Chris Christie Forced To Admit Trump Administration Botched Handling Of Porter Debacle

up

Even Trump booster Chris Christie couldn't defend the indefensible when he was asked about the White House's handling of the security clearance for accused wife beater and assistant to Chief of Staff John Kelly, Rob Porter, on ABC's This Week, but notice how much deference he still gives to Trump.

Instead of calling them out for knowingly allowing this guy to have access to all types of classified material he had no business viewing because they all knew full well he was never going to get a security clearance, Christie tried blaming it on the "process" breaking down. Thankfully his fellow guest, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, was having none of it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are back now with Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, now an ABC News contributor, and Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, he served as staff secretary in the Clinton White House.

And, Congressman, let me begin with you. You held the job that Rob Porter held. You just heard Kellyanne Conway say there that they were basically following the regular process.

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Right. Look, I did that job. You know, when I did that job, the FBI sent agents from the Montevideo Field Office in Uruguay to the small Peruvian village where I worked with the Jesuits between college and law school. That process is incredibly exacting. And these guys knew in the first month of the administration about a fact pattern that would have permanently disqualified him from doing the job.

He never should have been in the chair. You know, there -- on that desk there are a stack of red folders marked top secret. Every day our nation's highest secrets are seen by the staff secretary. There's a burn bag under the desk because when you're done, you incinerate those materials. The idea that someone without a security clearance was allowed to be there in the first place, despite these allegations, and was allowed to stay there with no plan for getting him a clearance, is not the normal process.


↓ Story continues below ↓

STEPHANOPOULOS: So when the FBI brings this to Don McGahn, the White House counsel, what's supposed to happen?

MALONEY: What's supposed to happen is they're supposed to say, we've got a problem with this guy, DQ him, sideline him. Let's find out what the facts are because you don't want him in the chair reading material that is so sensitive that only the president can see it in some cases, and the staff secretary. People don't understand that the national security adviser doesn't give a memo to the president. He gives it to the staff secretary who gives it to the president.

That means the staff secretary literally sees everything. You know this. And therefore you cannot have someone seeing our nation's secret who has a secret of their own. They are so easy to blackmail, that's why you do a background check.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Christie, how do you explain this? This clearly -- Don McGahn clearly knew about this several months ago, credible reports that John Kelly did as well. Where's the breakdown here?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the breakdown is obviously in the process. I went through this, George, when I was U.S. attorney. Every assistant in the United States Attorney has to go through the same type of background check that you're talking about. And the fact is, when there is a problem that comes up, they don't give you like progress reports. But when there is an issue, ultimately, it comes to the employing agency to make this decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. It's not the FBI's decision. It's the...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: No, it is not the FBI's decision. The FBI is a collector of facts and information that they then present. In our case it was to the Department of Justice. And then you as U.S. attorney spoke with the people at the Department of Justice and say, here are the facts, are we comfortable with providing clearance to this person or not? Are there are standards? And there were certain standards in the Bush Justice Department on drug use and other things that would automatically disqualify someone.

So ultimately this is the decision of the White House. And so depending upon when it was presented, whether it was presented to Chief of Staff Preibus or whether it was presented ultimately first time to Chief of Staff Kelly, along with the White House counsel, they're the decision-making parties here that present that information to the president. So clearly there was a breakdown in process.

Now he's out of the job now. And that's the appropriate thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but only after it became public.

CHRISTIE: Listen, what I'm saying though is that I'm not justifying the breakdown in the process, George, what I'm saying is that that's ultimately where it had to have landed. And it should have landed there sooner if, in fact, people had been focusing on it, paying attention to it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So should someone else pay the price for this?

CHRISTIE: That's going to be up to the president ultimately about whether or not he views this as such a failure of competence in terms of the management that he needs to bring someone else in.

MALONEY: Well, look, from what I understand, John Kelly's story now is that he did something within the first 40 minutes after the first 14 months of ignoring it. That's not acceptable. The fact is there's no way he didn't know about this. He's up to his neck in it. And he chose not to deal with it. And that is not competent. We brought this guy in, a lot of us thought, to put some order in the White House. We thought Kelly was the guy who could manage the place.

But if you're going to clean up aisle eight, you can't be throwing around jars of tomato sauce. I mean, you cannot make a bigger mess than you're cleaning up. And to have a guy in the staff secretary's job, I mean, seeing all of our nation's secrets -- and by the way, can I just back up? You've also ignored two women who said the guy beat me. I mean, there's a right and a wrong to this as well. What does it say about the value system that they want that guy so much that they're willing to ignore those credible allegations and then give him a security clearance that he'll never be able to earn?

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the answer to that?

CHRISTIE: I don't think there is a good answer to that. I mean, the fact, George, is that the reason I look at these allegations and view them as credible is because they were done contemporaneously. As prosecutor, you're always trying to examine evidence, right, and the credibility of evidence. And one of the ways we examine that is, were these allegations made contemporaneously or were they made some time a long time afterwards? Which you would say, well, why is there a gap?

Here, with both of Mr. Porter's ex-wives, they did what we instruct women to do, which is to go to the police, one of them obtained a restraining order, to document the abuse, one of them had a photograph taken, and to be able to put those things in line and to get out of the situation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And not a word about that from the president.

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, the point from my perspective, George, is, I look at this, and I can't help but do it, not as a former governor, but as a prosecutor. And when you see credible allegations like that, you have to take them seriously. Should there be due process for Rob Porter in terms of any legal action? Of course. Everyone is entitled to that. But as an employer, you have got to look at this and say, are these allegations credible? And if they are, then we've got to take action.

MALONEY: Right. There's no due process when you're talking about whether someone gets a senior level West Wing job with the highest national security clearance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a privilege.

MALONEY: It's a privilege. And my butt would have been kicked down the stairs within five minutes of learning something about this. And it would have been the right thing to do. So they had to make a value judgment on this. And by the way, what s the plan? The guy is never going to get a national security clearance, and yet every day he is reading our nation's top secrets and could have been blackmailed...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: But one thing, George, all I will say about -- I think there is some requirement for due process. And that's why the employing agency has to make judgments on the facts that are brought in. I don't think it's enough to say that any allegation should dismiss it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: In this instance...

STEPHANOPOULOS: … we're talking about a year.

CHRISTIE: But, listen, in this instance, I've already said my opinion on that, OK. But what I'm saying is, I think for the congressman to say there's no right to due process here, there is.

MALONEY: No, Governor...

CHRISTIE: There is a right to due process for an employing agency to make an absolute evaluation of the credibility of allegations. I'm saying to you, from my perspective, that given the contemporaneous nature and the documentation of these allegations, they were credible enough for people to...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So does John Kelly have to tell...

MALONEY: But, if I may, you just wouldn't put the guy in the job while you gave him that process.

CHRISTIE: Well, you know everybody goes at the job first, right?

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: I mean, on January 20, people can't have all their clearances...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Everybody gets...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: Everybody gets interim clearance.

MALONEY: That's right. And that's normal. But in this case they learned in January of 2017 of these allegations, which means that normally you don't have that in front of you when you give an initial clearance. You knew the guy was never going to get cleared. And therefore it seems to me the appropriate thing would have been to say, look, you get your day in court, we're going to do some process, but you're sit on the sidelines while we figure it out.

This scandal, on top of about fifty others would have been enough for Republicans to be holding impeachment hearings if they'd happen under a Democratic administration, but sadly, it's just another day enabling these incompetent criminals with Trump at the helm.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.