LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — Donald Trump came to the aid of his political ally Chris Christie on Thursday night, headlining a fundraiser to help retire the New Jersey governor’s presidential campaign debt of nearly $250,000.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, used the rally-style event to unload his signature line of attacks on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, calling her “incompetent” and saying he looked forward to debating her in the run-up to the general election.
“She’s not qualified to be president … because she suffers from bad judgment,” Trump said to cheers of about 1,000 supporters who paid $200 each to attend the event at the National Guard Armory in Lawrenceville.
His remarks came hours after Clinton, in a sit-down interview with CNN, said Trump was “unqualified” for the job of president.
The rally, was part of two fundraisers Trump hosted Thursday night in New Jersey. He also held a private ceremony with nearly a dozen GOP supporters, who paid $25,000 to meet with him.
Money raised from the second event was slated to help the state’s Republican Party pay down nearly $500,000 in legal fees incurred during probes into the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closures.
Christie, the first of the failed GOP presidential candidates to endorse Trump, piled praise on his adversary turned ally, saying the real estate mogul, “has brought greatness to every enterprise he’s ever led.”
“We don’t want America to be weak and disrespected, we want America to be strong and respected,” Christie told the crowd. “Donald Trump will make that happen.”
Christie told the crowd that after quitting his White House bid he debated whether to endorse any GOP candidate, ultimately deciding to back Trump because of their 14-year relationship.
“We never ever make a mistake, by standing with a friend,” Christie said.
Christie’s name has often been floated as a possible running mate for Trump — speculation that intensified earlier this month when he named Christie to head Trump’s White House transition team should he win in November.
Trump heralded Christie’s work in New Jersey, but also poked fun at the governor’s weight, saying Christie would join him in a boycott of Oreo cookies because its parent company Nabisco plans to move jobs out of the United States.
“I’m not eating Oreos anymore,” Trump said. “Neither is Chris … don’t feel bad.”
Though the rally was smaller than the usual tens of thousands of people who have lined up for free Trump rallies, he used many of his popular lines to energize the crowd, saying he was running to “make America great again” and will help the nation “win” again by boosting military spending and renegotiating trade deals if he is elected president.
Trump also made note of Thursday’s disappearance of an Egypt Air flight from Paris to Cairo, speculating that the plane, which has yet to be located, had come under attack.
“A plane got blown out of the sky, and if anyone thinks it wasn’t blown out the sky, you’re 100 percent wrong,” Trump said, before arguing he was the most qualified of the candidates to protect the country from acts of terrorism.
New Jersey will hold its primary on June 7.