Inside Chris Christie's breakup with Trump
Chris Christie told me on "Axios on HBO" that he and former President Trump haven't spoken since before Jan. 6, when Christie frantically tried to reach his friend of 20 years — and Trump never picked up the phone.
Driving the news: "I tried to call him ... to give him advice on what I thought he needed to be doing to stop the violence," the former governor told me during our hourlong interview at his home in New Jersey.
- "I called Kellyanne Conway first. And I said to her: 'Have you spoken to him?' And she said she had not. And she said: 'I think we both need to call him.' And I said: 'Absolutely.' So I then called the president's secretary ... Couldn't get through. I then called his body guy. Didn't pick up. I then called the president's cell phone, and he didn't pick up."
The two were once so close Christie called him "Donald," even when he was in the White House. Right after Christie appeared on a Sunday show, the president would call him in the car and critique his appearance.
- "I was desperate to try to get in touch with him," Christie told me, "because I felt like what was happening was awful and was going to be a stain on his presidency, and I wanted him to be the guy to stand up and stop it. But he didn't take the call, and so I said what I would have said to him privately on the air on ABC."
Christie, who's gaming out a possible run for president in 2024, said he still considers Trump a friend, and still would have supported him over President Biden.
- But Christie was critical of Trump's rejection of Mike Pence for not going along with lies about the election: "I think it was an awful act to a vice president who had been extraordinarily loyal, and a guy who deserved much better."
Christie — out tomorrow with "Republican Rescue," which includes his prescription for the GOP — is pushing his party to move on from 2020.
- "If we waste our time as Republicans talking about an election that we lost, we are going to lose future elections," he said.
Making it clear he won't let Trump bully him, Christie took a tough shot at potential 2024 candidates who plan to decide whether to run based on what the former president does.
- "Those people who say that they will defer to Donald Trump have disqualified themselves from being president," Christie said. "[Y]ou shouldn't defer to anyone if you believe you're the best person."