A smart move, and an example of why Donald Trump’s most critical personnel appointment of his campaign had so much value. Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take over the transition team from Chris Christie, the New York Times reports and NBC News confirms shortly afterward:
JUST IN: VP-elect Pence taking over Trump's transition team from Gov. Christie https://t.co/zDpoFbRv5B
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 11, 2016
Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take over the job of leading Donald J. Trump’s transition effort, taking the helm from Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, as Mr. Trump moves to assemble a government after his stunning upset victory, several sources close to the transition team said on Friday.
Mr. Christie had been in charge of the transition for the last several months, but the surprise nature of Mr. Trump’s victory made it critical to move more quickly to assemble a team.
The president-elect told advisers he wanted to tap Mr. Pence’s Washington experience and contacts to help move the process along, according to people familiar with the discussions. An executive committee, which will include members of Congress, will advise Mr. Pence as the process moves forward.
Christie isn’t out — he’s simply getting out of Pence’s way. He’ll stay on as co-vice chair with Rudy Giuliani and a handful of other Trump-administration hopefuls. Had Trump been concerned about Bridgegate fallout, Christie would have suddenly found a desire to spend more time with his family, as the euphemism goes.
When Trump picked Pence as running mate, some wondered whether Pence was just window dressing to assuage nervous conservatives or would have actual influence in a Trump administration. This answers that question only a couple of days after it stopped being a hypothetical. Trump’s trusting Pence to manage the first key project of the administration, and that could signal a reliance on Pence to serve as a kind of consigliere, in the same fashion as Dick Cheney during the Bush years. That’s good news for movement conservatives, and almost certainly for Republican leadership in Congress, but it might not be great news for whoever takes the chief of staff position.
The biggest task in a transition is finding people for key positions. Personnel is policy, and Pence would have a better sense of where movement conservatives want to go than either Christie or Giuliani. Trump obviously has the final say, but Pence will have a pretty keen eye on potential minefields with Cabinet appointments. Expect appointments to have some outside-the-box qualities, but we won’t see many head-scratchers.
So far, the decisions from Trump after the election have almost all been, well … normal, if not entirely conventional. Perhaps those indulging in freak-outs will notice this eventually.