Christie emerges as new contender for chief of staff job

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.

Posted: Dec 11, 2018 2:18 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2018 2:42 PM

With Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, declining to serve as the new minder for President Donald Trump (known in some quarters as Individual-1), the new game in Washington seems to be a version of hot potato. The effort to fill the job has led to the ironic, if perhaps unlikely, possibility that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom Trump has disrespected in the past, might be asked to fill the post.

One after another, other potential candidates for White House chief of staff are saying, "Don't look at me," and it's becoming clear that Trump has degraded the value of yet another element of the national power structure.

Previously held by the likes of James Baker III and Leon Panetta, the job that John Kelly will vacate at the end of this month has traditionally been regarded as one of the most important in the world. Chiefs have generally enjoyed more engagement with the president than anyone else on his staff. So, if Kelly's role is vacant in the new year, it would be a problem.

As President, and previously as a New York businessman, Trump has been the kind of boss whom accomplished, self-possessed men and women would learn to avoid. A bully with a penchant for wild claims and ethically dubious schemes, he has a tendency to bring out the worst in those around him.

But Kelly is more formidable than most in the administration: He was a Marine Corps general and Department of Homeland Security secretary before taking the chief of staff position. Kelly was supposed to bring order and discipline to the White House and to Trump. Instead, he wound up marginalized to such a degree that he and the President reportedly stopped speaking.

Ayers' name has been bandied about for months. He is, by all accounts, a sharp-elbowed political operator, and as Pence's top aide ran a tight ship. Ayers is also regarded as an exceedingly astute judge of political wind (to continue the nautical analogy) and when asked to replace Kelly he decided not only to decline but also to leave his position as Pence's chief of staff to devote himself to a well-funded pro-Trump political action committee. At 36, Ayers has already built a personal fortune in excess of $12 million through political work.

What Ayers surely recognized was that as chief of staff he would have been swamped by Trump controversies and, potentially, drawn into his schemes and scandals. A taxpayer-funded job would have required that Ayers meet legal and ethical standards that might be hard to maintain in the face of Trump's everyday demands. Rex Tillerson, former secretary of state, recently revealed that he had often resisted Trump requests that would have "violated the law." Wouldn't a chief of staff face the same strain?

The list of alternative chief of staff candidates, which was floated after Ayers turned down the job, has included Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, budget director Mick Mulvaney, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, US Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Christie, who lost the competition to be Trump's running mate in 2016 and was then stiffed when the President handed out plum jobs in his administration.

(Christie may have been undermined at the time by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. When he was a US attorney, Christie prosecuted Kushner's father. The elder Kushner went to prison. Sons tend not to forget such things.)

Among all the boldface names mentioned for the job, Christie is one of the few who has not demurred with a comment similar to "I really like the job I have" (which is another way of saying, "There's no way I'll accept that thankless job"). Meadows has also indicated he would be open to the role, saying it would be an honor to get the offer. His history with Trump isn't as complicated as Christie's. However, he lacks the former governor's executive experience, which could come in handy in the top White House job.

By letting his name stay in the mix, Christie is either signaling he's got less self-respect than the average politician or he's setting up Trump for a creative bit of payback.

Remember, Christie also endured Trump's mockery about his weight and became fodder for commentators who said he looked like Trump's campaign-trail hostage.

One might think that Christie would answer speculation about his coming to the White House with a New Jersey-style "fuggedaboutit." However, by letting the idea breathe he may actually be putting himself in a no-lose situation: If he waits for an actual offer, he can reclaim his dignity by turning it down, or he can take it and create the appearance that Trump needs him for political survival.

Who would have thought that as Trump turned the chief of staff's job into a kind of booby prize he was also empowering Chris Christie? No one did. But with this most-unlikely President, such a bizarre turn makes a perverse kind of sense.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 112123

Reported Deaths: 3223
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7796173
DeSoto670178
Harrison484483
Jackson435081
Rankin383786
Madison373993
Lee344979
Forrest296377
Jones283782
Washington252197
Lafayette242642
Lauderdale2376131
Lamar217138
Bolivar198377
Oktibbeha195854
Neshoba1814111
Lowndes174962
Panola166337
Leflore160787
Sunflower157649
Warren152755
Monroe145972
Pontotoc143819
Pike137256
Lincoln135555
Copiah135036
Marshall134826
Scott123829
Coahoma123436
Grenada120038
Yazoo119333
Simpson118649
Union115225
Holmes113560
Leake113340
Tate113239
Itawamba110424
Pearl River108958
Adams104343
Prentiss102619
Wayne98721
Alcorn96012
George93917
Marion92942
Covington92525
Tippah85921
Newton84427
Chickasaw82625
Winston82221
Tallahatchie81825
Tishomingo79341
Hancock78127
Attala77626
Clarke72349
Clay67621
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61412
Noxubee59617
Smith58316
Claiborne53216
Montgomery52923
Tunica52217
Lawrence49914
Yalobusha49314
Perry48122
Carroll46312
Greene45518
Stone45014
Amite41713
Quitman4146
Humphreys41216
Jefferson Davis39811
Webster36613
Wilkinson33020
Kemper32015
Benton3154
Sharkey27814
Jefferson27010
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22563372
Mobile14335314
Tuscaloosa10023133
Montgomery9759196
Madison904893
Shelby709960
Lee644966
Baldwin640569
Marshall428248
Calhoun412759
Etowah405749
Morgan396833
Houston364632
DeKalb319628
Elmore310752
St. Clair282142
Limestone270828
Walker268892
Talladega258435
Cullman227623
Lauderdale208740
Autauga201029
Jackson200915
Franklin199731
Colbert192228
Russell19053
Dallas185627
Blount184824
Chilton181731
Escambia171328
Coffee16669
Covington166029
Dale163451
Pike130512
Chambers130143
Tallapoosa128686
Clarke127117
Marion104729
Butler99840
Barbour9889
Marengo97221
Winston90413
Geneva8417
Pickens80517
Lawrence80031
Randolph79814
Bibb79114
Hale74529
Cherokee72214
Clay71912
Lowndes70127
Henry6376
Bullock63517
Monroe6319
Washington62212
Crenshaw59330
Perry5806
Wilcox55912
Conecuh55713
Fayette55312
Cleburne5287
Macon52820
Sumter46721
Lamar4565
Choctaw38712
Greene33916
Coosa1973
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