New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday he was ousted as head of President Donald Trump’s transition due in part to his opposition to the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.
“I thought it was a significant reason,” Christie said at an unrelated press conference at his office in Trenton.
The governor, one of the first establishment Republicans to back Trump during the primary and still one of the president’s most loyal supporters, was chairman of the transition until he was unceremoniously fired just days after the election and replaced with Vice President Mike Pence.
Christie said it was clear those who took over botched the transition, pointing to Flynn’s guilty plea last week to charges of lying to the FBI. Christie has long said he had concerns about the retired three-star Army general, though he had never said exactly why.
“Suffice to say, I had serious misgivings, which I think have been confirmed by the fact that he pled guilty to a felony in federal court,” Christie said.
POLITICO reported last month that Christie and the transition staff had worried that Flynn, who had been fired from the Obama administration, suffered from poor judgment and espoused far-out ideas on foreign policy.
Their short list for national security adviser had included big-name military leaders such as now-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Gen. Peter Pace, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former president George W. Bush; and Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid, sources said.
When Christie was fired on Nov. 11, Flynn and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon tossed binders full of potential personnel picks into the trash to celebrate the departure. The governor made reference to the binders on Wednesday when asked what he would have done differently if he stayed on as transition chairman.
“It’s in about four volumes of books that were apparently thrown out the day I was terminated,” Christie said. “Listen, I think what folks who were involved in that transition have now painfully learned at the expense of the country is that experience matters.”
Christie said Trump’s campaign was built on being an outsider, and that that’s OK. But he said, “You cannot run a transition as an outsider.”
“You have to be able to understand what needs to be done,” he said, noting that he doesn’t think the vice president is to blame. “I think it’s fair to say, given the very few people who have been confirmed in important positions across the government and some of the folks who have been there that didn’t belong there in the first place — like General Flynn — that the idea that you can take six months of work … and throw all that out turns out to be a big mistake.”
It was ultimately Trump himself who decided to ignore Christie’s recommendation against hiring Flynn, two former transition officials had said in last month’s report.