So here's a blood-curdling Halloween tale for you: it turns out Donald Trump really, really wanted New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie as his running mate and even offered him the job, but was then talked out of it by his family and campaign manager Paul Manafort in a weird story involving lying to Trump about plane trouble in order to get him to stay and talk to Mike Pence. Trump and Christie developed a fast friendship, and Trump wanted to offer Christie the VP slot out of loyalty. And basically everyone around Trump realized this was a horrible decision because Christie was going to go down in flames over Bridgegate.
“Trump cares about who’s the most loyal and who kisses his a– the most, not who’s the most qualified and what’s the best political decision,” said a source close to the campaign. “If it was up to him, it would have been Christie.”
The two men had developed a close relationship. Whenever Christie visited Trump’s campaign headquarters, he’d spend most of his time in onetime Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s office, ignoring Manafort and other top aides, a source said.
Christie contacted Trump and made his final, impassioned appeal on July 12.
“Christie said he thinks he deserves it and he earned it,” a second Trump source said. Convinced, Trump made the offer.
Christie “said all the BS that Trump likes to hear, and Trump said, ‘Yeah, sure I’m giving it to you.’ ”
That didn’t sit well with Manafort, who had arranged for Trump to meet Pence in Indianapolis on July 13, and fly back together to New York the next day for a formal announcement.
After Trump tentatively decided on Christie, Manafort told Trump his plane had a mechanical problem, campaign sources said, forcing Trump to spend another night in the Hoosier State. Pence then made his case to be Trump’s No. 2 over dinner as Trump’s advisers argued that Christie’s Bridgegate troubles would sink the campaign.
“Trump had wanted Christie but Bridgegate would have been the biggest national story,” a third Trump source said. “He’d lose the advantage of not being corrupt.”
Trump agreed to name Pence the next day and broke the news to Christie, saying it would “tear my family apart if I gave you VP,” a source said.
A Trump/Christie ticket would be down by 15 points right now. Really is a shame that he didn't pick the governor, considering how much trouble Christie is in over the Bridgegate trial ongoing right now.
Five witnesses – including three who remain steadfast allies – refuted his claim that he was "blindsided" and knew nothing about his staff's involvement in the lane closures before the rest of us did.
Among those who contradicted the governor under oath are Michael DuHaime, his chief strategist for the last decade; Mike Drewniak, his press secretary during that entire stretch, and Deborah Gramiccioni, his deputy chief of staff at the time. You can read excerpts from their testimony here.
The governor is not charged. Prosecutors say that he knew about the lane closures as they occurred, but knowledge of the plot is not a crime in itself. And no one in this trial has suggested that Christie ordered the lane closures.
But the rules of the courtroom are one thing, and the rules of politics are quite another. It's tough to govern after absorbing a blow like this.
"It's been incredibly damaging to hear one person after another directly contradict him," says Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University. "And if the national election goes as poorly for him as some think, that will add to the damage. Because he is forever connected to Donald Trump."
Indeed, the combination of Trump and Christie's problems would have most likely resulted in the biggest GOP presidential loss in generations. If Paul Manafort hadn't pulled a dirty trick to save Trump from his own terrible judgment, this race would actually be more lopsided in Clinton's favor than it is now.
What could have been, eh Republican party?