Something was bothering Donald Trump as he made his victory speech after the election. The newly minted president-elect took the stage with at least 40 of his closest aides and allies, but according to a high-level campaign source familiar with Trump’s thinking, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie kept pushing to be near the president-elect and “trying to get in shots.”
“Trump got annoyed,” the source told Yahoo News.
The election night photo incident was one of several factors Trump insiders cited to explain why Christie was demoted from his position as transition team chair and replaced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Nov. 11.
Contrary to some press reports, Christie’s downfall wasn’t the result of friction with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, campaign sources said. Instead, Trump thought Christie was mishandling the transition, and he had “growing concerns” about the governor’s role in the Bridgegate scandal, in which two of Christie’s close aides were convicted of conspiracy on Nov. 4. During the trial, witnesses testified that Christie was aware of the planning of the scheme. Although the governor has steadfastly denied any role in the plan to tie up traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., to punish its mayor, when the verdict was announced, a pair of campaign appearances Christie was set to make for Trump wereabruptly canceled.
“There were just some things that were not handled appropriately or done to a level of satisfaction and professionalism,” the high-level source said of the transition team under Christie.
This account was confirmed by two other Trump campaign sources, but those close to Christie disputed it. One Christie ally suggested the transition only got off to a turbulent start because Trump and his campaign team didn’t expect to win the race and didn’t engage with the transition process prior to his surprise victory.
Yahoo News reached out to Christie’s office for a comment on this story. The governor’s office referred us to Trump spokesman Jason Miller, who did not respond. We also tried to contact Christie directly, but he did not respond to requests for comment. However, a source close to Christie refuted the idea that the transition effort was mismanaged during his tenure. The source described the team under Christie as a “very professional organization.”
“I can’t tell you whether or not Trump was frustrated or not, but tons of good work was done by the transition team before the election. Hundreds of people were suggested and vetted for tier one appointments. Hundreds of people were identified for landing teams [for liaison with government agencies]. There were serious implementation plans written for over a dozen major policy initiatives that were put forward on the campaign trail,” the source close to Christie said.
The Christie source said there was nothing unusual in Trump’s replacing Christie with Pence.