Opioid crisis crusader Chris Christie insisted Tuesday he had “good reason to believe” President Trump’s budget won’t gut funding to the federal drug czar office by almost 95%.
The New Jersey governor and ex-Trump transition team chair repeatedly claimed on “Good Morning America” he doubted the Office of National Drug Control Policy would suffer the crippling cuts — despite a leaked budget memo outlining them last week.
“I just don’t believe it’s going to happen,” Christie told George Stephanopoulos. “I just don’t believe it’s going to happen, George.”
Pressed on the subject, he reiterated: “I have good reason to believe it’s not going to happen … I have good reason to believe it’s not going to happen, George.”
The governor added he thinks “there will be funding” and “that funding will take different forms as well.”
The ONDCP coordinates federal anti-drug efforts, administers grant programs and advises the President on drug policy. Trump, meanwhile, campaigned on a vow to fight opioid abuse and addiction — naming Christie to head up a commission on the matter.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday defended the proposed ONDCP cuts as an effort to root out “duplicative services” in federal government, telling Fox News “nothing is final.”
Christie, in his “GMA” sit-down, also spoke to concerns on the GOP health plan — passed by House Republicans last week with a razor-thin margin — letting states waive out of offering addiction treatment as one of their so-called “essential services.”
“I think there’s going to be a lot of work done,” the governor said. “I think the Senate will do a lot of things to change the bill as it is now … I don’t think this is a final product.”
But he also defended the waiver as a “difference in philosophy between Democratic and Republican administrations” — arguing governors should be trusted to “know what’s best for the people in their individual state.”
“I think that most states would consider (addiction treatment) an essential benefit,” Christie said. “I don’t think you’d see any governor in any state say, ‘We don’t think it’s an essential benefit.’”
As for former national security adviser Michael Flynn — the scandal-scarred subject of damning Senate testimony Monday from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates — Christie said he hadn’t noticed any specific “red flags,” but admitted Flynn wasn’t his “cup of tea in terms of style.”
“Suffice it to say that General Flynn and I didn’t necessarily see eye to eye on certain things,” he said.
Christie demurred on why White House officials waited to fire Flynn for 18 days after Yates warned them of his call with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. (“You’d have to ask them, George”), but praised Trump for ultimately ousting him.
“I think in the end what really matters is the President acted decisively very early in the administration to get rid of General Flynn,” he said.