Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has always seemingly been held at arms length from President Donald Trump’s inner circle — every time he has gotten close to Trump, he has been pushed out.
In 2016, he briefly led Trump’s presidential transition team, but was fired just a few days after the election results were finalized. And two years later, when Trump was looking for a replacement to White House chief of staff John Kelly, Christie was briefly on the shortlist but was again quickly dropped (Trump still hasn’t picked a permanent replacement for Kelly).
On paper, they ought to be good buddies. They’re both brash, confrontational Northeast Republicans, and both have famously run their political careers like mob bosses — Trump with his hush payments, Christie with his traffic problems in Fort Lee.
But there has always been a theory about why Christie never seems to stay in Trump’s good graces, and it has to do with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Jared began to detail his ancient grievances against me. “He tried to destroy my father,” Jared said. … As Jared spoke, he never raised his voice. But some strong emotions are not dependent on volume. Jared delivered his in a soft quiver. As he continued, his voice began to crack.
“It wasn’t fair,” he said. … “This was a family matter,” Jared said, “a matter to be handled by the family or by the rabbis” — not by a hard-charging federal prosecutor. Jared glanced at me, then fixed his gaze on his father-in-law, Donald. “How can he be trusted to handle the transition?”
In 2004, Christie, then a U.S. attorney in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, prosecuted Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, a wealthy New York real estate magnate and Democratic donor. He pleaded guilty to fraudulent corporate tax deductions, making illegal campaign contributions in his employees’ names, and a witness-tampering scheme in which he lured his sister’s husband to a hotel with a prostitute. Prosecutors had originally been alerted to possible wrongdoing because of a series of lawsuits stemming from a family feud between Charles Kushner and Jared’s brother Murray — and to this day Jared is allegedly furious that Christie butted into what was clearly a criminal enterprise, but what the Kushners saw as a personal matter.
And Jared’s opinion has evidently carried a lot of weight with the president. Trump has frequently listened to him, even when he has given catastrophically bad advice — for example, when Jared assured Trump that Democrats would praise him for firing FBI director James Comey.
There is a stinging irony in the fact that, for all of Christie’s unethical behavior as a politician, what got him booted out of Trump’s inner circle was the time he actually stood up and did his job.