Chris Christie becomes top contender for chief of staff, immediately takes himself out of the running

Imagine how awful this job must be for this guy, of all people, to think better of taking it. He was famously and unceremoniously dumped as head of Trump’s transition effort shortly before the inauguration. He’s allegedly been blocked from joining the team at various points by Jared Kushner, exacting revenge for Christie’s prosecution of Kushner’s father. He’s been out of office in New Jersey for nearly a year and has no realistic prospects of running again for anything until 2024, when Bob Menendez’s Senate seat will be up.


Not long ago Christie’s chief employment opportunity looked to be sports talk radio. I mean, really.

Now here is, finally being considered for a job that would not only put him inside the White House but would place him at the epicenter of American political life. He’s on the precipice of coming all the way back from political oblivion.

And still, the prospect of having to contend with Trump every day is so awful that he’d prefer to remain underemployed. This morning:

President Trump met with Chris Christie on Thursday evening and considers him a top contender to replace John Kelly as chief of staff, according to a source familiar with the president’s thinking.

“He’s tough; he’s an attorney; he’s politically-savvy, and one of Trump’s early supporters.”

Behind the scenes: Trump has met with a couple of others, but the way he’s discussed Christie to confidants make them think he’s serious. His legal background may come in handy next year.

Annnnnnd this afternoon:

WaPo was also told that Christie was a “leading contender,” making his sudden withdrawal that much stranger. In some ways he’d have been an ideal pick. He has eight years of executive experience from New Jersey; he’s effective as an advocate on television; he knows Republican movers and shakers by dint of his time as head of the Republican Governors Association; he knows Trump’s team from his work on the campaign; he wouldn’t have to worry about Bridgegate and a confirmation battle, as he would have if he’d been nominated as AG. And as noted, as the Kushner family knows firsthand, he’s a seasoned prosecutor. His counsel would have been useful in the next stage of Russiagate.


He doesn’t want to do it. Although maybe it’s not having to interact with Trump that was the big obstacle here:

If Christie is selected, Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, would both report directly to Christie under the existing staff structure.

Though on the surface Christie and Kushner have a cordial working relationship, Trump understood that the notion of his son-in-law being OK with reporting to the man who put his father in jail is unlikely. Multiple sources say the Trump children will have the most influence on this decision.

Given the Jared problem, I don’t understand how Christie became a “leading contender” or why he and Trump even bothered to meet. Obviously if he had joined the White House the hierarchy would have been tweaked so that Kushner reported directly to Trump. Surely Jared would have insisted upon it as a condition of Christie’s employment. And Christie probably would have been fine with it, as a situation in which he and Kushner were immediately bumping heads as boss and underling would have been instantly intolerable. If Kushner was okay with Christie coming aboard so long as he didn’t have to answer to him — and presumably he was or else Trump wouldn’t have considered Christie to begin with — then how did this go wrong?

Did Christie insist that Kushner report to him, if only as a way of asserting his authority over the West Wing in his new role, and Kushner wouldn’t go for it? John Kelly started off that way too, positioning himself as sole gatekeeper to the president. That lasted about six months until he finally gave up, more or less, having learned that even a Marine four-star can’t instill discipline in Trump. Maybe in this case Trump made clear upfront that there’d be no gatekeeping — that while Christie’s input would be welcome, POTUS would be serving as his own de facto chief of staff. “To hell with it, then,” Christie may have thought.


Or maybe this was a straightforward revenge rejection by a guy who’s probably tired of being humiliated by Trump:

After Nick Ayers and Mick Mulvaney, he’s the third candidate this week to take himself out of the running for one of the most powerful government jobs in the world. Looks like there’s only one man left, realistically. Exit quotation:

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