When Chris Christie withdrew from consideration to be Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff in 2018, multiple outlets reported it was for family considerations and that the ex-governor was not officially offered the gig.
But that may not be the full story. In his new book, Republican Rescue, due out next week from Threshold Editions and obtained by The Daily Beast, Christie claims that he was, indeed, offered the powerful position—and that he turned it down at least in part because of Trump’s big mouth.
Christie recounts how on Dec. 13, 2018, shortly before Trump fired his doomed chief of staff John Kelly, the former New Jersey governor took an Acela train to D.C. to meet with the president. Along the way, Christie consulted via phone with former Reagan and Bush chief of staff James A. Baker III, who told the one-time presidential aspirant that if he were to take the job under Trump—amid a first term built on unending chaos—he would be “the greatest American patriot since Paul Revere.”
The meeting, Christie recalls, featured Trump aggressively selling the job and erupting when the ex-governor demanded he would have the right to decide if and when a chief of staff does media appearances. “No, no, no, no, no,” the cable-news-obsessed president allegedly shot back. “I control those.”
Trump agreed to the ex-governor’s suggestion, however, that it would be inappropriate for Christie to manage the president’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner—not only because of their familial relationship to the commander-in-chief, but because of the Kushner family’s long-standing beef with Christie, a former federal prosecutor who famously sent Charles Kushner to prison for tax fraud.
The president, the ex-governor further recounts, seemed keenly interested in reviewing in advance Christie’s then-upcoming book, in which he wrote about the Kushner ordeal and included unsavory portrayals of both Jared and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon. Christie recalls declining to share the book with the president, knowing full well it “might fall into the wrong hands.”
Trump concluded the chat by offering Christie the job and gave him the night to think it over. Within hours, Christie recalls, Axios reported that the ex-governor had met with the president for the chief of staff job. Christie seems to suggest the potential for the president to have leaked his own secret meetings was a cause for concern: “I couldn’t help but wonder,” he writes. “There were only three people in that room at the White House. I knew I didn’t leak the story. It seemed unlikely to me that Melania did. Who was left? Did Trump really have someone leak that story even before I’d gotten off the train?”
The next morning, Christie claims, he received a phone call from Jared, who extended an olive branch and offered that he would be “fine” with the man who locked up his dad becoming chief of staff. “I’ll be fully supportive of you,” he allegedly told Christie.
Moments later, the ex-governor writes, Ivanka called Christie’s wife Mary Pat and continued the full-court press. “I know there have been problems between the governor and my husband’s family in the past. But you have my word, wife to wife, mother to mother, that I will make sure that nothing like that happens if the governor comes here,” Christie recalls the Trump daughter telling his wife, whom he described as “taken aback” by the conversation.
“By that point, I had pretty much decided there was no way I was going to take this job,” Christie confesses. “And the high-pressure campaign from the next generation, especially Ivanka’s call to Mary Pat, wasn’t about to convince me otherwise. I didn’t need to be the next Paul Revere.”
Ultimately, Christie called Trump to turn down the job offer. He recollects asking the president about the Axios leak. “There were only three of us in the room. I can tell you for sure I didn’t leak it,” he says he told Trump, who almost immediately confessed to doing the deed himself.
“He sounded very proud when he said that,” Christie writes. “If I had any doubts about my decision, at that moment they entirely disappeared.”
Christie writes that he offered to release a statement claiming he’d pulled himself from consideration so as to spare the president the embarrassment of a public rejection.
Elsewhere in the book, Christie claims that Trump offered him a bevy of other high-profile positions—but never attorney general, the one job the former federal prosecutor says he would have accepted without reservation.
“He’d offered me just about every other position this side of White House chef,” Christie quips before rattling off the proposed gigs: “Secretary of labor. Secretary of homeland security. Ambassador to the Vatican. Ambassador to Italy. He figured I’d be a good fit at the Vatican since I am Catholic. He thought of me as ambassador to Italy because my mother was Italian. I don’t think the analysis went any deeper than that. Trump didn’t overanalyze choices like these.”
And in a separate chapter, Christie writes of the frustrations involved in getting Trump to willingly participate in 2020 debate prep. In several rehearsal sessions, Trump either grew bored or disinterested with the task at hand, often ending the meetings early or suggesting he did not need any preparations whatsoever.
In one particular prep meeting, Christie writes, Trump lost focus while reviewing past debate highlights of Joe Biden, instead turning to the ex-governor to—unsurprisingly—air personal grievances.