- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

With a swig of water and shake of his head, Gov. Chris Christie dismissed questions over whether he knew about plans to close lanes to the George Washington Bridge as others claimed in court, pushing back Tuesday against what he called “loony” testimony.

Christie addressed the trial, which ended in the conviction of two of his former allies months ago, during an unexpected news conference in Newark. It was the first time in weeks the Republican governor, whose approval rating is at record lows, took reporters’ questions.

The impromptu news conference came the same day a Quinnipiac University poll found Christie’s job approval rating stood at 17 percent, with 78 percent disapproving. The poll surveyed 1,240 New Jersey voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

A closer look at what Christie addressed:

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‘LOONY’ THINGS

The so-called Bridgegate trial ended when a jury convicted Bill Baroni, a former bridge authority executive the governor appointed, and Bridget Kelly, a one-time aide to the governor.

Christie sat for a one-on-one interview with Charlie Rose, but he hadn’t addressed testimony from witnesses, including a former aide who wasn’t charged with wrongdoing, that suggested he knew about the alleged political payback scheme sooner than he said.

“I’m not going to get into every specific loony thing that was said at that trial that you all breathlessly reported as truth,” Christie said, addressing reporters.

Christie wasn’t charged in the scheme that closed access lanes in Fort Lee at the start of the school year in 2013, allegedly in retaliation for the town’s mayor failing to endorse the governor’s re-election. Christie denies wrongdoing.

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GRADING TRUMP

Christie tore into President Donald Trump’s advisers, without mentioning names, for the rollout of an executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim nations for 90 days. He said the president was poorly served by the handling of the order, which caused widespread confusion and left Republican congressional leaders frozen out.

But Christie declined to grade the president’s progress so far. Once a transition team leader and a vocal supporter of Trump during the campaign, Christie said it’s too early.

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‘TAKE IT TO THE BANK’

Christie says the planned $300 million restoration of New Jersey’s statehouse is going forward, despite some pushback from Democratic lawmakers. The administration has not detailed how exactly the project will be funded, and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democratic candidate for governor, has called for legislative approval of funding.

“It’s going to happen,” Christie said. “Take it to the bank.”

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HIS SUCCESSOR?

Christie pushed back at coverage of his refusal to endorse Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who’s seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Christie. He said last week he’s not backing a candidate in the primary now because there are multiple candidates running and said that’s the “natural evolution of a political relationship” between a governor and lieutenant governor.

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ACUTE CARE BEDS

Christie also announced a 40 percent increase in the total adult acute care beds available in New Jersey for substance abuse and mental health patients. That translates into 864 beds, he said. The announcement comes as the governor dedicates his final year in office to addressing the state’s opioid epidemic, which claimed 1,600 lives in New Jersey in 2015.

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Catalini reported from Trenton.

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