Trump Helps Chris Christie Pay Off Campaign Debt

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. (AP) -
Donald Trump, accompanied by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (L), at a news conference on Super Tuesday in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Donald Trump, accompanied by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (L.), at a news conference on Super Tuesday in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, delivered a thank-you gift Thursday to the man who arguably risked the most to endorse him: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Trump held a fund-raiser that he claimed would pay off the entirety of Christie’s debt from his presidential campaign. The fund-raiser, held at the National Guard Armory in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, had all the trappings of a typical Donald Trump rally. The only thing missing was Trump’s usual overflow crowd.

Christie said he hoped the state’s June 7 primary would provide the votes and delegates to put Trump “officially over the top as the Republican nominee for president of the United States.”

Christie noted the two had once been rivals, but said he’d decided to endorse the business mogul because of their personal friendship. He said he told his wife: “We never ever make a mistake by standing with our friend. And Donald Trump is my friend.”

Christie ended his presidential bid after a disappointing showing in New Hampshire and became one of Trump’s highest-profile backers with a surprise endorsement in February. Trump has appointed Christie to chair his White House transition efforts and his name is often raised as a potential vice presidential pick.

Trump took the stage after Christie and announced that the event — a $200-per-head fund-raiser that attracted about 1,000 people — had retired the bulk of Christie’s roughly $250,000 presidential campaign debt.

“You know, Chris paid off his entire campaign debt tonight, right? His entire debt,” said Trump.

“And Chris, you can’t even give him a table and a seat? That’s terrible,” he joked. Trump turned his head back as if to acknowledge Christie, but the governor — who was mercilessly mocked once for his expression while standing behind Trump — had already left the stage.

Trump delivered his usual stump speech, with some local flourishes thrown in. While Trump usually reads off negative statistics on the economy of the place he’s visiting, his stats Thursday sounded like Christie talking points, touting the state’s economic improvements.

Trump also noted the crash of an EgyptAir jet in the Mediterranean Sea early Thursday: “What just happened about 12 hours ago? A plane got blown out of the sky. And if anybody thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you’re 100 percent wrong.”

Egyptian and Russian officials have said the plane may have been brought down by terrorists, but an investigation is only just beginning, with no cause yet identified.

The event also included a $25,000-per-person fund-raiser for the state GOP to help it pay off about $500,000 in legal fees incurred when responding to legislative subpoenas in the 2013 George Washington Bridge scandal. State party officials said they didn’t immediately have a tally of how much either event had raised.

Earlier Thursday, Trump’s campaign announced the promotion of senior campaign aide Paul Manafort. Manafort, who was brought on by Trump at the end of March to serve as convention manager, will now hold the title of campaign chairman and chief strategist, spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed Thursday.