President Donald Trump said Friday that he has not talked to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about a potential nomination to become attorney general in the wake of Jeff Sessions’ dismissal from the top job at the Justice Department.
The former New Jersey governor, who was among Trump’s early endorsers after dropping his own 2016 presidential bid, has been among thiose whose names have been floated as Sessions’ possible replacement. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and two other candidates were in the running but turned the post down, leaving Christie, a former prosecutor who reportedly was initially considered to fill the position, as the potential front-runner.
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Although the president said he has not spoken with Christie about the position, which would need to be confirmed by the Senate, Trump says he likes the former governor and is a “friend” of his.
“I did not see Chris Christie yesterday, I heard he was in the White House,” Trump told reporters at the White House before taking off for Paris. “I like Chris Christie, but I have not talked to him about it.”
Christie was seen at the White House on Thursday for a meeting on criminal justice. The president openly sparred with Christie early in the 2016 Republican primary, but the former governor became close to the Trump inner circle after he emerged victorious from the crowded contest. Christie was the first prominent Republican to back Trump’s presidential bid after he backed out of the race, an act Trump said was proof he has “good taste.”
The former governor also chaired Trump’s transition team ahead of the 2016 presidential election but was removed from that role within days of the president’s victory.
Sessions’ tenure at the Justice Department was marked most prominently by the criticism lobbed at him by Trump, who viewed the attorney general’s recusal from all investigations related to the 2016 election as a betrayal.
Trump’s pick — Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff — for acting attoreny general has also drawn calls for recusal, with some — especially Democrats, who will have the majority in the House of Representatives next year — citing comments that Whitaker has made deriding the legitimacy of the special counsel’s probe and claiming Robert Mueller has overstepped his boundaries.