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Priebus doubts there's a direct link between Christie and bridge scandal

Priebus doubts there's a direct link between Christie and bridge scandal
CNN
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Sunday, January 12, 2014 - 5:26pm

While some Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach on the question of whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the now-famous plot to close access lanes to the nation's busiest bridge, the chairman of the Republican National Committee said Sunday he doubts investigators will find any direct link between Christie and the politically motivated scheme.

"I don't think there will be one," Reince Priebus said. "Because I think we've got a really smart person in Chris Christie, who's a former U.S. attorney, who understands what's out there."

Christie forcefully denied Thursday in a nearly two-hour press conference that he knew the plan was being orchestrated by his senior aides as part of an alleged political vendetta. As soon as he found out last week, he fired two of his aides, both part of his inner circle.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Priebus pointed to the thousands of subpoenaed documents that were released last week showing communications among Christie's senior aides.

"Not one single link to Chris Christie has been found," Priebus said. Indeed, none of the e-mails or text messages indicated that Christie himself was clued into the plot.

But the state legislature's investigation continues, and a U.S. attorney is looking into whether any federal laws were violated.

The Republican reaction to the controversy surrounding the potential 2016 candidate has been mixed.

Some conservatives, who've long been critical of Christie, argued the incident further proves the brash governor is not ready for the White House.

Some Republicans have hesitated to comment, given the ongoing investigation, while others say Christie gave a strong performance Thursday and they believe him for now. But they also caution that if it turns out Christie had a role in the plot, it could bring his political doom.

For his part, Priebus stood behind Christie on Sunday, saying he exhibited leadership during his press conference.

"I think what you saw the other day was leadership," he said. "Everyone is fallible. ... I'm fallible, you are, everyone on this panel. We all make mistakes. But the real question is, what do you do when mistakes happen?"

Priebus hailed Christie for answering every question, owning up to mistakes, and taking disciplinary action.

"He stood there for 111 minutes, in an open dialogue with the press," he said, before pivoting to controversies dogging the Obama administration.

"Now only if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would give us 111 seconds of that, would we find out some things we want to find out about Obamacare, Benghazi, the IRS.?"

Pressed by NBC's David Gregory on whether Christie "set the tone" in his office - in the same way Priebus accused Obama of creating a culture that led to last year's scandal with the IRS - Priebus said it was different.

"Chris Christie gave us almost two hours of open dialogue and open ... examination with the press," he said. "You can judge a person's character. We had an opportunity to do that. And so that's what Chris Christie offered, not only to the people of New Jersey, but the people across the country. The President never offered ... that open dialogue." 

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