Donald Trump and Chris Christie. | AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he has not yet discussed a potential cabinet appointment with Donald Trump, and he fell silent when asked about his interest in specific positions.
“We have not talked about anything,” Christie, Trump’s transition chief, told NBC “Today” hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. “The president elect was absolutely adamant about not discussing the transition before he was elected.”
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Asked by Lauer if he’d like to be considered for White House chief of staff, the Republican governor stared blankly.
“Would you want to be attorney general?” Lauer asked as Christie began to smile.
“That is what is called a pregnant pause,” Guthrie said.
“You really don’t think I’m answering any of these questions, do you? You know me better than that,” Christie finally replied. “The answer is I am not committed to doing anything in a new administration, or not. The bottom line is that I have a job to do to help get the administration ready. If there’s some role for me that I want to do and that the president elect wants me to do, you know, we’ve known each other for 14 years, we’ll talk about it. Maybe it’s host of the Today Show, Matt, who knows.”
Christie’s name has been floated for a number of top positions, Homeland Security secretary also among them. Christie has been making the case for a top job, based on experience and loyalty, and he could be considered for chief of staff, POLITICO reported on Thursday, citing two sources and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. But many are also worried about the baggage Christie brings following the Bridgegate trial.
Christie said he didn’t think the recent convictions of two former allies in the George Washington Bridge lane closure trial will “cast a long shadow” on him and his chances of landing a job.
“No, I think the long shadow was cast well before that,” Christie said. “What happened last week with the verdict was they confirmed what I knew and did in January of 2014, which was back there I said, after 24 hours, it’s my view that three people are responsible for what happened there. Those three people, after three years of investigation and the trial — the same three people I fired in January of ’14 — were the three people held responsible by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and that jury.”
Christie actually only fired one of those three people, former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly. Her co-defendant in the trial — Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority — resigned his post at the direction of the governor’s senior staff.
David Wildstein, the admitted mastermind of the political revenge plot and Baroni’s subordinate, also resigned when told to so by Christie’s senior aides. But the governor released a statement praising Wildstein’s service and made sure to personally edit it.
The trial did not weigh Christie’s guilt, but witness after witness described a governor’s office consumed by politics. Some described Christie as a vindictive leader who sought to crush those who crossed him. And the testimony of half a dozen people during the federal trial — including some of the governor’s closest allies — contradicted his claims that he didn’t learn his staff were involved until just before that January 2014 press conference.
Jurors left angry on Friday, with one telling a news outlet she felt Christie should have been on trial and another saying that the governor “is a master puppeteer and was aware of everything that went on, and goes on, within his administration.”
In his interview Thursday, Christie also said Trump was trying to move on from the vitriol of the election, even as protests break out across the country. Trump is set to meet today with President Obama, whom he had for years accused of not being an American citizen. Christie said that’s all in the past.
“I think that’s all passed us,” Christie said. “Fact is, the president said a lot of things — said a lot of things at the correspondents’ dinner, said a lot of things about Donald Trump — that were clearly attempting to delegitimize him. That’s politics, though. And I think what the two men recognize is that, now, this is about governing and leading the world. And they have a lot more important things to talk about than slights — whether real or perceived — in the past.”
Pressed on whether it was all just politics when Trump was making claims about the president’s place of birth, Christie said, “Well everything’s in the context of politics, Matt. It doesn’t mean he didn’t believe those things or wasn’t concerned about them. But you see the difference between when two people are in combat in politics and when two people have spoken. And Tuesday night the people spoke, they elected Donald Trump president of the United States and so, now, it’s time for both Donald and the president to turn and move to a new chapter.”