Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie has emerged as a strong contender for attorney-general, as President Trump’s search for a replacement for former A-G Jeff Sessions has been complicated by the shadow of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is unlikely to accept the job if it is offered before Mueller issues his report, Politico reports. Two other candidates approached by the White House about the position signaled they were not interested.
Trump has said he believes Christie, the first prominent Republican to back his presidential bid, has patiently waited his turn after being passed over for the job during the post-2016 election transition.
That said, candidates for top administration jobs have learned that Trump’s whims are subject to sudden changes, thanks to anything from a bad-chemistry meeting to a snippet of critical cable TV commentary the president happens to catch.
Bill Palatucci, a longtime Christie adviser and confidant, said Christie did not float any trial balloon to stoke speculation about his nomination and had not received a call from the White House about his potential interest in the post as of Thursday morning, reports NorthJersey.com,
But Palatucci said Trump is “very aware” of Christie’s interest in the job.
“They had a great relationship,” he said. “The president has great confidence in the governor, and if the president wanted to speak to the governor, he’ll pick up a phone and call him himself.”
Palatucci, however, said Christie is not likely to automatically leap at the job if asked, as he is enjoying private life, working in the private sector and being at home with two of his high-school-age children.
“The longer you are out of office, the harder it is to go back,’’ he said. “But Chris has always said, if [Trump] would call, I would listen.”
Other candidates in the mix include Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. A cabinet post for Christie would be a dramatic plot twist in his complicated, years-long relationship with the Trump family.
Christie ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries before advising and representing his campaign. As a U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Christie led a 2004 criminal prosecution that landed Jared Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, behind bars for tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions — and earned him the enmity of Trump’s son-in-law.
Christie was at the White House on Thursday for a long-scheduled meeting on criminal justice reform, an issue both he and Kushner support.