As Trump's transition team gears up, Christie's role unclear

Nov. 9, 2016: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pumps his fist as President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during his election night rally in New York.

Nov. 9, 2016: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pumps his fist as President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during his election night rally in New York.  (AP)

Donald Trump's election has thrust Chris Christie into a powerful role as chairman of the president-elect's transition team -- but the governor's growing political baggage has left his own prospects for landing a plum post in the Trump administration in doubt. 

So far, Christie's early and unwavering loyalty to Trump ever since the primary campaign has been rewarded. There are no public indications his transition team post is in jeopardy, and Trump expressed gratitude for the New Jersey governor's support in his election night acceptance speech. 

“Governor Chris Christie, folks, was unbelievable,” Trump said. “Thank you, Chris.”

Trump, after all, knew Christie was politically wounded when he tapped the governor for the vital transition role back in May. Then, Christie was deep in the fallout surrounding “Bridgegate” – the scandal involving members of Christie’s staff who shut down several lanes of the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 in order to punish a political rival.

However, in just the past month, two more aides were found guilty of involvement in a trial where Christie's own knowledge of the closures repeatedly was called into question. 

The case has been a significant drag on Christie’s reputation, with a recent poll finding the governor’s approval rating has sunk to just 21 percent. 

"Trump is loyal to his team that helped get him elected. However, the louder the volume in the media about Christie being a liability, the more precarious it will be,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean told 

Another hurdle for Christie is potential opposition from Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. As a U.S. attorney, Christie prosecuted Jared’s father Charles for witness tampering, tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions – which led to him serving 14 months in jail.

Kushner’s influence in Trump’s inner circle cannot be overstated. In Trump’s first meeting with President Obama Thursday, Kushner was seen taking a private walk with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, indicating an enduring role for Kushner as Trump prepares to take office. In July, there were multiple reports that Kushner had been key in dissuading his father-in-law from picking Christie as running mate. 

While Christie has been floated as a possible attorney general pick, Bonjean questioned whether he'd get through Senate confirmation. The Senate will remain in Republican hands next year, but their majority is slim.

“The transition position is such a short-term assignment that if Trump were to name him to a Cabinet post, the key is whether Christie could survive Senate confirmation because of his Bridgegate troubles. If it looks like a dark prospect, Christie may be asked to take on an outside advisory role,” Bonjean said.

Christie, however, has maintained his innocence in the bridge scandal and said on "The Today Show" Thursday that the trial’s outcome vindicated his actions in the wake of the scandal.

“What happened last week with the verdict was they confirmed what I knew and what I did in January of 2014 ... it’s my view there were three people responsible for what happened there,” he said, before noting it was those three who were found guilty.

Christie, once the rising star of the Republican Party, has steadily seen his popularity and status in the party itself decline since the 2012 election. 

Though he comfortably won re-election in 2013, he was then hit by the Bridgegate scandal in early 2014. He struggled to gain traction in the 2016 presidential primaries and took heat in some corners for endorsing Trump so soon after dropping out. Others accused him of ignoring his responsibilities in New Jersey in order to dabble in national politics. 

At the same time, Christie is now among a select group of high-profile Republicans who whole-heartedly backed the winning candidate. 

Pollster Adam Geller, who has done polling for both Christie and the Trump campaign, told he doesn’t believe Christie’s low numbers will hurt him in the eyes of the new president-elect.

“Governor Christie’s approvals aren’t what they were two years ago. But in terms of the importance of public polling, President-elect Trump just won an election where polls said he’d lose -- he will pay no mind as to what those polls say about Governor Christie in New Jersey.”

Geller said that Trump places a lot of value on loyalty, and that bodes well for Christie not only in the months ahead, but for a possible post in the new Trump administration. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Christie was being discussed for a possible job as attorney general, as part of a list being drawn up by the transition team to fill posts in the new administration. 

“I would speculate that President-elect Trump rewards loyalty and there are few people who have been as loyal as Governor Christie,” he said. 

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.