Apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump named Gov. Chris Christie as the chairman of his transition team on Monday. And that’s amazing, because:
1) This is an unprecedented announcement.
Although previous presidential candidates have started to work toward taking over the presidency before their elections, they have traditionally waited until after Election Day to make official announcements about their transition teams. As a point of comparison, the last time there was an open seat for the presidency, in 2008, information about each candidate’s transition didn’t leak out until September, less than two months before the election. And no one from the campaigns even wanted to discuss it then, because it has long been considered uncouth to measure the proverbial drapes before assuming the office. Barack Obama didn’t make an official announcement about his transition team until after he actually won the election.
2) Christie could be working with the son of a man he put in prison.
Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of a report in The New York Times on Friday that Trump has asked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to “put together a blueprint for a transition team.” Kushner is both the husband of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and the son of Charlie Kushner, a major developer and notorious New Jersey political fundraiser who went to prison in 2005 after pleading guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations.
The person who put Kushner away? Christie, who was then New Jersey’s US Attorney.
Now, Christie and Kushner will apparently work together in shaping the next Trump White House, from vetting cabinet members to preparing policy papers.
The men will have plenty to talk about at the water cooler of the transition office. Kushner is a significant New York and New Jersey developer and owns the parent company of PolitickerNJ.com, a political news and gossip site created by David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty in the Bridgegate affair. After Wildstein sold the site to Kushner for an undisclosed sum, he continued to work for Kushner as an anonymous blogger before being hired away by Christie as one of the top appointees at the Port Authority. That’s where Wildstein carried out the traffic jam scheme.
3) Speaking of Bridgegate…Trump to the rescue!
The trial of two former Christie aides is scheduled for September. Wildstein is expected to testify — and so could Christie. With Christie playing such a high-profile role in this campaign — and with Christie as a possible vice presidential pick — the trial could be a distraction for the campaign. At the very least least, Trump may be asked to explain why he previously alleged that Christie “totally knew” about Bridgegate and, therefore, committed a federal crime.
In the meantime, Trump is actually helping Christie when it comes to Bridgegate. The New Jersey Republican State Committee owes $501,909 to law firms and a digital forensics company due to subpoenas it faced over the Bridgegate investigation, according to the committee’s public filing in April. Much of that debt could be wiped away when Trump headlines a $25,000-per-person fundraiser next week to benefit…not his presidential campaign but, instead, the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
Trump is also holding a public rally in Lawrenceville, NJ, next week with Christie. Trump is charging $200 per ticket — unprecedented for Trump rallies, which are always free. But again, the money is not going to Trump. It will instead be used to help retire the debt for Christie’s failed presidential campaign.