Is Trump considering replacing Reince Priebus with Chris Christie?

A fun bit of nonsense from a few days ago, inspired by Christie’s lunch with Trump on Tuesday. Christie insists that no administration job was discussed but it’s no secret that he’s expecting lots of turnover within the Trump administration over the next four years, with a high-ranking vacancy destined to open up for him to fill. Flynn’s already gone, rumors that Spicer is on thin ice continue to swirl, and even Reince Priebus has been dogged by accusations of incompetence, replete with an attack piece published by Steve Bannon’s Breitbart site. Is Christie already thinking of (re-)boarding the Trump train?


Yep, says the New York Post.

A source close to Christie told The Post that possible ­administration positions were discussed.

“I heard it was about chief of staff,” the source said.

But the White House said the conversation was about curbing opioid abuse, a major priority for the governor, and the chief of staff issue “didn’t even come up.”

Christie in place of Priebus? Sounds good to me, writes Matt Bai:

[W]hatever else you want to say about Christie (and I’ve always found him to be a more complicated and gifted politician than his detractors can stand to admit), the man knows how to bring focus to a political operation, and how to advance a governing agenda, and how to balance public bluster with backroom pragmatism…

Either Priebus deserves credit for assembling … this misfit team or he’s too much of a supplicant to get control over staffing the operation. Whichever it is, he must know by now that he isn’t exactly fielding the A-team…

Why force yourself to fire another senior aide every few weeks or months, like a slow bleed? Better to replace poor Priebus now and let Christie deal with the unpleasantness of fixing things. (If there’s one thing Christie doesn’t mind, it’s unpleasantness.)

A chief of staff can elegantly reboot the system in a way a president can’t. A chief of staff can simply say: “I didn’t hire any of these guys, and I’m letting them go.” Done.


Just three problems with this theory. Problem one: Jared Kushner. Kushner is allegedly Christie’s biggest obstacle to joining the administration due to him having sent Kushner’s father to prison when he was a federal prosecutor. And Kushner’s not just any advisor, of course. He’s Trump’s son-in-law, the one guy who can’t be fired and exiled. There’s no reason to think Trump would antagonize Ivanka’s husband by installing Christie in a position of high power unless Kushner relented, and for that to happen Kushner would probably need to be in a state of utter desperation about the state of Trump’s administration. And even then, if he thought Priebus simply had to go, why turn to Christie? Go get another accomplished Republican governor for the role. Or go get a Bush guy like Josh Bolten to put things in order. Christie’s not indispensable. He’s just Trumpier than most of the rest of the GOP farm team.

Problem two: Steve Bannon. Everything that’s happening with the National Security Council and the State Department right now suggests that the White House wants to centralize policymaking as much as possible, and the main driver of that impulse is almost certainly Bannon. Bannon, after all, is the most ideologically unorthodox member of the inner circle. The rest range from traditional Republicans (Reince and Conway) to centrists (Kushner), but Bannon’s a nationalist with big plans to reorient U.S. foreign policy and economic policy towards his world view. (He and Stephen Miller were reportedly the driving force behind Trump’s travel ban.) The last thing he needs is a rival for power at Trump’s elbow with a big personality, a ruthless streak, and a capacity for relating to Trump as a fellow outer-borough guy. It would be one thing if Christie was an ardent nationalist too, but he isn’t; as Bai notes, his hiring plan for the Trump transition was so conventionally Republican that one Trump staffer literally threw it in the trash. In what way would Bannon benefit from having Christie prowling around the Oval Office, shoving Trump towards conventional law-and-order centrist Republicanism? He’s much better off with the mild-mannered Priebus as key competition.


Problem three: Reince himself. Obviously he wants to keep his job, and he’s had lots of sway (befitting a chief of staff) over White House personnel choices, starting with Spicer’s appointment as press secretary and Katie Walsh as a key White House aide. If Christie replaced Reince, he’d have to purge the operation of Priebus appointees for fear of disloyalty, which means even more upheaval and which risks upsetting other top aides like Kushner and Bannon who may have gotten comfortable with the staff currently in place. Given Christie’s penchant for throwing sharp elbows and the fact that Priebus is generally well-liked throughout the party, it may also be that appointing Christie as a replacement would alienate Republicans on the Hill at a moment when Trump is trying to keep them in the fold and focused on tax reform and ObamaCare. Gallup has a poll out today showing Trump’s approval at 38 percent. A man in that position doesn’t want to do anything that might further antagonize allies.

If Trump’s thinking of bringing Christie in, a less political job — something in law enforcement, maybe — that keeps him away from the White House would seem like a better fit. If and when the time comes to fire James Comey, FBI director is something Trump might find suitable. Or DEA chief, perhaps, given Christie’s anti-drug rhetoric during the campaign. That’s a horrifying prospect for federalists and libertarians, but the man’s an authoritarian and there’s no more obviously authoritarian position in Washington.


Here he is yesterday talking about how Trump made him eat the meatloaf at Mar-a-Lago because it’s the very best in America, that I can tell you.

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Jazz Shaw 5:21 PM on September 27, 2023