BEDFORD, New Hampshire — Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie criticized Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto for declining to join President Donald Trump on a visit to the city where 11 people were killed at a synagogue.
Christie, who was in New Hampshire to headline a state Republican Party rally, said late Tuesday that Trump’s Pittsburgh visit was an attempt to unify the country.
“Folks all want the president to bring the country together. Well, I think his travel to Pittsburgh was an attempt to do that,” Christie told The Associated Press. “And I think it’s really disgraceful of Gov. Wolf and the mayor of Pittsburgh not to meet the president.”
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A campaign spokeswoman for Wolf said community leaders expressed to the governor that they did not feel it was appropriate for Trump to come, so Wolf made a decision not to join him out of respect for the families and the community.
Peduto told reporters before the visit was announced that the White House ought to consult with the families of the victims about their preferences and asked that the president not come during a funeral.
Christie, who backed Trump’s 2016 Republican presidential campaign after his own unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination, defended the president against complaints that Trump’s divisive language has added to the nation’s toxic political environment.
“I know the president is not attempting in any way, shape, or form to incite violence. I know him. I’ve known him for 16 years,” Christie said.
“But sometimes what we intend when we say it is different than how some people hear it,” he continued. “Especially some of the disturbed people that we’ve seen this week, whether it’s the man who sent the pipe bombs around the country or the man who performed the terrible murderous act at the temple in Pittsburgh. Those people sometimes hear us differently than we intend to be heard.”
Christie urged his New Hampshire audience to do everything they could in the final week to elect congressional candidates Eddie Edwards and Steve Negron and to re-elect Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
[Mourning and protests as Pittsburgh begins victims’ burials]
“The governor needs your help next Tuesday. I know he’s ahead, but don’t take it for granted,” Christie said.
Christie, who early this year finished up his second term as New Jersey governor, was less clear about his political future.
“I don’t know if there’s another run for public office in my life or not. What I will tell you is I’m 56, so I doubt I’m done with public life,” he said, adding that he doubted he would join the administration in any kind of formal role.
“I like the role I play with the president now,” he said. “I’m one of those advisers who he talks to on a regular basis on the outside.”