Meet the Press   |  January 12, 2014

Priebus Weighs in on ‘Bridgegate’

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus visits Meet the Press to represent the Republican response to the ‘Bridgegate’ controversy.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i want to turn now to the large esche irshoe of 2016 , governor christie 's prospects for a possible presidential run. after a resounding victory in november, re-election, the national press labored him a presidential front-runner. cover of "time" magazine you might remember called him the elephant in the room . will the scandal impact future republican support? here with me is the chairman of republican party , and that is reince priebus. you might be a little cautious about weighing in on this, and i want to ask this question as a close political observer. is this a test of leadership? here's what a friend of his, a mentor, former governor of new jersey tom caine told t"the washington post ". he's known christie since the current governor was a teenager faulted christie for establish agriculture in his tight inner circumstance until which no one will ever say no to him, and that is dangerous. he also said that christie 's approach to governing is overly aggressive and his agenda is personal. is this a leadership problem for the governor?

>> no. i think what you saw the other day was leadership, was something that showed that, look, everyone is fallible, david. i'm fallible. you are. everyone on these panels. we all make mistakes. but the real question is what do you do when mistakes happen? there's no question he admitted mistakes happened. he admitted he trusted people that lied to him. america's a forgiving people. but they're forgiving when you take ownership, you admit mistakes, you take corrective action, and that's what chris christie showed. he stood there for 111 minutes in an open dialogue with the press. 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 . i mean, chris christie has been totally open here.

>> let me pick up on that point, chairman. you have said about the president and the irs scandal there's been no direct tie of course from what happened with the irs to the president just as there has not been a direct tie to governor christie with what happened here. but you said he set a tone for these things to happen, about the president. is that true here? did governor christie set a tone where the people who exacted this act of petty political retribution thought the boss would acquiesce, say it was okay?

>> here's what he did, and here's what he admitted. he admitted that he trusted people that lied to him, and he's asking a lot of questions about himself as far as why that happened.

>> the question i asked, did he set a tone --

>> wait a minute.

>> did he set the tone ? that's what you said the president did.

>> no. he trusted people that lied to him and he fired those people. the president doubles down on eric holder . he doubles down on hillary clinton and low is learner and susan rice . it's the opposite effect.

>> hold on. there's some deflection going on here, and i respect your position. you said in may of -- you're the one who brought up the president and the irs . you said there, there's no denying he, the president, created a culture in his administration that encouraged the targeting of these groups. there's not evidence to prove that linkage. that's your assertion.

>> right.

>> but if that's your assertion about tone there, why isn't true of governor chris christie setting a tone?

>> here's why. because chris christie gave us almost two hours of open dialogue and open cross-examination with the press. because you can judge a person. a person's character. we had an opportunity to do that. that's what chris christie offered not only to the people of new jersey but to people across the country. the president never offered that open dialogue so people could determine the character of the president.

>> you've given him a close look. you're chairman of the party. you dig in on these things. how would a rogue operation like this spring up underneath his feet without him knowing about it at all or without those people close to him for a long time thinking it would be okay if we did this?

>> well, look, new jersey is a huge, complicated government and so is the port authority . people made decisions at the port authority that they shouldn't have made, and those people are gone. the person that oversaw at least in part some of the decisions of the port authority seemed to have apparent knowledge of what was going on. she's gone. after the fact, the campaign manager made comments that were callous, and chris christie didn't like it. he's gone.

>> there's been no direct link made to governor christie . do you think there will be one?

>> no, i don't think there will be one 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, and thousands and thousands of documents have been revealed and not one single link to chris christie has been found.