Sneak Peek at Chris Christie new book
Excerpts from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s forthcoming book, Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics
In his new book, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie writes about how it was Steve Bannon acting on behalf of Jared Kushner, who fired him from leading Trump’s transition team after the November election. In the book, to be released January 29, Christie writes:
“Jared Kushner, still apparently seething over events that had occurred a decade ago, was exacting a plot of revenge against me, a hit job that made no sense at all for the man we had just helped elect,” Christie writes. “And Steve Bannon, hot-shot, big-balls campaign executive, was quietly acquiescing to it… It says a lot about Steve that he was willing to fire me to stay on Jared’s good side, yet he couldn’t bear to be fingered as the one who’s done the deed. Back where I come from, which is New Jersey, that’s what we call a lying snake.”
SCENE: In between the bickering, there was one moment that Jared and Christie came together to briefly put the past behind them. Jared called upon Christie’s son, Andrew, to document a moment of celebration: The election of Donald Trump as president on November 8, 2016. Christie describes what took place as the Trump team was getting ready to depart Trump Tower for the Hilton.
“Jared stopped me in the foyer. He said to Andrew, ‘Can you do me a favor?’ ‘Sure,’ Andrew said. He handed Andrew a phone and said, ‘Would you take a picture of me and your dad at this moment? No one would ever believe that we would be standing next to each other having, together, just helped elect a president of the United States.’”
‘SURREAL’ MOMENT: In chapter 18, titled “Jared Meltdown,” Christie describes Jared’s emotional reaction to his appointment as chairman of the transition team on May 6, 2016, the first face-to-face interaction since the Charles Kushner case. “I don’t think we should rush on this,” Jared told his father-in-law and Corey Lewandowski, the then-campaign manager as they were finalizing the press release announcing Christie’s appointment. “When he started talking,” Christie says, Jared tried to talk Trump out of his decision:
“He sounded like a person who’d been holding poison inside himself for a very long time. ‘You really want to know why?’ Jared asked. ‘Because I don’t trust him to have this, and you know why I don’t trust him to have it… He tried to destroy my father. ’…‘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.’” Later on, as Trump continued to stand behind his decision, Christie quotes Jared as arguing to Trump, “I think you’re wrong about this. I’m not saying I couldn’t agree to his chairing the transition. I’m just saying I want you to wait.”
After this, Trump suggested the following: Resolve the Christie-Kushner dispute over a dinner:
“Donald laid it out. ‘Me and Chris, you and your dad. What if we all go out to dinner and just try to resolve this?’ I have to say I breathed a small sigh of relief when Jared refused to bite on Donald’s deal. I could hardly imagine a tenser gathering. ‘I don’t think there’s any way that my father is ready to have dinner with the governor,’ Jared said… The whole thing was just too surreal.”
Christie writes that he then turned to Jared to tell him that they are both burdened with things that are difficult for the other person to understand, thus leaving Trump to decide which side to take. “I’ve made my decision,” Trump said. “Jared I know you’re not happy about this, but Chris is the chairman of the transition.” “Fine,” was Jared’s response before leaving the room. “I understand.”
Despite getting his way, Christie writes he was still “pissed that Jared would dare to lecture me for doing my job as U.S. Attorney” and for being “set up like this.” He sought to get Trump’s attention before the candidate was leaving to meet with Sheldon Adelson to clarify the lines of authority. “You answer to one person and one person only. That person is me,” Trump told him.
Jared’s revenge came hours later when the New York Times ran a story titled “Trump Asks Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner, to Plan for Transition Team.” Citing two sources briefed on the new assignment, the lede read:
“Donald J. Trump has asked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to begin quietly working to put together a blueprint for a transition team should he win the White House in November,” Christie writes. “It was as if our meeting that very morning had never occured. And in case there was any doubt about who was behind the story, the Times reporter went on at some length about the ‘close relationship’ between Donald Trump and his ‘very successful’ son-in-law, who is ‘very good at politics.’ The two ‘are often in contact, talking informally about the campaign,’ the writer oozed, even noting that Jared, aided by The New York Observer editor Ken Kurson, ‘wrote a closely watched speech Mr. Trump delivered to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March.’ This wasn’t journalism. This was stenography.”
The feud came to an end the next day when Jared called Christie into the office after the formal announcement and offered a truce: “You and I should put all this behind us, Governor…It’s all in the past as far as I am concerned. We have to do what is best for the campaign.”
As he mentions several times in the book, Christie closes the chapter by saying, “Things didn’t quite turn out that way.”
SHADOW CHAIRMAN: Following the appointment of Paul Manafort as campaign manager, Christie got a call.
“I need to talk to you about the transition,” Manafort told Christie. “The family doesn’t trust you to run the transition.” Christie writes: “I know the code words by now. ‘Do you mean the family,’ I asked. ‘Or do you mean Jared?’ ‘I mean Jared,’ Paul said. I figured as much.” Manafort then suggested to set up an executive committee, with Trump’s kids, Steve Mnuchin and Jeff Sessions serving as members, to monitor his activity. “I told him flat out I didn’t like the idea…This was just the latest attempt by Jared to undercut the crucial work that I was getting done.” But while he settled on the panel, “it was clear that the real chairman – unnamed – was Jared Kushner,” Christie writes. “Jared never deviated from his pleasant demeanor, though he always seemed able to get his lick ins. He would ask questions at the executive committee meetings as if he was seeking neutral information, still managing to pick apart whatever was being proposed.”
POST-ELECTION: In a meeting at Trump’s Bedminster clubhouse in November, Trump assured Christie that Jared was not behind all the bad stories about Christie in the press. “Absolutely,” Christie quotes Jared as telling him. “I never speak to the press… I told you all the way back last spring, Governor, that any animus I had was now behind me. That the most important thing was electing Donald president and, now that we’ve done that, making him a great president. I would never do anything to harm you in any way.’
“See,” Trump marveled. “He wouldn’t do anything like that.”
RUSSIA PROBE: Christie writes that Jared thought he was “crazy” that he predicted that talks of links between the Trump campaign and Russia would go on for a while. Christie recalls a private lunch he had with Trump and Kushner — “Jared ordered his typical salad” — at the White House the day following Mike Flynn‘s ouster as National Security Advisor in February of 2017. “Firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing,” Christie quotes Jared as saying. “I couldn’t believe how naive all of this sounded,” Christie recalls, adding his prediction that “we’re going to be sitting here at Valentine’s Day of 2018, maybe longer, and we’re still going to be talking about this.” Jared’s response: “You’re crazy.”
JAVANKA’S WEDDING: Christie recalls a conversation he had with Donald and Melania Trump when the real-estate mogul informed him that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump had decided to get engaged. ‘Congratulations to both of you,’ Christie said. Ivanka’s decision to convert to Judaism, Christie writes, was a little hard for Trump to gauge. “He was greeting the news with what I would describe as acceptance. ‘She’s a big girl. She’s a smart girl. If that’s what she wants to do, then that’s what she wants to do. I support her. I trust her.’”
Christie adds that Trump later called him to see whether he would consider coming to the wedding despite his involvement in the Charles Kushner case, an invitation which Christie politely declined.
WORKING WITH IVANKA: Christie’s working relationship with Ivanka Trump went a little smoother. The former New Jersey Governor describes how Ivanka reached out to draft a statement for Trump to apologize for his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Mexican heritage. “Together, she and I drafted a written statement for her father to release… This was Politics 101, a standard, damage-control press release, the obvious way to quiet a controversy that had dragged on too long… Ivanka and I were both happy with the approach.”
CHRISTIE’S 2016 FOREIGN POLICY ADVISORS: During his own short run for president in 2016, Christie writes that he sought the advice of Brian Hook, who is now Special Representative for Iran at the State Department, on foreign policy matters, as well as monthly “tutorials” from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, ‘who seemed happy to school me like I was one of his long-ago Harvard graduate students.”