Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, has fallen on hard times. After leaving office with historically low approval ratings, Christie’s reputation is small coin these days. Less than a week ago, New York magazine warned that Christie’s fall from grace was a “cautionary tale” for future presidential contenders.
Now Christie is seeking the spotlight with a new memoir, Let Me Finish, that is scheduled to be published on January 29. An advance copy was obtained by The Guardian, as they report. Far from reviving Christie’s reputation, however, it confirms that he remains full of hot air. The advance excerpts make it clear that this isn’t a serious examination of the Trump administration, but a prolonged exercise in seeking revenge against the figures that stymied his rise. Throughout, he appears to serve up warmed-over accusations against his detractors.
The problem is not that Christie was canned from the Trump team; it’s that he should never have been affiliated with it in the first place. In settling scores with a variety of administration officials, he demonstrates that Trump’s reservations about him were fully justified, beginning with declining to offer him the vice-presidential slot to exiling him from the transition team.
In his memoir, Christie reserves special ire for the man he blames for setting him on such an unfortunate (lack of) career path: Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor.
“Steve Bannon…made clear to me that one person and one person only was responsible for the faceless execution that Steve was now attempting to carry out. Jared Kushner, still apparently seething over events that had occurred a decade ago,” writes Christie.
“The kid’s been taking an ax to your head with the boss ever since I got here,” continued Bannon, Trump’s White House strategist before his own unhappy dismissal in August 2017.
The decade-old event being referred to is the prosecution of Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, in 2005 for witness tampering and tax evasion. The case had to do with Charles’ salacious recording of a sex act between a prostitute he had hired and his brother-in-law, which he then sent to his sister for the purposes of blackmail. In the book, Kushner refers to the crime as a “family matter.”
Christie, as U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey at the time, oversaw the investigation and the prosecution. Charles Kushner entered a plea bargain and served fourteen months in federal prison, which left an indelible mark on the twenty-four-year-old Jared. It was one of his main motivators in shepherding through the First Step Act in December, a bipartisan attempt at criminal justice reform.
His father’s imprisonment was also his main motivation for seeking revenge against Chris Christie. This included influencing then-candidate Donald Trump into not naming Christie as chairman of the presidential transition team.
“He implied I had acted unethically and inappropriately but didn’t state one fact to back that up,” Christie writes. “Just a lot of feelings - very raw feelings that had been simmering for a dozen years.”
This defense might evoke smirks for readers who recall that Chris Christie’s road to purgatory began with “Bridgegate,” where political appointees of the New Jersey governor purposely closed a major bridge causing traffic jams, apparently in revenge for a political slight.
Similarly, Christie blames Kushner and wife, Ivanka, for his not getting picked to be Trump’s running mate: “the family is very upset that he [Trump] says it will be you,” said a high-ranking staffer to Christie, he claims. This is in line with a description of the selection process provided by The New Yorker in October 2017, which implied that Trump wanted to pick Christie but was compelled by other advisors to pick Indiana Governor Mike Pence. “They’re telling me I have to pick him. It’s central casting. He looks like a Vice-President,” Trump allegedly told Christie.
According to The Guardian, Christie repeatedly says he’s not disappointed with the final decision.
Christie has been quick to receive blame for the sloppiness and inadequacy of the Trump transition after election night 2016. But Christie puts the responsibility on Pence, who replaced Christie as transition chairman three days after the election, and whose approach Christie calls “thrown-together.”
“Christie’s team had been quietly gathering résumés and making plans for months, but Pence’s team threw out the research, dumping thirty binders of material into the trash,” said the same New Yorker profile of the vice president. This led to the hiring of dreadful personnel “over and over again,” to quote Christie.
This includes former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whom Christie refers to as “the Russian lackey and future federal felon” whose short time in the administration was “a train wreck from beginning to end…a slow-motion car crash.” The language is stark but what evidence does Christie produce to support the assertion that he was nothing less than a lackey?
Christie describes Jeff Sessions, who beat him out for the position of Attorney General, as “not-ready-for-prime-time” and blames him for the Russian investigation getting out of hand. On that note, Christie calls Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyers in Trump Tower “dumb” and a “sign of profound inexperience.”
Despite President-elect Trump’s wish to “make Chris happy,” the former presidential candidate did not accept any of the minor positions he was offered in the administration.
One figure who’s left surprisingly untouched by Chris Christie’s guns is Donald Trump himself. “The president is utterly fearless and a unique communicator Christie writes – and his main flaw is that he speaks on impulse and surrounds himself with people he should not trust,” says The Guardian. Christie includes jaunty stories of meeting and having dinner with Trump in the early 2000s, and he seems to take the president’s insulting sense of humor in good cheer.
“I’d never seen him so deferential,” said former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, describing Christie’s behavior towards Trump on the 2016 campaign trail. That attitude continues into 2019. Even as Christie laces into Trump’s subordinates, he wants to keep feelers out to the president himself. But his vitriolic memoir offers a reminder why Trump himself would be well-advised to remain finished with Christie.
Hunter DeRensis is a reporter at The National Interest.