OTR Interviews

Chris Christie explains change of heart on 'unfit' Trump

Gov. Chris Christie once told 'On the Record' that Donald Trump wasn't suited to be president. Now he has endorsed him. The former 2016 candidate tells Greta why


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, ON THE RECORD. Well, you better brace yourself. Rubio suggesting Donald Trump wet his pants last night during the debate.

And, today, Trump announcing a bombshell. Donald Trump getting the huge endorsement of former rival New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And governor Christie is going to be right here to go ON THE RECORD.

Also, right now, Donald Trump is about to take the stage at a rally in Oklahoma City. ON THE RECORD will monitor the rally and take you there live.

But, first, here is a look at the big announcement from Donald Trump and his rival turned supporter Governor Chris Christie.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States. He will make sure that people around the world know that America keeps its word again. Donald Trump is someone who when he makes a promise, he keeps it.

I can guarantee you that the one person that Hillary and bill Clinton do not want to see on that stage come next September is Donald Trump. They know how to run the standard political playbook against junior senators and run them around the block. They do not know the playbook with Donald Trump because he is rewriting the playbook.

The idea that Marco Rubio can get inside Donald Trump's head is an interesting proposition, but one that's really for the D.C. parlor game. What Donald Trump is about is about the people of this country.

We can't any longer as a country stand up and defend ourselves around the world because we have a leader who wrings his hands and hear any of that this morning from Senator Rubio. So desperate people in campaigns do desperate things, flailing punches in the last days of a losing campaign.

The fact of the matter is no one is going to get inside this guy's head. He has lived a lot of life. He's had lots of fights and battles. I have watched him do it. And there is no better fighter than Donald Trump. And he's going to fight for the American people. And you didn't hear Senator Rubio talk about any of that this morning.

DONALD TRUMP, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Generally speaking, I'm not big on endorsements. I could have had many endorsements. I have quite a few good ones, but I could have had many, many, but you know, I didn't want to take the time and the two hours and the dinners and everything else. It just wasn't worth it. This was an endorsement that really meant a lot. Chris is an outstanding man with an outstanding family. He has done a great job.

CHRISTIE: I concluded along with Mary Pat and the children supported that we wanted to be with the person who we thought could provide the strongest leadership for America and the person who could best make sure that Hillary Clinton never gets within 10 miles of the White House.

Once we made that decision, it was clear the only choice was Donald Trump. The best choice was Donald Trump. And the last thing is our family is one that prides loyalty. And the fact is that we have been good friends with Donald and his family for many years. And there was no choice in my mind.

And when did I make the final decision? Yesterday morning. I met with Donald. We sat and talked. And he said how about coming out on the road to Texas with me. And I said happy to do it. Whenever you are ready, sir. So we did it and that's how the process went.



VAN SUSTEREN: And just a short time ago, Governor Christie went ON THE RECORD.


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor Christie, nice to see you, sir.

CHRISTIE: Greta, nice to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, when did you decide that you wanted to endorse Donald Trump?

CHRISTIE: When did I decide to endorse Donald Trump, Thursday morning.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what provoked that. What led up to that. Were you just like it's time to do something or what was it?

CHRISTIE: Well, first off, Greta, I have had a 14-year friendship with Donald Trump as has my wife, Mary Pat along with Melania. And so we have known them for a very long time. We've been friends with them for a very long time. And I have said that all during the campaign that I have always had a great personal relationship with Donald Trump.

It became clear to me in this past week that we need to unite as a party behind the person who gives us the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton. That's what I have been saying all along. I think that's the number one priority to make sure Hillary Clinton never gets back in the White House. And I believe that Donald Trump is the right person to provide the type of strong leadership that both our party and our nation needs to be able to beat Hillary Clinton and move forward to, you know, advance the cause of the people of our country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's what surprised me. The two of us -- we talked in August along the Jersey Shore, your beautiful state, that beautiful beach that you all have. And when we talked about Donald Trump, here is what you said about him then. That was last August.


CHRISTIE: Donald is a great guy and a good person, but I just don't think he is suited to be president of the United States.


CHRISTIE: I don't think his temperament is suited for that and I don't think his experience is.


VAN SUSTEREN: So what has happened? I mean, maybe I don't understand politics. But he didn't have the temperament or the experience last August and now you think he is the guy.

CHRISTIE: Yes, well, because, Greta, I'm no longer in the race. I was the person best suited to be the president of the United States. The voters decided, otherwise. And with the folks remaining on that stage, Donald Trump is by far and away with his executive experience, with his toughness, with his vision for the country's future, by far and away the best person to be the Republican nominee for president.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if you and I were both in the courtroom, you know, I would point out to you, and I'm pointing out now, as you said, you don't think -- it doesn't say, I don't think I'm better in temperament and better in experience, you said, I don't think his temperament is suited and I don't think, you know, his experience is. That's different.

CHRISTIE: I understand, Greta. I understand what you are saying and I'm telling you that I believe that Donald Trump is the person on that stage now who is best suited, best prepared to make America the kind of leader around the world that it needs to be again, to make sure that we have peace in the world.

And he is the kind of person who will be best for America's economy. And let's face it, we've got two first-term United States senators on that stage, who are just, you know, ill prepared to be president of the United States. And my choice is I believe Donald Trump is the best person.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that this race has gotten a little bit off the rails? I mean, we've got a situation where today Senator Marco Rubio made some reference that he thought that Donald Trump wet his pants last night during the debate. And Donald Trump certainly has said things about Senator Marco Rubio likewise back.

Has this GOP race gotten a little off the rails in terms of issues?

CHRISTIE: Greta, listen. It's very competitive. There are also lots of important issues discussed last night in the race.

And I understand. Senator Rubio is at that point in the campaign where you are throwing hay makers every minute, trying to hope that you land one. I understand what he is trying to do. And so the fact is, though, that Donald Trump last night spoke on that stage very forcefully about what he wants to do for this country.

And, you know, campaigns, when they get near, you're four days away from 11 contests, Greta, everybody is trying real hard. And so, you know, I don't think folks should believe this has gone off the rails. No. People are competing with each other. They are trying hard. And so not every word that comes out of everyone's mouth is going to be perfect. That's OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the issues that Donald Trump is getting hit for is his tax returns. He says he is in an audit, which I totally understand. Frankly, if I were his lawyers, if indeed he's in an audit, I would say wait until the audit is over since you don't want your tax returns going out in piecemeal.

What about the suggestion, though, that he release tax returns that predate the years he is getting audited? I assume that he is only getting audited at most going back three years.

CHRISTIE: Yes. Greta, listen, the bottom line is this, Mr. Trump is going to release his tax returns. But he is not going to release them until his counsel tells him that it is appropriate for him to do so given that he is being audited. And the fact is that you don't want to release the piecemeal and just give a piece of information from folks from previous years without seeing the entire picture.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the old one, though?

CHRISTIE: I talked to him about this personally.


VAN SUSTEREN: The old ones.


CHRISTIE: Greta, that's only part of this -- Greta, that's only part of the story. If you want to really know what Donald Trump earns every year, who he donates to every year, a complete picture of his -- of those habits, you need to release all the tax returns. And that's what he will do, but only after the time that the audit is complete. And so he has made that very clear.

He wants to be completely transparent about this. I've spoken to him about this personally. He has no reluctance to release his tax returns. I mean, he's not going to do so while he's amidst of an audit and do it against the advice of the attorneys who are representing him.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, you and I were just not to believe it right now. I would disagree with you on the ones that aren't subject to the audit because I know the IRS audit can take forever. And he could be out of office, doing two terms in the presidency before an audit is ever finished. So we never see them with the way the IRS works.

CHRISTIE: Well, Greta, that's a problem with the IRS, not a problem with Donald Trump.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, when you told them that you are going to endorse him, what did he say to you?

CHRISTIE: He said I'm thrilled and thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And did you have to make the --


CHRISTIE: And said, how quickly can we do it? And I said, well, when did you want to do it? And he said, will you come to Texas tomorrow? And I said, I'd be happy to.

And I got on the plane last night, while the debate was going on and flew down to Texas. And we did our endorsement event this morning.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you have to make an awkward phone call to Governor Kasich, for instance, or Dr. Ben Carson. I suspect you and Senator Rubio aren't that chummy. I have seen what happened in that debate in New Hampshire. But did you make phone calls to the others?

CHRISTIE: No awkward phone calls needed to be made, Greta, no. And the fact is that everybody knows that politics is about choosing. And I made a choice. It's my choice. I'm proud of that choice. It's Mary Pat's choice as well. And we are looking forward to working hard for our friend Donald Trump as he gets the Republican nomination, and making sure we do everything we can to make sure we beat Hillary Clinton.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it that if Senator Rubio is the nominee, will you get behind him, if he beats -- certainly seen -- I have seen your comments on him.

CHRISTIE: As I have said, Greta, ever since I signed the pledge that the Republican National Committee chairman put in front of me back last August, I will support the Republican nominee for president of the United States because any of those folks will be a better president than Hillary Clinton.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you agree with me on this that politics is a sure -- is sure a whole lot different than the courtroom?

CHRISTIE: Yes, it is, Greta. It is a whole lot different than the courtroom. No doubt about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: We have rules in the courtroom, don't we?

CHRISTIE: Yes, well, I mean, depending on who the judge is. Sometimes those rules are followed differently, right, Greta? It's always important who the person is sitting behind the bench and making the calls. Sometimes, we see the rules one way or the other. That's where, you know, the court is somewhat like politics. But there is no doubt there are differences.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. Governor, thank you for joining us and good luck, sir.

CHRISTIE: Greta, thanks for having me very much. And I appreciate the time.