After months of disappointments for Chris Christie, once one of the Republican Party’s brightest stars, the New Jersey governor was virtually assured a position in a Donald Trump administration. As one of the first big-name politicians to endorse the Manhattan billionaire, Christie had earned Trump’s gratitude the pundits predicted. And then everything fell apart.
Among the top political stories in the week of Trump's election, was that just a few months after being denied the VP slot, Christie suffered another public humiliation when he was demoted as Chairman of Trump’s presidential transition team, and was replaced by VP Mike Pence.
In the phone call, "Trump expressed his worry about the recent conviction of two of the governor’s former top aides, who had accused him of knowing more about the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge than he let on. Was more damaging information to come, Trump wondered?"
Trump and his top aides were most concerned about two issues, according to nearly a dozen people briefed on the process: Christie’s mismanagement of the transition, and the lingering political fallout of the Bridgegate scandal.
Trump was also unhappy with the number of lobbyists that Christie had on the transition team, as well as his choice to fill the staff with his own friends and loyalists.
In the days following the election, Trump expressed deep frustration about how Christie was handling the transition. In particular, he vented about how the governor had loaded up the team with lobbyists, the very class of people Trump had campaigned against, with his calls to “drain the swamp” in Washington. The president-elect also noticed that Christie had stocked his team with old New Jersey friends and allies.
There were other issues. Once the dust settled from their surprise win, the Trump team noticed that Christie had done little to vet potential administration picks or to dig into potential conflicts of interests. With Democrats eager to pounce on any early mistake, it was an oversight they simply couldn’t afford.
Additionally, Christie was reportedly deeply disliked by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has become an influential advisor on the Trump campaign:
In the months to come, Kushner, a 35-year-old New York City real estate mogul who grew up in New Jersey, would become a bigger problem for Christie, arguing forcefully against Trump making the governor his running mate. Christie, a former U.S. attorney, became convinced that Kushner was retaliating over his 2004 prosecution of Kushner’s father, Charles.
Still, while they never became close, Kushner and Christie agreed to work together. At several points, according to two sources, Trump took steps to forge a warmer relationship between them -- apparently without success.
Kushner’s allies say the idea that he’s out for personal vengeance, promoted in several recent stories, is simplistic and overblown. Rather, they argue, the Trump son-in-law has more substantive concerns -- viewing the governor as badly damaged following the Bridgegate affair. And in the days following the election, Kushner told others in Trump Tower that Christie oversaw a messy, lobbyist-filled transition operation that simply needed to be cleaned up.
By Thursday of last week, Trump was telling aides that he was ready to make a change.
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How is Christie faring now and what are his future prospects?
In recent days, Christie’s advisers have reached out to him to see how he’s holding up. He’s fine, he’s told them. It was only a matter of time that the transition process would be taken from him once the election was over. On Thursday, during an appearance in Atlantic City, Christie waved off talk about his career prospects -- and criticized reporters for “prognosticating” about his future.
"I know all of them have taken inordinate concern, just in the last 10 days or so, about my future. All of them have become, you know, employment counselors," he added. "I have every intention of serving out my full term as governor — I've said that from the beginning."
Christie’s advisers speculate that the governor might exit politics entirely when his term expires in January 2018. Some of them suggest that Christie, an avid sports fan, could take a job as a sports radio host. He is an occasional guest caller to WFAN, the popular New York City-based sports talk station. To some, it’s far too early to write him off. “He’s the most interesting politician I’ve seen since Bill Clinton,” said former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, a Christie mentor. “He’s got an enormous set of skills.”