in the presidential nominating calendar.
And in a national exclusive interview with Fox News minutes after the event, Christie was even more blunt regarding Trump’s comments.
“I think those remarks are dangerous. They’re not just wrong, they’re dangerous,” Christie stressed.
And he said that Trump’s comments on Putin would likely come up if the former president runs for the White House again, noting “everything that we do in our public lives is fodder for potential campaigns. It’s an adult sport and you’ve got to be ready to deal with and defend or apologize for what you’ve said in the past.”
Trump created a firestorm last month with his comments on Putin. And a few days later at a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, Trump reemphasized his stance toward the Russian leader, telling the crowd that Putin was “smart.”
But Trump has also argued that he was “tough” on Putin during his four years in the White House and has repeatedly claimed that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if he were still president. In recent weeks the former president’s also described the horrific pictures of Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians as a “holocaust.”
Christie isn’t the only high-profile Republican politician who’s considering a 2024 White House run to criticize Trump over his Putin comments. Former Vice President Mike Pence earlier this month made headlines when he told a Republican National Committee gathering of top donors in New Orleans that “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom.”
Christie, in his speech, also took aim at fellow Republicans who in the past have questioned the continued need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the decades old military alliance between the U.S. and numerous European nations.
“For those who said that NATO was an antiquated organization that we should consider pulling out of, I wonder what those same leaders are thinking today, as NATO has brought the entire world together to put sanctions on Russia on a way that has almost never been done in the history of the world.”
The former governor, who’s known as one of his party’s best communicators, also repeatedly targeted President Biden over the Russian attack on Ukraine and over the administration’s energy policy.
Christie charged that “when Joe Biden decided to stop arming the Ukrainians in January of 2021 when he entered office, that was a huge mistake, because it was a signal to Putin that we don’t care.” He also argued that the president is now “running like crazy to try and catch up” but “falls short.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signs the iconic wooden eggs after speaking at ‘Politics and Eggs’ at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, on March 21, 2022 in Goffstown, N.H. (Fox News )
He also offered that “Joe Biden just doesn’t intimidate anyone. Does anybody in this room look at President Biden and say ‘don’t mess with him.’ I mean that matters everybody.”
Christie, a vocal GOP critic of the president on the Sunday talk shows, also claimed that the nation’s energy policy under Biden “is a national embarrassment.”
“Under the last administration we had energy independence in this country, and we have given it away,” the former governor charged. “We need towards energy independence that includes a large portion of alternative energy, but only when our technology is there and developed. Should we continue to invest in it as a country – absolutely. It’s smart to do that. But it is stupid, flat out stupid, to abandon fossil fuels when you’re not there yet.”
Christie also said “I can’t imagine” the 79-year-old Biden running for reelection in 2024. “I don’t see it. I don’t think he’ll be up for it.”
He predicted that the president will “take a beating in the midterms. Everybody will start beating on him then, that he’s an ineffective leader of the party.”
And he said it’s possible Biden announces at the end of the first quarter or beginning of the second quarter of 2023 that he’s not running for reelection.
Trump remains very popular and influential with Republican voters and politicians, as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in the GOP and repeatedly teases a 2024 run.
But Christie predicted that Trump will have rivals for the nomination if he ends up running.
“No one is going to give the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 away without competition. It’s just not going to happen. And it shouldn’t happen. Nobody has earned a pass in my opinion.”
But he cautioned that “if they’re going to get into a primary fight with Donald Trump, they better be ready, because it will not be Tiddlywinks, it will not be softball, it will be hardball.”
Christie – who after his own 2016 presidential campaign crashed and burned following a six-place finish in the New Hampshire primary became the first of the contenders to endorse Trump – noted that “I was the first mainstream person in my party to endorse Trump.”
And he spotlighted that “I’m someone who has supported the president and former president and many of the polices that he fought for when he was president.”
But pointing to Trump’s repeated unfounded claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and riddled with “massive voter fraud,” he emphasized that the former president’s “dead wrong about the election. There is no evidence that the election was stolen. None. Not even stolen in one state, let alone the six states he would have needed to reverse the election.”
FILE – President Trump greets New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after speaking about administration plans to combat the nation’s opioid crisis in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 26, 2017 REUTERS/Carlos Barria (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)
And Christie once again stressed that “we need as a party to move forward. We can’t look backwards. We can’t be a party of vindictiveness and vendettas. We can’t be a party of settling scores for me. We have to be a party of creating opportunity and inspiration for us.”
But he noted that “I can’t imagine a scenario under which there isn’t attempts at significant discussion and denial of 2020 during 2024 if he’s [Trump] in the race. So all these people now who say they might run for president and maybe do who are on the fence on that one, time to get off the fence. If you believe it was stolen, what are you doing here? Why are you running?”
Christie also took aim at some other potential 2024 GOP contenders who’ve said they won’t run if Trump runs again.
“For those folks who say ‘I’m going to defer to someone else in running for president,’ I think that says everything about you as a potential candidate,” Christie told Fox News. “Because if you think you’re good enough to be president but you’re unwilling to run if someone else is running, in this instance Donald Trump, well then, I think you shouldn’t bother to run at all whether he runs or not.”
Christie also said he’ll return to New Hampshire later this year to campaign for Matt Mowers, a former Christie campaign alum who later worked on the Trump 2016 campaign and served in the State Department during Trump’s administration who’s now running a second straight time for Congress in the Granite State.
Asked about his own timeline for making a decision on a 2024 presidential run, Christie told Fox News he’ll “make a decision sometime between the end of the year and the end of Q1 of 2023.”
But during a revealing moment at his ‘Politics and Eggs’ appearance, Christie said “my father turns 89 next month and he says he’s ready. If he’s ready, I may have a hard time saying no to him.”
Fox News’ Paul Celeste contributed to this story