Politics

The 15 Things You Need to Know About Chris Christie’s Book

All the good parts of Chris Christie's "Let Me Finish," in one place.
January 31, 2019
Featured Image
(Illustration by Hannah Yoest / photo credits: GettyImages)

Chris Christie’s tell-all, Let Me Finish, has now hit shelves, and it’s absolutely the second most interesting book about Donald Trump released this week.

Is it worth you slogging through the entire 400 pages? Hard pass. But there are some useful nuggets, and I read it so that you don’t have to.

(1) Christie and Trump are really, truly, super-duper close. Sure, it was a little odd during the 2016 campaign when Christie referred to the Republican presidential nominee exclusively as “Mr. Trump.” But in Let Me Finish, they’re on a first-name basis with Christie referring to him almost exclusively as “Donald.”

“I still talk to Donald,” Christie insists. “We respect each other’s skills, though some in his world sought to drive a wedge between us.”

Because whatever impression you may have gotten over the years, Donald Trump’s relationships are obviously based on mutual respect.

Christie believes that “being his peer was a key part of the role that I played” on the campaign.

(2) Christie thinks Trump is an amazing president, except for a few small problems. He praises Trump’s intelligence and savvy and courage and says that the president has “many of the qualities that have defined America’s leaders.”

He also says that Trump “has deficits, significant gaps in his experience and personality that, if left unchecked, will inevitably hobble him.”

“He doesn’t always grasp the inner workings of government,” Christie says. (Which seems like a problem for the nation’s chief executive.)

Also, Christie strongly implies that Trump is a terrible judge of character who has surrounded himself with a “revolving door of deeply flawed individuals—amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons.” Including the “Russian lackey” Mike Flynn, a “greedy and inexperienced” Scott Pruitt, the “not-ready-for-primetime” Jeff Sessions, the “fraud” and “liar” Steve Bannon, and so on.

Overall, Christie writes that “my friend Donald” has “saddled” himself with “riffraff” who “set loose toxic forces.”

Christie refers to the Trump administration so far as a “tragedy” and his implication is that it is totally, completely, not the fault of the guy who doesn’t understand government and is a terrible judge of character and ability and sits in the Oval Office watching TV all the time.

(3) Also, Christie says, Trump lies. In recounting the New Hampshire primary, Christie runs down a litany of attacks Trump made against him. Christie’s verdict of their truthfulness:

“Totally invented.”

“He was angry, and he made up every word of it.”

“Never happened.”

Trump was “knowingly lying.”

(4) Trump was grateful when Christie went kamikaze on Marco Rubio. At the final New Hampshire debate, Christie DESTROYED Rubio for repeating the same phrase over and over. When they went to commercial break:

I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Donald Trump. Donald put his arm around me and said, “God, you destroyed him. . . . You’re the only one who could have done that. Just remember: I haven’t said anything bad about you. Don’t go after me.”

Of course, Trump had knowingly lied in his attacks on Christie. But it seems to never have occurred to Christie to go after his friend Donald, at the debate or anywhere else.

(5) Christie came this close to winning New Hampshire. Summing up the aftermath of the final debate, Christie writes, “Rubio was clearly hurt by my debate-night pounding. But I didn’t get enough of the votes that he shed. They ended up split among Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and me.”

It’s unclear exactly how many of those Rubio-votes Christie harvested because he finished in sixth place with 7 percent. Christie “split” the Rubio votes with Kasich and Bush pretty much the way Stacey King “combined” with Michael Jordan to score 70 points against the Cavs back in 1990.

(6) John Kasich is kind of a dick. Kasich called Christie after his New Hampshire wipeout.

He asked how I was doing. I told him, okay, considering. “You know what happened to you, don’t you, Chris?” he said.

I told him I didn’t.

“God wanted you to play right field, and you insisted on playing shortstop. No matter how many times God told you to play right field, you insisted on playing shortstop. And last night, you went out to shortstop, and the ball went through your legs.”

Right there, I understood why so many people in politics despised John Kasich. . . .

“And John,” I asked, “what does God have in mind for you?”

He didn’t hesitate. “I think you’re going to see that very clearly over the next couple of months.”

(7) Paul Manafort is an old. “I got hints from the beginning that Paul might not be up to the job. He wasn’t familiar with any of the latest campaign software. He conducted himself inconsistently on TV. Most of his contacts were people from bygone eras.” And then this:

One morning, when I was coming in for a ten a.m. meeting with Donald, Paul asked if he could meet with me beforehand . . . Paul literally fell asleep during the meeting. I was in midsentence, and I heard a snore. And then another one. He wasn’t just dozing. He was out.

(8) Even though Christie didn’t take a job in the administration, Trump was desperate to give him a job. Over the course of Let Me Finish, Christie says that Trump was constantly offering him high-level, important jobs.

When Christie agreed to lead the transition team, Trump made him promise: “If you take this, I don’t want it to preclude you from being considered for vice president or a member of the cabinet.” (Neither of those jobs quite worked out.)

After the election, Trump summoned Christie to come to Bedminster to talk about jobs but Christie wasn’t into it, saying, “I don’t think so, not for me.” (He went to Bedminster for the meeting anyway.)

Christie was kind-of, sort-of offered the RNC chair. But that didn’t take, either. He was offered a White House special assistant gig. And Labor. And Homeland Security. He turned them all down.

The point is, Chris Christie wants you to know that he could have had a great job in the administration any time he wanted to.

(9) Jared is a beta. There’s a big moment where Christie, Trump, and Jared Kushner all meet to talk about Christie running the transition team. “Just as Corey and I prepared to stand, I heard a voice from behind. It was a soft voice coming from just inside the open office door.”

Jared takes this opportunity to make his case against Christie directly to Trump:

As Jared spoke, he never raised his voice. But some strong emotions are not dependent on volume. Jared delivered his in a soft quiver. As he continued, his voice began to crack.

“It wasn’t fair,” he said. . . .

All these years later, Jared still carried a wallet his father made for him in a prison workshop.

(10) Trump maybe implied he could have obstructed justice on behalf of Jared’s father? At the close of the Trump-Jared-Christie meeting, Trump defends Christie, telling his son-in-law that Christie was only doing his job as a US attorney, and that it wasn’t right to hold this work against him.

And then Trump says something really strange to Jared:

“And your other problem was you didn’t know me at the time. Maybe if you would have known me, maybe I could have helped.”

Wha-wha-what?

(11) Mike Flynn wanted Trump to flip on abortion. (Again.) At the prep session for the first Clinton debate, Flynn said, “I have an idea, and I think it’s really strong. Mr. Trump, what you should do is get on that stage and declare that you’ve changed your mind on abortion, and now you’re firmly for a woman’s right to choose.”

Everyone else at the meeting objects to this scheme on grounds of electoral viability. In Christie’s telling, no one—including Christie or Trump—says that the flip would be impossible because Trump thinks abortion is wrong.

(12) Rudy is an eager beaver. After the Access Hollywood tape hit, Trump avoided doing media on his own. He requested a one-on-one interview with ABC’s David Muir. Muir was in Trump’s office setting up for the shoot, and then Trump got cold feet and pulled out.

Trump asked Christie to go on ABC’s This Week and CNN’s State of the Union to defend him. Christie refused. Trump then asked Kellyanne Conway. She also refused. “Then Rudy spoke up. ‘I’ll do all of them,’ he said. ‘I’ll do every Sunday show.’”

(13) Actually, Christie is the one who broke up with Trump. In the end, after Christie turns down yet another job offer in the administration, he goes to Trump Tower to meet with Trump. As peers, of course.

He spotted me immediately. “Chris,” he said, “I can’t meet with you tonight. I’m too tired.”

“Mr. President-Elect,” I said, “I don’t need a meeting.”

“You don’t,” he asked.

“No, no, I don’t need a meeting,” I said. . . . “I’ll walk you to the elevator.”

“If you don’t need a meeting, what are you doing up here?” he asked.

I looked at him as we made our way toward the elevator bank. “I just came to say goodbye,” I said.

He seemed surprised at that. “Goodbye?”

“Yeah,” I said. “You know, Mr. President-Elect, it’s pretty obvious that there are people around here who don’t want me around. And that’s fine. I don’t want that ever to affect our friendship.” . . .

“No, no. Chris,” he protested. “You come back here tomorrow. What did they do to you? You and I can fix this together.”

I put my hand on his arm, and I said, “No, Mr. President-Elect. I’m done. I’m not angry with you. Believe me, I don’t blame you for this. It’s other people, and I get it. . . . So I’m going to go home, and you go home, too. We’ll continue to be friends.”

So Chris Christie gave Donald Trump the “it’s not you, it’s me” line and the “I don’t want this to affect our friendship” line . . . at the same time?

So alpha.

(14) Chris Christie was supposed to be on the platform with the Trumps at the inauguration. Shortly after Christie breaks up with Trump, he reports that “there was a mix-up with the tickets to the inauguration” and that “our tickets never showed up.”

None of this was indicative of cracks in the close friendship he still shared with the president. It was just a chance occurrence.

(15) That beach picture was another totally random thing. You remember the beach picture, right? Christie had shut down the state government and closed state park beaches for July 4 weekend and then was caught on camera lounging on the state park beach like so:

Well, that was his wife’s fault. Christie had been inside the house working feverishly on the people’s business when:

Mary Pat said to me, “You know, we have all these people out there on the beach, all these friends of our children. Just come and sit for an hour so they can at least spend some time with you.”

I didn’t really feel like it, but I said okay. My wife was asking . . . I settled into a beach chair and spent an hour sitting with my kids and their friends. . . .

Unbeknownst to me, the Star-Ledger had hired a plane to fly over the beach and take pictures of us. It just so happened that they chose the one hour I was sitting out there. Talk about bad luck!

Truly, the governor’s luck was very, very bad that day.

But as Let Me Finish makes clear, when you look at the broad sweep of his life, Chris Christie is one of the luckiest men in America. He has a great wife, a beautiful family, a successful career, plenty of money—and true friends like Donald Trump.

What else could a man ask for?

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is executive editor of The Bulwark.