NEW YORK — Gov. Chris Christie criticized fellow Republicans who are shying away from holding town hall question-and-answer meetings, and played the role of defender of the president during an appearance on CNN's State Of the Union on Sunday.

The governor said that as the majority party in Washington the heat is on to produce results. "And one of the things that we need to do is engage with the public. Now, we understand that a lot of these protesters are professional protesters, people with an agenda, OK? But you got to work through that. And you got to stand up, let them yell themselves out. In New Jersey, if I walked away from every town hall where I got yelled at, I would have never done one."

Protesters outside Townsqure Media's studios in Toms River
Protesters outside Townsqure Media's studios in Toms River (Townsquare Media NJ)

In New Jersey, congressmen Tom MacArthur and Chris Smith have been vocal about town halls turning more confrontational.

MacArthur was met by about 100 protesters outside Townsquare Media's WOBM studios in Toms River before his scheduled appearance on a monthly interview segment holding signs that they were not "paid protesters."

"I made a comment a week or two ago that I think has been misunderstood. There are paid organizers behind much of this," MacArthur said. "The people who are downstairs right now I know are well intentioned people who have concerns who want to be heard. And I want to find ways where I can hear from them."

Christie's own town halls were full of confrontations with those who opposed him making headlines as he traveled throughout the state. Those same town halls also helped grow his popularity and led him to a presidential run in 2016. He has hosted 160 sessions during his two terms as governor, but has held few since ending his presidential run and his drop in popularity among New Jersey voters.

On State of the Union, Christie disputed a call by fellow Republican Darrell Issa of California for a special prosecutor to investigate possible connections between President Donald Trump and Russia. "When a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control," Christie told host Jake Tapper. The governor said he trusts the ability of the Justice Department to conduct an investigation.

Christie also doesn't think that Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did anything wrong in asking the FBI to refute that the New York Times and CNN were investigating the connections. "Reince Priebus has great integrity. I don't think he did anything wrong. But I do think that it's something that perception matters, and we got to try it differently,"

The governor, however, believes that comfort is more important than having experienced people on his staff. "If you don't have trust in the people who are sitting around the table advising you, no matter what experience they have, you're not going to listen,' Christie said, adding that as someone who has known Trump for 15 years he knows the president wants results. "The folks around him are going to have to start producing results for him that he then can say to the American people, we're getting the job done."

Christie also denied criticism that Trump is not concerned about issues important to voters and is focused on other matters. He said that Trump doesn't require a lot of sleep and can "engage on a lot of different fronts, on a lot of different battles at the same time," ticking off meetings with CEOs, manufacturers and an executive order demanding a plan to defeat ISIS as evidence that Trump has accomplished a lot in his first 40 days in office.

"Some people agree with him, some people don't, but you can't say they're not substantive," Christie said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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