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A look at Christie's claims and their context

He has played up his experience as a former federal prosecutor, declared victory over the "Democratic machine" in New Jersey, and downplayed the disappearance of text messages exchanged with an aide.

Gov. Christie has bragged that he would grill Hillary Clinton, but his experience as a courtroom prosecutor appears limited. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Gov. Christie has bragged that he would grill Hillary Clinton, but his experience as a courtroom prosecutor appears limited. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)Read more

He has played up his experience as a former federal prosecutor, declared victory over the "Democratic machine" in New Jersey, and downplayed the disappearance of text messages exchanged with an aide.

As Gov. Christie continues to rack up national television and radio appearances during his presidential quest, he has at times pitched his record with little context, leaving his comments open to misleading interpretations. Between Sunday and Thursday, Christie made 11 media appearances.

He is scheduled to return to late-night television Monday on NBC's The Tonight Show.

The Inquirer reviewed and fact-checked some of Christie's recent claims.

Prosecutorial chops. Christie declared Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton had "never been cross-examined by a prosecutor like me."

He repeated the line of attack Monday on Fox News' America's Newsroom, saying he couldn't "wait to get on the stage next September as the Republican nominee and have a real prosecutor cross-examine Hillary Clinton about what she's done."

While Christie served as New Jersey's U.S. attorney for nearly seven years, it was not a role that featured him grilling defendants on the witness stand. The top federal prosecutor tends to focus on office and case strategy.

"It is almost never the case that the U.S. attorney will be personally involved in prosecuting cases," said Lauren Ouziel, a Temple Law School professor and former federal prosecutor.

People familiar with the governor's tenure as U.S. attorney could not recall him prosecuting a case in court. Asked for examples in which Christie had cross-examined a witness, his campaign did not provide any.

Before stepping into the job in 2002, Christie had no experience in criminal law, a point of criticism upon his appointment by President George W. Bush. "I will put together a team that will supplement any gaps I have in my experience," he pledged at the time of his confirmation.

The missing text messages. Railing against Clinton on Face the Nation over her use of a private email server as secretary of state and subsequent deletion of emails, Christie was asked by host John Dickerson about his "missing" text messages, a reference to George Washington Bridge lane closure investigation.

"We had 12 missing text messages that were sent to me by someone when we weren't under investigation and didn't even know what was going on," Christie said.

Christie sent several of those messages, which were exchanged with a top aide in December 2013 as Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials testified before the legislative committee investigating the lane closures.

Months after the scandal broke open in January 2014, lawmakers subpoenaed records from AT&T for aide Regina Egea's phone, which revealed the existence, though not the content, of the text messages.

The governor's office did not turn over any text messages - from Christie or Egea - in response to a subpoena from the committee. Given that lack of response, according to a report by the committee's lawyer, Christie and Egea must have deleted the messages.

Christie has said he did not remember any exchange with Egea. He also has said he "routinely" deletes text messages.

"The Democratic machine." In an interview Tuesday with radio host Laura Ingraham, Christie said, "What I've done in New Jersey is to stand up against the Democratic machine in our state and be able to get things done."

He ticked off accomplishments: enacting pension and health benefits overhauls for public employees, reforming the teacher tenure system, and vetoing "crazy gun bills."

While powerful labor unions opposed Christie on retiree benefits, he needed the support of key Democratic power brokers and their legislative allies to enact those changes. (On other occasions, Christie has boasted of his ability to work with Democrats.)

For example, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and a cohort of South Jersey Democrats broke with their party to pass legislation in 2011 that required public workers to contribute more toward their pensions and health benefits; raised the retirement age; and suspended cost-of-living adjustments.

These Democrats were allied with George E. Norcross III, the South Jersey hospital and insurance executive who wields considerable influence in state politics. Christie also has worked with Norcross in efforts to revitalize Camden with "Renaissance" schools and a gusher of tax credits for companies that move there and pledge to create jobs.

Also supporting the pension overhaul was former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D., Essex), who was allied with North Jersey power broker Joseph DiVincenzo, the Essex County executive.

The 2012 teacher tenure reform Christie touted was sponsored by a Democratic lawmaker, State Sen. Teresa Ruiz of Essex County. It passed unanimously in the Legislature, with the support of the state's largest teachers' union, the New Jersey Education Association.

"Crazy" gun bills. Christie has vetoed a number of gun-control measures. But one of the "crazy" bills he mentioned to Ingraham - a ban on the purchase of Barrett .50-caliber guns - was initially proposed by the governor. Then, when the Legislature passed the ban in 2013, Christie vetoed it, saying it went too far by banning all .50-caliber guns and criminalizing current ownership.

The veto pen. Christie has a new talking point as he touts his credentials as a tax fighter: "We've been the ones who have stood up more vetoes of tax increases than any governor in American history, Americans for Tax Reform just said that last week. Over 400 vetoes, all of which have been sustained," Christie said Monday on America's Newsroom and repeated Thursday on Mike Gallagher's radio show.

Christie has officially vetoed 398 bills, according to records compiled by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services. Seventy-three more bills are sitting on his desk, so the total could be higher.

Most of the vetoes were not related to tax increases.

How did Americans for Tax Reform arrive at the conclusion that Christie has "vetoed more tax hikes than any governor in American history"? In part, an Internet search, the group said.

"Look at the number of budgets with tax hikes he has vetoed: all of them," said Paul Blair, state affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform.

"Then you get the number of times Garden State Dems succeeded in screwing taxpayers with a greater tax burden: zero," Blair said. "Then use Google to examine what other governor in modern history has saved their state from as much crap as Trenton Dems have demanded instead of government reform: zero."