TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has repeatedly spoken of his 14-year friendship with Donald Trump since endorsing him in the Republican presidential primary in February. Now that Trump has surprised the country with his presidential victory and is in a position to reward Christie for his early support, however, their relationship appears strained.
A friend of Christie’s, former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., resigned from the transition team Tuesday. Christie was named Trump’s transition chairman in May, charged with helping identify about 4,000 workers and appointees to serve in the new administration. But Friday, Trump replaced Christie with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and announced that two close Christie allies, Rich Bagger and Bill Palatucci, would leave their positions and serve as advisers to the transition.
The moves have been interpreted as signs of trouble for the transition and for the relationship between Christie and Trump. But Christie reaffirmed his loyalty to the president-elect in a radio interview Tuesday.
“He knows after 14 years that no matter what he decides, we’re going to be friends, and as I was there to help him during the campaign, I’ll be there to help him as president, whether that means I’ll decide to take a position, if offered, in the administration,” Christie said in a phone interview with Harry Hurley, a friend who hosts a morning talk show on radio station WPG-FM (104.1 FM). Christie added that he has “spoken to the president-elect often in the last six days and what I’ve said to him is what I’ll say to you, which is: If there is a way that I can be helpful, that’s meaningful, then Mary Pat and I will consider it.”
Christie is now one of several transition vice chairmen, once again losing influence to Pence after being in contention with him to be Trump’s running mate. In 2012, Christie campaigned for Pence during his run for governor of Indiana. And as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie helped raise roughly $1.2 million that the organization donated to Pence’s successful campaign, according to the National Institute of State Politics.
Christie’s diminished role with Trump’s transition is due at least in part, according to multiple news outlets, to Jared Kushner, the president-elect’s son-in-law, whose father was convicted in a case prosecuted by Christie when he was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Charles Kushner, a prominent Democratic donor, was sentenced to two years after pleading guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations. But unnamed transition aides told Bloomberg that the Kushner-led purge was because the transition hadn’t progressed or gotten as far as Trump wanted, not the conviction.
Christie, who is in Florida for the Republican Governors Association’s annual conference, dismissed the multiple reports over the past several days as “drama from unnamed sources.”
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