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Chris Christie: Taking me off Trump transition team was 'big mistake'

| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 8:24 p.m.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to members of the media in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 4, 2017 in Washington.
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to members of the media in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 4, 2017 in Washington.

NEWARK — Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that his removal as chairman of Donald Trump's presidential transition has proven to be a “big mistake” and that the country has paid for it.

Christie also said he thinks his opposition during the transition to naming retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn the national security adviser was a “significant reason” for his ouster last year, three days after Trump won the presidency in an upset over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

During the same news conference where he was asked about Flynn, Christie extended a dispute with his Democratic successor, Phil Murphy, about the authenticity of a document provided by his transition team concerning non-disclosure agreements.

Flynn was fired within a month, ostensibly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence, who had replaced Christie as transition chairman, about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

The investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller has been a constant distraction in Washington, for months and hovered over a first-year president with no previous experience in politics. Besides the Flynn guilty plea, in which he has agreed to cooperate with Mueller's office, the investigation has yielded two indictments of former campaign officials and another guilty plea, by a former foreign policy adviser.

Christie was an early supporter of Trump and spent about six months leading the transition, along with his former chief of staff Rich Bagger. But Christie has been untouched by the Russia scandal and said Wednesday that he has not been interviewed by Mueller's office.

But Flynn's admission of guilt to the special counsel investigating the possibility of collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign, he said, is one example of the mistakes the incoming administration made by casting Christie aside.

“I think what folks who were involved in that transition have now painfully learned at the expense of the country is that experience matters,” Christie said. “The president's campaign was built on being an outsider who was going to come into Washington and change things. That's great. That's fine. I'm OK with that. But you cannot run a transition as an outsider. You have to be able to understand what needs to be done.”

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